Deepavali or Diwali is the festival of diyas or deepas (lights). This five-day festival marks the death of Demon Narkasura killed by Lord Krishna. Diwali has been celebrated across the country and all over the world by Hindus.
Deepavali is also called Kaumudi Deepam or Dipalika. The Festival Of Lights is the most celebrated Hindu festival. It is the festival of renovating our lives. The festive preparations begin well in advance cleaning. Sweets and savouries are prepared, and decorations with lamps are done.
Diwali – Celebrations Significant Days
These five festive days begin each year on the Ashvija Krishna Thrayodasi (thirteenth day of Hindu calendar in the month of Ashvija Krishna ) This day fo the festival is called Dhanteras. the day is considered auspicious to make new purchases. People buy gold, silver articles or even vehicles and home appliances. The houses are cleaned and decorated with rangoli, haldi kumkum, etc.
The second day, the Naraka Chaturdasi, falls on the fourteenth day of Ashvija Krishna. This is the day when Narakasura King of Pragyotispura is slained by Lord Krishna.
Ashvija Krishna Amavasya
The third day is the Ashvija Krishna Amavasya or new moon worship goddess Lakshmi for prosperity. There is special puja at business institutions and houses. In the evening, lit lamps are placed at all doorways and windows of the house.
Kedara Gauri Vrata
On this day, special puja to Shiva called as Kedara Gauri Vrata is performed. It is said that Goddess Parvati performed this puja to attain half of Lord Shiva and hence Shiva became ‘Ardha Narishwara’. Lord Vishnu blessed with Vaikunta Loka observing Kedara Vrata. Lord Brahma got Hamsa Vahana (Swan Vehicle). Bhagyawati and Punyavati got a lot of wealth observing Kedara Vrata.
The fourth-day, Balipadyami in Kartika Sukla, is celebrated on the occasion of Vamana stamping the most powerful and charitable Asura king Bali to Pathala Loka (netherworld). Bali is revered as one among the seven chiranjivis and returns to visit his kingdom on this day every year. On this day one can buy home appliances, goods and very auspicious for buying new things.
Obbatu or Holige made of jaggery, dal, maida and ghee, is made on this occasion. This is the season to offer gifts to many institutions off incentives and gifts to their client/employees. Dry fruits and complimentary gifts are ever in demand during this season.
The last day of Diwali is the Yamadvitiaya also called as Bhratridvitiya is a day dedicated for sisters to meet their brothers. According to our scriptures, Lord Yama‘s sister Yamuna met him and offered him many sweets on this day.
Unique Diwali Celebrations in South India
India is such a large country that the religious significance of the same festival can be different in the north and the south. In north India, Diwali is celebrated as the day when Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returned from exile.
However, in south India, Diwali marks the death of asura Narakasura by Lord Krishna. Diwali according to the south Indian calendar usually falls a day ahead of the Diwali celebrations in North India. However, this year, the north and the south will celebrate Diwali on the same day.
Starting Diwali Celebrations with an Oil Bath
Some aspects of Diwali celebrations such as indulging in sweets, bursting firecrackers and wearing new clothes are common to both Diwali celebrations. In addition, the Diwali celebration in south India has a few unique aspects. The ritualistic early morning oil bath is one such thing.
According to mythology, the goddess Mahalaxmi is believed to have hidden behind a sesame tree. Hence, sesame oil is used for this ritual. The eldest member of a family anoints the heads of all the other family members with three drops of sesame oil before sunrise.
Shikakai is then used to wash off this oil. This practice is believed to be as holy as taking a dip in the Ganges. Symbolically, it implies a fresh beginning after removing egos, jealousy, self-esteem, and fights.
A popular way for people to greet each other on this day is by asking ‘Ganga Snanam Aacha?’ or Have you had a holy bath?
Making the Oil
A day before Diwali, rice powder and turmeric are kept in the vessel that will be used to heat the oil. The stovetop is cleaned and smeared with lime. Religious symbols are also drawn around it. Just before the oil bath, the rice powder and turmeric are replaced by sesame oil along with turmeric, betel stem, and caron seeds. This is heated and then offered to Goddess Lakshmi.
Naraka Chaturdashi or Deepavali precedes the Amavasai day. One day before the festival, the stovetop is cleaned, and then it is smeared with lime. Religious symbols are drawn on it.
Worshipping King Bali
In the coastal parts of Karnataka, Diwali is also a day to worship King Bali. This ritual is called Balipadyami. As part of the ritual, farmers celebrate boisterously and offer food around their paddy fields.