The term Diwali or ‘Deepavali’, literally translates into “row of lamps”. The festival of Diwali, which is usually celebrated eighteen days after Dusshera is one of the most well-known among all Indian festivals.
The festival commences with Dhanteras, followed by NarakaChaturdasi. On Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is worshipped. The fourth day of Diwali is KartikaShuddaPadyami and the festival concludes with Yama Dvitiya or BhaiDooj. There is a story associated with every day of the Diwali celebrations.
Dhanteras: The word ‘Dhana’ means wealth and ‘teras’ indicates the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. Households usually buy utensils and gold to mark the auspiciousness of the day.
NarakaChaturdasi: On this day, Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura, thereby signifying the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. For Southern India, this is the main day of the festivities.
Lakshmi Puja: As the name suggests, Goddess Lakshmi and Ganeshji are worshipped on this day. The most important Diwali celebrations commence on this day in North India.
Govardhan Puja: The festival derives its name from Govardhana Hill which Lord Krishna lifted to save his kinsmen. The day also commemorates Lord Krishna’s defeat of Indra.
Bhaidooj: According to legend, on this day Yama, lord of Death, visited his sister Yami who welcomed him graciously. This day marks the culmination of the Diwali festivities.
Every region has its own rituals and legends associated with the festival of Diwali. For instance, in north India, Diwali celebrates return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile and the defeat of Ravana. In Bengal, it is associated with the goddess Kali. In Jainism, Deepawali commemorates Lord Mahavira’s attainment of nirvana.
Ultimately, the common link in all stories associated with Deepawali is the significance of the victory of good over evil. Everywhere, it signifies the renewal of life, and accordingly people illuminate their homes with lights, light firecrackers, exchange sweets and wear new clothes.
Deepavali is one of the most awaited festivals in India for the sheer brightness, warmth and delight it spreads in the air.