The festival of lights – Diwali or Deepawali – is upon us and Hindus all over the world, are gearing up to celebrate the joyous festival that marks the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom Ayodhya, spread over five days, Deepawali, members of the family get-together and enjoy the festivities.
This year, the Diwali festivities begin on Friday with Dhanteras., which falls on 28 October.
On Dhanteras, Lakshmi – the Goddess of wealth – is worshiped to provide prosperity and well -being. It is also the day for celebrating wealth, as the word ‘Dhan’ literally means wealth and ‘Tera’ comes from the date 13th.
In the evening, a lamp is lit and Dhan-Lakshmi is welcomed into the house. Alpana or Rangoli designs are drawn on pathways including the Goddess’s footprints to mark the arrival of Lakshmi. Aartis or devotional hymns are sung eulogizing Goddess Lakshmi and sweets and fruits are offered to her.
Hindus also worship Lord Kuber as the Treasurer of wealth and bestower of riches, along with Goddess Lakshmi on Dhanteras. This custom of worshiping Lakshmi and Kuber together is in prospect of doubling the benefits of such prayers.
People flock to the jewellers and buy gold or silver jewellery or utensils to venerate the occasion of Dhanteras.
This day is also associated with Lord Dhanavantri, the God of health and wellness. A number of people worship Dhanavantri for good health and well-being. Lord Yama is also worshipped by number of people on this day. A lighted lamp (Diya) referred to as the Yama Deepam is kept outside the house to please the God of Death and in turn seek blessings to prevent untimely death.
Naraka Chaturdashi (October 29, Saturday)
Narkasur had fought against neighbouring kings and imprisoned 16,000 women, daughters of the Gods and saints. He had also defeated Lord Indra and taken away the magnificent earrings from the ears of Aditi, mother of the Gods. When Lord Krishna learnt about Narakasur’s deeds, he decided to engage him in battle and liberate all the celestials.
On hearing of this proposed battle Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s wife, took this task upon herself and with his help killed Narkasur with Krishna’s Sudarshan chakra (originally given to him by Lord Vishnu)
Naraka Chaturdashi Celebrations
The custom of taking a bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice. People get up early and have an oil-bath (तेल अभ्यन्गम). The tradition of taking oil baths has its origins in Ayurvedic medicine. Preparations for this ritual bath begin the night before as water pots are cleaned, venerated, decorated with marigolds and mango leaves and filled with water in readiness for dawn. They are heated next morning and the hot water is used for ritual baths.
After their hot water bath, an aromatic paste of herbs in scented oils is applied. Everyone then dresses up in new clothes and the celebrations begin with the bursting of fireworks and distribution of sweets that have been first offered to God. The courtyards are decorated with Rangoli (drawing of traditional motifs with colourful powders) and the attention shifts to the feasting on different sweet and savoury snacks prepared for the festival.
The Indian state of Goa has a unique way of celebrating Naraka Chaturdashi. Effigies of the demon Narkasur are created over many months and then paraded through the streets through the day and into the evening. The parade(s) conclude with the burning of these effigies (which are often filled with fire crackers and other combustible materials!) and bursting of crackers.
Lakshmi Pujan/ Deepawali (October 30, Sunday)
On this day, family members gather in the evening to perform Lakshmi Pujan to seek blessings of the Goddess for wealth, prosperity and happiness. The doors of the house are kept open to welcome the Goddess. The traditional Puja culminates with the singing of the Aartis.
Govardhan Puja (October 31, Monday)
On the fourth day, Lord Krishna is worshipped for saving the people of Braj Bhoomi from the wrath of God Indra, who created destructive showers, hail and thunderstorm to avenge an insult.
Bhai Dooj (November 1, Tuesday)
Bhai Dooj, the festival that is celebrated just one day after Diwali festival celebration is much like the festival of Raksha Bandhan that strengthens the brother-sister bond. It is one of the auspicious and very popular Hindu festivals that are celebrated across the globe. Bhai Dooj celebrates opportunity brother-sister bond of love and care as well as strengthen it by following the auspicious rituals. On this auspicious day, sisters put Tilak on their brother’s forehead and pray for their long life. In return, brothers pamper their sisters with gifts and promise them to stand by their side in hardships of life.