The country famous for its unity in diversity, celebrates the festival of lights with grandeur. Diwali is celebrated by millions over a span of five days. It occurs in late October or early November and falls on the 15th day of the Hindu month Kartik. The festival celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. One of the biggest festivals of Hindu religion is celebrated with variations in different parts of the country.
In North India, Diwali festivities start with Dussehra. Diwali marks the homecoming of Hindu deity Lord Rama to his kingdom of Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. Diwali falls on the night of Amavasya (New Moon). The northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and the surrounding areas light up diyas and burn firecrackers to drive away the darkness. On the night of Diwali, households worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha as a symbol of wealth, prosperity and wisdom.
Unlike North India, people worship Goddess Kali in place of Goddess Lakshmi here. In West Bengal, ‘Kali Puja’ is celebrated by bursting crackers, holding dazzling fireworks display, lighting rows of candles and diyas around individual homes and painting colourful patterns at the doorstep. It is also believed that it is the night of the 'Pitripurush' (ancestors) and lamps are lit on long poles to guide their souls on this night.
In Orissa, people celebrate Diwali by paying homage to the spirits of their dead ancestors. They burn jute stems to lighten the path of spirits on their way to heaven. Oil lamps, candles and lanterns are lit and crackers are burst, sparklers lighted to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Gifts and sweets are distributed among friends and family.
Like North India, Diwali is celebrated for 5 days in Western India too. In these states, Diwali is that time of the year when markets are crowded the most with shoppers. Diwali marks the new year for Gujaratis. It is considered a highly auspicious occasion for starting out new ventures, buying properties, opening of offices, shops, and special occasions like marriages. The houses are brightly lit and footprints are drawn to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.
In Maharashtra, the festival is celebrated for four days. The first day is called Vasubaras and is celebrated by performing an aarti of the cows and calves. This is followed by Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi. On the third day, Narakchaturdashi or Roop Chaudas, people take scented oil bath early in the morning and visit a temple. After this, the Maharashtrians feast on a variety of Diwali preparations consisting of delicious sweets like “karanji” and “ladoo” and spicy eatables like “chakli” and “sev”. This feast is known as Faral. The fourth day, which is the main Diwali day, Lakshmi Puja is performed. In every house, Goddess Lakshmi and items of wealth like money and jewellery are worshipped.
Diwali is celebrated as a two-day festival in Tamil Nadu which falls in the Tamil month of Aipasi. The first day is the day before new moon and is called ‘Naraka Chaturdasi’. This is the main day for rituals. A day before Naraka Chaturdashi, houses are cleaned and decorated with kolam designs similar to rangolis in North India. On the morning of Diwali or Naraka Chaturdashi, the celebrations begin with an oil bath before sunrise. This is followed by wearing new clothes and gorging on delicious sweets.
The state of Andhra Pradesh follows the same rituals as the other southern states. In addition, Lord Krishna is also worshipped. Harikatha, a musical narration of the story of Lord Hari is performed. Prayers are offered to clay idols of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s consort who had killed demon Narakasura.
Lord Krishna is worshipped in the state of Karnataka too. The first day here is called Ashwija Krishna Chaturdashi. It is believed that Lord Krishna took oil bath to remove the blood stains from his body after killing Narakasura. On this day, people take oil bath to cleanse all impurities within. Bali Padyami is the third day of Diwali when women sketch colourful rangolis in their houses and build forts from cow dung. These are the two main days of Diwali celebration in Karnataka.
With celebrations in full swing, there are some common rituals that are followed pan India like, lighting up of diyas, decorating the houses, sharing gifts with relatives, bursting firecrackers and feasting on the festive delicacies. The spirit of this festival of joy and prosperity remains the same everywhere.Read More