Deepawali: The Christmas of India
Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights” and is observed incessantly for five days that kicks off in late Ashwin and concludes in the early Kartika month according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar. Diwali is an important religious festival originating in India and in fact, it is observed as a national holiday in India, Trinidad & Tobago, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Guyana, Surinam, Singapore, Malaysia and Fiji.
People often think of Diwali as a Hindu festival, but it is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains. Each day of the festival is associated with six different principal stories.
°Diwali Around the Country
In North India, worshipping of Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is an important part of Diwali that signifies welcoming of prosperity and wealth. It also marks the commencement of a new year according to the Hindu calendar.
However, Jain people believe that this festival carries the essence of spiritual upliftment because it marks the achievement of Nirvana by Lord Mahavira. For Sikhs, Diwali is particularly important because it celebrates the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, and 52 other princes with him, in 1619 along with its religious essence, they also call it the ‘Bandi Chhor Divas’.
In Himachal Pradesh, a few districts such as Shillai and Chopal celebrate Diwali a whole month after it has been celebrated by the rest of the country. And thus, it is called ‘Budhi Diwali’, meaning old Diwali. The reason for this, as they say, is that after Ram returned, it took time for the news of his re-arrival to spread to all parts of the kingdom.
Especially for the mountains in the north, the news took an especially long time to reach. Although they also took part in the celebrations immediately on receiving the news, it still happened a month later than the rest of the kingdom. Also, the people from South India celebrate Diwali as the day that Lord) defeated the demon Narakasura.
Hindus interpret the Diwali story based upon where they live. But there’s one common theme no matter where people celebrate: the victory of good over evil.
Even though the reasons for the celebration might be very varied, the day is held very close to the hearts of all Indian religions and celebrated with very colourful pomp and show!
°The Festival of Lights
Deepawali is called the festival of lights in fact the word in itself originates from Sanskrit and which means a row of lights. Rows of lamps are lit inside and outside homes and buildings for the holiday. Imagine how bright that must be. The lights line the street and even are floated down rivers on little boats. Nowadays the traditional small lamps are joined by electric light displays and LEDs.
All these lights represent the triumph of light over dark and the power of good over evil. In the Hindu religion, it’s also a time to honour the gods and goddesses, especially the goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to step inside your home if it is clean and well=decorated (Perhaps, I should go tidy my room and decorate right away.)
°The Five Days of Festivities
The celebration starts with people buying jewellery and utensils on Dhanteras. This is an auspicious occasion to buy any kind of metal as it is believed to ward off evil and bring in prosperity.
The next two days—Chhoti Diwali and Diwali—are the most-awaited days of the festival when people enjoy the most. The evening starts after performing puja and offering prayers to the gods. People then light diyas and burst crackers. The entire atmosphere reverberates in a festive note. On the fourth day, Govardhan puja is performed and the festival of lights ends with Bhai Dooj, which is very similar to Raksha Bandhan as it is a celebration of love between a brother and sister.
Although it is a tradition to burst crackers on Diwali, we should now refrain from doing it because of the increase in air pollution. We should aim to celebrate Diwali in an eco-friendly way and respect nature. Instead of bursting crackers, we can light diyas, decorate our house and surroundings with fairy lights and spend a magical evening with friends and family.
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