People all over India celebrate the Festival of Lights, Diwali with great enthusiasm. In a festive mood the markets and streets are a riot of colour and lights, with clay diyas, candles or electric lights. It is traditionally celebrated over several days, soon after the harvest when there is food in plenty and money to spare.
Here are some of the ceremonies connected with Diwali.
The Ekadashi festival, dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu, is considered as a spiritually beneficial day and consists of a rigorous fast in which devotees do not consume beans and grains. They can have fruit, vegetables and milk products.
The first day of the Diwali festival, is Dhanteras, which usually falls one or two days before Lakshmi Puja, the main Diwali day. The word dhanteras means wealth and prosperity. The day holds special significance and people invest in gold bars or jewellery. New clothes and utensils for Diwali are also bought on this auspicious occasion when new things for the home, and gold, silver and stainless steel are in great demand. It also holds great significance as Dhanvantari Jayanti Celebration, as per advisory of Ministry of Ayush, India, as the National Ayurveda Day.
On Choti Diwali, householders get up early and the house is cleaned and decorated with colourful rangolis and garlands, so that all is ready to welcome Lakshmi, who according to Hindu mythology is the goddess of wealth and beauty. On this day devotees worship the sacred basil, Tulsi tree and Vishnu.
There is no festival like Diwali. The festival of lights celebrates the return of their king, Rama, an avatar of Vishnu, who was in exile for fourteen years, because of his father’s promise. Diwali is like day replacing night, or hope replacing despair and gloom for the people of Ayodhya. In honour of their king, the entire Ayodhya celebrated his victory and decorated the entire city. The important celebration is devoted to worshipping Ganesha and Lakshmi. People start decorating their homes well in advance and light diyas and pray for wealth, prosperity and happiness for their loved ones, followed by the ritual of exchanging trays of sweets and fruits. Goddess Lakshmi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. People think that the happier the goddess will be, the more she will grant her blessings on them. Close friends will drop in for a game of cards which could last well into the night, stemming from the mythology that Shiva and Parvati had enjoyed a game of cards and since then it has become a tradition to play cards on Diwali night.
The following day Govardhan Puja is observed, where cattle and livestock are honoured. People pray to Krishna and offer fruit and flowers at the temple, because he saved Gokul from the wrath of Indra, by lifting up the Govardhan mountain. According to the mythology, the people in a place called Mathura originally worshipped Indra, but later switched over to Krishna. Indra was furious. As the God of rain, he could let loose his army of rain clouds and flood the small kingdom. Which is what he did. it was then that Krishna lifted the mountain of Govardhan and held it like an umbrella on his little finger, so that all the little creatures could be saved.
Bhai Dhooj marks the end of the auspicious festival. It is a day when sisters pray for their brothers by preparing a thali of sweets, rice grains, vermillion and flowers in a small, intimate family ritual. Celebrated from the legend of Yama, the God of Death who visits his sister Yami who puts tilak on his forehead, signifying that her brother would always be there to protect her and his sister will always be there to pray for him. It is said that Yama instructed that any one who honoured the ties between brother and sisters would lead a happy life. Also celebrated because of the significance of the slaying of the Narkasur demon, mythology says that Krishna visited his sister Subhadra who welcomed him and applied tilak on his forehead
During Diwali people welcome a new ray of hope into their lives. Diwali is a family thing and people like to celebrate at home or at community centres with sweets and fireworks. There are lights everywhere, diyas and small coloured bulbs that twinkle and create designs. Then the dark night sky is illuminated with colours as the fireworks start.
We wish you and your family a Happy Diwali and prosperous New Year. May all your wishes for health, wealth and happiness in your life be fulfilled.
With our love,
The team at Shanti Yoga