This year on Diwali, I really felt good when my Facebook page was full of Diwali greetings. Besides those from my near and dear ones, I also received Diwali greetings from ANZ Bank and St. George Bank. Even my local Coles supermarket had a special section for Diwali. The sails of beautiful Opera House lit up in golden orange on the 12th of November, 2015 to mark the Hindu festival of lights celebrated by Hindu community across the globe. I was happy and emotional for this wide acceptance of one of the major festival of Hindus. I felt less homesick this year in festive season. But, at the same time I thought how many are actually aware about Diwali. So, I decided to throw a light on this Festival of Lights.
Origin and significance
Diwali is derived from Sanskrit word “Deepavali” meaning ‘chain’ or ‘series of lights’. It is an ancient festival that has been celebrated for centuries. It is known by different names in different regions of India but Diwali or Deepavali is most common. The festival is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs Jains and some Buddhists to mark different historical events or myths. However, irrespective of the different ways it is celebrated across different cultures, regions and religions, it symbolises victory of good over evil.
5 Days of Diwali
Diwali is a 5 day festival with first day as “Dhan Teras” concluding with “Bhai Dooj” on the fifth day. It is celebrated every year in the months of October or November depending upon dates suggested by the Hindu calendar. However, the preparations for the festival begin almost a month in advance. People clean and even renovate their houses. The shopping begins almost a month before. People buy gifts for their nearest and dearest and visit each other. In India, the festival of Diwali is not less than a shopping festival. It is a peak buying season for gold and jewellery in India. Everything is decorated from streets to roads to houses. Let’s have a look at the five days of Diwali:
Day 1: Dhanteras or Dhanlakshmi Puja
Dhan means wealth, teras represents 13th (13th lunar day before new moon)and puja means worship.This day marks the beginning of five day festival. On this day people customarily buy gold, silver or even utensils or anything precious. It is a major shopping day. This day marks the birth of Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth). It is believed that purchasing precious items on this day will bring prosperity and wealth.
Day 2: Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali
Naraka means Hell; Choti means small and Chaudas means 14th (14th lunar day before new moon). On this day, people clean their houses thoroughly and finally a day before festival. The day is celebrated to get rid of laziness and evil in our life. People light earthen lamps called diyas on the night.
Day 3: Diwali and Lakshmi-Puja
The third and most important day of entire festival. On this day, people decorate their houses. Rangoli, a beautiful and colourful pattern, is drawn near main entrance of houses using materials such as coloured sand, dry flour, flower petals or coloured rice. Rangoli is said to be associated with bringing good luck. People also decorate their houses with colourful electrical lights. The entrance usually carries signage of “Happy Diwali” or “Shubh Deepavali”; Shubh meaning auspicious.
The day falls on darkest night with no visible moon and is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi: Goddess of wealth and prosperity. In the evening, people worship goddess Lakshmi who is believed to remain on earth the night of Diwali. The puja is followed by lighting of candles and diyas and fireworks. Preceding people of the house gather to enjoy a family feast and enjoy mithai (traditional sweets and desserts). The doors and windows are usually left open that nighti in order to welcome goddess Lakshmi.
Day 4: Gowardhan Puja or Annakoot or Padwa
Govardhan is a small hillock near Mathura in India. It is believed on this day , with the help of Govardhan mountain Lord Krishna saved people from drowning. Also, called as “annakoot” meaning ‘Mountain of food’, exactly 56 types of food, commonly known as “Chhapanbhog” or 108 different types of food, are offered to Lord Krishna. In south India , it is believed that King Bali comes on earth for this one day to rule as per boon given by Lord Vishnu.
Day 5: Bhai Dooj
The fifth and last day of 5 days long festival is called Bhai dooj where bhai means bother and dooj represents second day after the new moon. As per legends, it is believed that if a sister puts tilak on her brother’s forehead on this day, it will protect the brother from harms and evils. The festival is celebrated to strengthen the love between brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters give gifts to each other.
Diwali is official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji. Nowadays, Diwali is widely observed and celebrated in many parts of the world.
A final enlightenment
Diwali has many regional and cultural variations and it will be hard to explain it in such a short article. There are many legends associated with it which are interesting as well as guiding and enlightening. I hope that by the next year more and more of my friends are aware of it and celebrate it with me. I pray for all to have a life full of colours, lights, joy, wealth and prosperity. Once again belated Happy Diwali 2015, and Happy Diwali 2016 in advance!
Last modified: December 15, 2015