While some of us has been taking exams this week, millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains have been celebrating Diwali also known as the Festival of Lights. Diwali is a festival which spiritually signifies the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. The festival traditionally takes place during the months of October and November with this years celebrations beginning on Monday 20th and continuing until Saturday 25th October.
During Diwali, houses and businesses are cleaned, renovated and decorated. Many people decorate their home and workplaces lights or small clay oil lamps. Bowls of water with candles and flowers floating on the surface and colourful floor designs called Rangoli are are also popular decorations. Fireworks are also an important and exciting part of Diwali lighting up the skies. Participants often wash themselves with water and fragrant oils, wear new clothes and give gifts to family members, close friends during the week.
Families light sparklers after offering prayers on the banks of the river Yamuna as part of Diwali celebrations.
Each of the five days in the festival of Diwali is separated by a different tradition and have their own legends and tales to tell, but what remains true and constant is the celebration of life, its enjoyment and goodness.
The First Day of Diwali
This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations, Dhanvantari Trayodasi, also Dhan Theras. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic for mankind. On this day at sunset, Hindus bathe and offer oil lamps with prasada (sanctified food) to Yamaraja (the Lord of Death) and pray for protection from untimely death. Dhanteras is also a major shopping day, particularly for gold or silver articles. Merchants, traders and retailers stock up, put articles on sale, and prepare for this day.
The Second Day of Diwali
The second day of Diwali is called Naraka Chaturdasi. On this day, Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura and liberated the 16,000 princesses which the demon held captive making the world free from fear. On this day, one should massage the body with oil to relieve it of tiredness, bathe and rest so that Diwali can be celebarated with vigour and devotion.
The Third Day of Diwali
This is the actual day of Diwali, the Hindu New Year, when worship unto Mother Lakshmi is performed. Hindus cleanse themselves and join with their families and their Pandit (priest) and worship the divine Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, to achieve the blessings of wealth and prosperity, and triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. This is also the day on which Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, having successfully rescued Sita and defeated the demon, Ravana.
The Fourth Day of Diwali
On this day, Govardhan Pooja is performed. Many thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna caused the people of Vraja to perform Govardhan Pooja. From then on, every year Hindus worship Govardhan to honour that first Pooja done by the people of Vraja.
The Fifth Day of Diwali
The fifth day of the Diwali is called Bhai teeka. This is the day after Goverdhan Pooja is performed and normally two days after Diwali day. It is a day dedicated to sisters. Many moons ago, in the Vedic era, Yama (Yamraj, the Lord of death) visited his sister Yamuna on this day. He gave his sister a Vardhan (a boon) that whosoever visits her on this day shall be liberated from all sins. They will achieve Moksha or final emancipation. From then on, brothers visit their sisters on this day to enquire of their welfare.This day marks the end of the five days of deepavali celebrations. This is also known as Bhai fota among Bengalis. Bhai fota is an event especially among Bengalis when the sister prays for her brother’s safety, success and well being.
Light a candle to end this week, celebrate Diwali and freedom from exams!
Featured image: REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade