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Diwali: Festival of LIghts

Diwali and Deepavali is a public holiday in many Far East Countries.

Deepavali and Diwali: November 13

Deepavali and Diwali is a public holiday in many Far Eastern countries.

Diwali is the festival of lights. It means, “An Array of lamps”.

Of all the festivals celebrated in India, Diwali is the most glamorous one. On the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (October / November), after 20 days of Dusshera, this festival of lights, is usually celebrated. Though there are many stories behind the origin of Diwali, all of them share a common essence of, Victory of Good over evil.

History of Diwali

The great Indian epic, Ramayana, says that, Rama prince of Ayodhya was ordered by his father, King Dasharatha, to leave his country for an exile for fourteen years and come back after that. Rama went on an exile with Sitha, his wife, and Laxmana, his brother. After saving Sitha from the hands of the Evil Ravana, when Rama, Sitha and Laxmana returned home, candles and diyas were lit to celebrate their homecoming. This is believed to have started the tradition of Diwali.

‘Mahabharata’, another great Hindu epic, narrates a story of the origin of Diwali. After loosing a game of Shataranj, to the Kauravas, Pandavas, had to leave Hastinapur, on an exile of thirteen long years. After the exile, when they returned to Hastinapur, diyas were lit, to welcome them as the kings.

Another legend, speaks of the gods loosing the battle with demons. It is said that, after that, Goddess Kali emerged from Goddess Durga’s forehead to the earth so as to protect earth and heaven from rising cruelty and injustice performed by the demons. Goddess Kali lost her control after killing the devils and started killing any person who tread in her path. Her rage came under control only after the intervention of Lord Shiva. The well-known picture of Ma Kali depicts her and her tongue hanging out at the moment when she accidentally trods on Lord Shiva and retreats in repentance and horror. This event hence has been commemorated by the celebration of Kali Puja, which is observed in many parts of India, more specifically West Bengal and Assam, On the day of Diwali.

A major tradition connected with Diwali is the tradition of Rangoli. The tradition of Rangoli has been associated with the celebrations of Diwali since time immemorial and even today these Rangolis are prepared for the purpose of decorating the entrance of most of the households for the grand occasion of Diwali. Rangoli is basically a Hindu folk art, which is drawn on the floors using different designs and colors. The origin of the Diwali Rangolis can be traced back to the Puranas or the works of Hindu mythology.

Lakshmi Puja on Diwali is celebrated as a major part of the Diwali in North and West India. The legend associated with Lakshmi Puja relates that, there once occurred the churning of ocean by the demons and the deities in order to look for the ‘amrit’ or the ‘drink of immortality’. Then Goddess Lakshmi emerged from the ocean and since then Diwali was celebrated and hence Lakshmi Puja became an integral part of the Diwali celebrations. Alternately, some stories, also speak of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi combining together as Mohini to do so.

Some stories relate a story of a common belief, where, Goddess Lakshmi walks through the green fields in order to shower her blessings on the human race for peace, wealth and prosperity. It is a common belief that to open the doors and the windows of their homes on the eve of Lakshmi Puja, and also decorate the entrances with colourful flowers, and Rangoli, brings upon good luck. Kali puja is also a part of Diwali tradition, in West Bengal, and Assam. Other traditions related to Diwali are, preparation of sweet dishes such as traditional sweets like, Badam Seera, Kheer, Lapsi, Gujia, Meetha Khaja, Khoya Laddu and others. Also, lighting Diyas, on Diwali is considered to be very auspicious. The Festival of Lights has remained, for ages, the time for social bonding, by cultural exchanges.

Diwali Traditions, Customs and Activities

In modern days, Diwali is celebrated all over the country and even outside, by bursting crackers, lighting hundred Diyas in and around the home, and cooking delicious sweet dishes. It is a custom in some Indian families, to conduct a Ramayana Paath (Reading of the Ramayana), and feeding five Brahmins, after that.

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