1 . Festival of Lights
Diwali is perhaps the most well known of the Hindu festivals.The word Diwali means rows of lighted lamps .Diwali is known as the festival of light because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas.
2 . History
Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Karthikai. The festival is mentioned in Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana, and other Sanskrit Hindu scriptures the divas (lamps) are mentioned in Skanda Purana to symbolically represent parts of sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.
3 . Religious significance in Hinduism
The religious significance of Diwali varies regionally within India, depending on the school of Hindu philosophy, regional myths, legends, and beliefs.Many see Diwali honouring the return of the lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana from exile, as told in the ancient Hindu epic called the Ramayana. To some, Diwali marks the return of Pandavas after 12 years of Vanvas and one year of agyatavas in the other ancient Hindu epic called the Mahabharata. Many other Hindus believe Diwali is linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and wife of deity Vishnu. The five day festival of Diwali begins on the day Lakshmi was born from the churning of cosmic ocean of milk during the tug of war between the forces of good and forces of evil the night of Diwali is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband and then married him.Some Hindus offer pujas to additional or alternate deities such as Kali, Ganesha, Saraswati, and Kubera. Other Hindus believe that Diwali is the day Vishnu came back to Lakshmi and their abode in the Vaikuntha so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her good mood, and therefore are blessed with mental, physical and material well being during the year ahead. In India s eastern region, such as West Bengal, Lakshmi is not worshipped, only deity Kali is worshipped and the festival is called Kali Puja. In India s Braj and north central regions, deity Krishna is recognized. People mark Mount Govardhan, and celebrate legends about Krishna. In other regions, the feast of Annakoot is celebrated, with 56 or 108 different cuisines prepared, offered to Krishna, then shared and celebrated by the local community.
4 . Religious significance in Jainism
Diwali has special significance in Jainism. Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankar of this era, attained Nirvana or Moksh on this day at Pavapuri on 15 October 527 BCE, on Chaturdashi of Kartika. According to the Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu,3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness.Therefore, Jains celebrate Diwali as a day of remembering Mahavira.
5 . Spiritual significance
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs to mark historical events, stories or myths, but they all spiritually mark the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, hope over despair.In the Yoga, Vedanta, and Samkhya schools of Hindu philosophy, a central belief is that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali as the victory of good over evil,refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite,immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things, and knowledge overcomes ignorance.Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light over spiritual darkness,knowledge over ignorance, right over wrong, good over evil.
6 . Description and rituals
Diwali is a five day festival in many regions of India, with Diwali night centering on the new moon the darkest night at the end of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin and the start of the month of Kartika. In the Common Era calendar,Diwali typically falls towards the end of October, or first half of November each year.The darkest night of autumn lit with diyas,candles and lanterns,makes the festival of lights particularly memorable. Diwali is also a festival of sounds and sights with fireworks and rangoli designs the festival is a major celebration of flavors with feasts and numerous mithai (sweets, desserts), as well as a festival of emotions where Diwali ritually brings family and friends together every year. Like major festivals of the world, rituals and preparations for the Indian festival Diwali begin days or weeks in advance.The festival formally begins two days before the night of Diwali,and ends two days after.Each day has the following rituals and significance
7 . The Origin of Diwali
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival . However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali or Deepawali.Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali ,the dark goddess of strength.Lord Ganesha,the elephant headed God,the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day.In Jainism,Deepawali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana .Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile and vanquishing the demon king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers.
8 . The meaning of diwali
The meanings of Diwali, its symbols and rituals, and the reasons for celebration are innumerable. Diwali celebrates Lord Rama s glorious and long awaited return to his Kingdom of Ayodhya after his fourteen long years of exile in the forests. It commemorates Lord Krishna victory over the demon Narakaasura who had kidnapped and terrorized the gopis of Vrindavan. When the evil Naraka was finally killed by Bhagwan Krishna and Satyabhaama, he begged pitifully for mercy thus, upon his entreaties, it was declared that this day of his death would be celebrated with great joy and festivity. It is also celebrated as the day Bhagwan Vishnu married Maha Lakshmi.Diwali is also associated with the story of the fall of Bali a demon king who was conquered by Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu appeared to the demon king Bali in the form of a dwarf and requested only three steps of land. The evil and egotistic Bali granted the drawf s meager request of only three feet. Suddenly, Lord Vishnu took on His grand size and placed one foot on the Earth, another on the Heavens and His third on the head of the evil Bali.
9 . A Fresh Start
Diwali also marks the new year. For some, the day of Diwali itself is the first day of the new year, and for others the new year day is the day following Diwali. But, for all this season is one of heralding in the New Year.In the joyous mood of this season, we clean our homes, our offices, our rooms, letting the light of Diwali enter all the corners of our lives. We begin new checkbooks, diaries and calendars.It is a day of starting fresh.On this day we clean every room of the house we dust every corner of the garage, we sweep behind bookshelves, vacuum under beds and empty out cabinets. But, what about our hearts.When was the last time we swept out our hearts.When did we last empty them of all the dirt and garbage that has accumulated throughout our lives.That is the real cleaning we must do. That is the real meaning of starting fresh. We must clean out our hearts, ridding them of darkness and bitterness we must make them clean and sparkling places for God to live. We must be as thorough with ourselves as we are with our homes. Are there any dark corners in our hearts we have avoided for so long.Are we simply sweeping all the dirt under the rug.God sees all and knows all.He knows what is behind every wall of our hearts, what is swept into every corner, and what is hidden under every rug.Let us truly clean out our hearts let us rid ourselves of the grudges, pain, and anger that clutter our ability to love freely.Let us empty out every nook and cranny, so that His divine light can shine throughout.
10 . These Four Days
Each day of Diwali has its own tale, legend and myth to tell. The first day of the festival Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya , the second day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi , the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. It is on the third day of Deepawali Kartika Shudda Padyami that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. The fourth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj ) and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.