Diwali – Festival of Lights
Diwali or Deepaawali means an Array of Lamps i.e .Rows of diyas (Deep = Lamp, Vali =Array). Of all the festivals celebrated in India, Diwali is by far the most glamorous and important festival. Enthusiastically enjoyed by people of every religion, its magical and radiant touch creates an atmosphere of joy and festivity all around the nation.It is a festival of lights which symbolizing the victory of righteousness and lifting of spiritual darkness. This festival commemorates Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile. Homes are decorated, sweets are distributed by everyone and thousands of lamps are lit to create a world of fantasy. Diwali is a time for fun, revelry, pooja and traditions.
WHEN IS DIWALI CELEBRATED?
As a family festival, Diwali is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on the 13th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Ashwin (October / November). Ashwin is the seventh lunar month on the Hindu calendar. Diwali is celebrated for 5 days, commencing on Dhanteras and concluding on Bhai dooj.
WHY IS DIWALI CELEBRATED?
The sparkling “festival of lights”, Diwali, is celebrated all around the world with great joy and enthusiasm. There are a number of legends connected with the origin of Diwali. But Diwali is widely celebrated as the day that Lord Ram returned triumphant to Ayodhya after defeating Ravan.This aspect of Diwali is the most common and acceptable account with regards to the other origins of Diwali.
LEGEND 1 – RETURN OF SHRI RAM AND MOTHER SITA – In north India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and the surrounding areas, Diwali is the day when King Ram’s coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya after his epic war with Ravan, the demon king of Lanka. Under the order of royal families of Ayodhya and Mithila (kingdom of which Sita was princess); these cities as well as the far-flung boundaries of these kingdoms were lit up with rows of earthen lamps, glittering on dark nights to welcome home the divine king Ram and his queen Sita after 14 years of exile, ending with an across-the-seas war in which the whole kingdom of Lanka was destroyed. To celebrate their homecoming people of Ayodhya expressed their joy by bursting firecrackers and decorated the entire city in the grandeur manner. READ MORE ABOUT SHRI RAM AND RAVAN FIGHT.
LEGEND 2 – KILLING OF NARAKASURA– Narakasura, an evil demon king, ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram or Pragjyotishyapur in Assam. He was the son of Bhoomi devi – Mother earth and through penance he had acquired immense power and unmatched in his power he started misusing them. He was a trouble-maker to the gods and the pious sages and would disturb their penance or create havoc during their daily prayers and rituals. He heard that Indra had divine elephants and mad in his powers he attacked the kingdom of Indra to posses whatever the devtas had and Indra had to flee from his kingdom. While fighting devtas something glittery caught his eyes – those were the earrings of Mother Aditi (Mother of devtas), he attacked the territory of Aditi and stole those as well. Indra and other devtas were very furious over this act and approached Lord Krishna and pleaded him to protect them from the demon “Narakasura”.
Aditi, who was a relative of Shri Krishna’s wife Satyabhama approached her for help. She narrated the whole incident to Satyabhama and vexed with this harassment, Satyabhama appealed to Krishna to give her the golden chance to destroy Narakasura, as Narakasura was given a curse that he would be killed by a woman.Krishna granted her a boon to fight with Narakasura and they both sat on Garuda ( Lord Vishnu’s carrier – a giant eagle) and with Krishna as the charioteer, Satyabhama entered the battle field. A fierce battle was fought.
Narakasura sent his general Mura to fight Krishna and in no time Mura and Narakasura army was killed. Because Lord Krishna killed Mura – he is also known as MURARI. Seeing Mura killed Narakasura hurled to the battlefield.
During this battle Lord Krishna was hit and fell unconscious for a while. Seeing this Satyabhama hurled a celestial weapon towards Narakasura and soon he was killed. Later Lord Krishna reminded her that she is an incarnation of Bhumi Devi and Narakasura could only be killed by his mother. The killing of Narakasura was a victory of good over evil. It is interesting to note that Bhudevi, mother of slain Narakasura, declared that his death should not be a day of mourning but an occasion to celebrate and rejoice. To commemorate his death, the event is celebrated in some parts of India as Naraka Chaturdasi, two days before Diwali day. People every year celebrate this day with lot of fun and frolic, and fire works.
LEGEND 3 – LEGEND OF KING BALI – Also known as Bali Pratipada in Karnataka and other states. King Bali was a powerful demon king who was violent with the devtas. During the Treta Yug, Lord Vishnu in his fifth incarnation – Vamana Avatar pushed Bali to Patal Lok and later made him the king of Patal Lok.
READ THE WHOLE STORY ON KING BALI IN VAMANA AVATAR.
To worship King Bali, the second day of Diwali is celebrated as Bali Pratipada. Where Prati means “Opponent or enemy” and pada stands for “Foot” meaning “below the opponent’s or enemies foot”. People celebrates this day as the victory of good over evil.
LEGEND 4 – LEGEND OF GODDESS LAKSHMI – As per the legend, on a new moon day, in the month of Kartik, Goddess Lakshmi (daughter of the milky ocean) emerged from the churning of the ocean, Ksheersagar where Ksheer means milk and Sagar means ocean.
READ MORE ABOUT SAMUDRA MANTHAN IN SECOND INCARNATION – KURMA AVATAR.
Among the 14 treasures which emerged from Samudra Manthan – Goddess Lakshmi was one of them. She brought with her wealth and prosperity for mankind. Both the Devtas and Asuras wanted to marry her, but she chose Lord Vishnu. She placed Vaijayanti, the garland of eternal victory, around his neck. And since it was amavasya, the darkest night, brilliant lamps were illuminated to celebrate this holy day. Since then, the tradition of lighting lamps and candles on Diwali day is associated to this legend. Hindus celebrate this day with great enthusiasm and Lakshmi Pujan is done to honor her and many people believe that on this day Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and good fortune, visit homes of devotees.