Diwali Festival Celebrations

This is an article with details about Deepawali festival observations. We shall also see as to why the festival is celebrated, and how it is celebrated. Before the winter starts this is the last of the major festival observed in Karnataka. In Karnataka the Deepawali festival is celebrated mainly of three days but different communities celebrate the festival from 3 to 5 days. Let us have a look at the festival.

Deepawali Celebrations

deepa Deepawali also known as Diwali is an important festivals in Karnataka. It is also called Kaumudi Deepam or Dipalika. Deepawali means row of lighted lamps or festival of lamps - deepas. The main ritual is lighting of deepas made of clay, brass or bronze with vegetable oil and cotton wick. The oil through the wick burns and lights the lamp. The oil used mostly is gingili – Till oil. Some houses may be using other vegetable oils. The lamps in Sanskrit are called deepas or diyas. The lighting is to signify the conquest of the good over the bad and removal of the evil. This is a festival observed by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. Of course each of the religion has its own reason for its celebration. Deepawali is a major festival not only for Kannadigas, but for the whole of the country except for Kerala. This festival is also observed in some foreign countries like Nepal, Myanmar (old Burma), Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Tobago and Suriname. Many of these countries give holiday for Deepawali. Apart from the lighting of lamps the other major rituals are to wear new dresses, oil baths, bursting crackers and share sweets and snacks with family members, relatives and friends. Traditional belief is that the festival is an annual remembrance of the killing of the Demon king Narakasura by Sri Krishna. Apart from the most explained reasons there are few reasons not widely known. One such reason is to remind us that the wick and the oil while burning themselves out, gives light to those around. That is to mean even at our own cost we help others. Though we may not go t that extent we can help other within our limits to spread happiness. Help need not be monetary. There are several ways. Some may require only some consoling words. Some may require some suggestions or advises, some only a pat on the back or some kind words etc which does not involve any expense. Even if nothing is possible at least we can see that on account of us others do not suffer. That itself is a great thing as we find in the society we are the reasons for most of the maladies. Another aspect is that this is the 1st festival before winter season which is a season where the skin gets dry and rough. On Deepawali we take oil bath elaborately. It is like an auto suggestion to us to continue to take oil bath as frequently as possible so that our skin is kept as normal as possible during the winter also.

The Deepawali festival preparations begin much early starting with the painting, coloring, cleaning the house & office/business and premises. Then the work of dusting, cleaning and washing all the utensils and cleanable items is done. Decoration of the house and applying rangolis or kolams, keeping new dresses ready, if possible otherwise at least keep the dress as clean as possible to wear during the Deepawali days are other works done before the festival starts. During the festival days everyone get up early in the morning before dawn take bath, burst crackers, wear new cloths, light up oil lamps perform poojas and have sweets, delicious snacks, and dishes for breakfast and lunch, make social visits, invite relations and friends, distribute sweets and delicacies.

Diwali Significances to various regions

For Hindus the significance of the festival depends on the region. For some especially in North, it signifies the return of Sri Rama with Sita and Lakshman to Ayodhya after completion of their 14 years of vana vas (forest dwelling) and killing Ravan to Ayodhya. The return of their King (Sri Rama) after the forest living, to Ayodhya is celebrated by its people. In their joy and happiness the Ayodhya vasees (residents - people) illuminated the kingdom of Ayodhya by lighting the earthen diyas, distributing sweets and bursting fire crackers. That tradition is carried forward by the successive generations through millenniums.

Deepawali's Spiritual significance

There are various legends or belief in connection with the Deepawali festival. But everything signifies the same essence. The core of the meaning is of the victory of the light over darkness and the vanquish of the bad by the good. The whole of Karnataka and its every nook and corner is illuminated by the lighted lamps; the air is filled with the fragrance of the incense sticks; the reverberating sounds dazzling lights of the fireworks in the atmosphere; the joy, hope, brightness and togetherness in whole atmosphere. The lamps are lighted which brightens our homes and hearts. These are only the outward aspect of Deepawali. Deepawali kindle our hopes from the bad patches in our lives. The light of the knowledge removes the darkness of our ignorance. With this knowledge we commit to do good deeds thereby getting closer and closer to the divine power. Awareness of our inner light is the meaning of the festival. It brings us to the Central theme of Hindu philosophy that there is something beyond the physical body, mind and intellect which is something pure and Anantha – eternal, the Atman. The dewali is the symbol of light of the higher knowledge which removes the darkness of ignorance. Our true nature, which we assumed as the body which we see and feel, is exposed to us and we realize the true self which is unchanging, infinite and transcendent. A state of being that is above the physical existence and also independent of it. In effect it makes us to realize our oneness with everything else through the unknown thing called as the Atman. The atman is pervading through everything in the universe and will help us to achieve the joy or peace, anand or bliss by the gradual removal of the ignorance. The celebration of our inner light or the self is the Diwali.

Diwali rituals and associated celebrations

Deepawali is a celebration of 3 to 5 days depending on the communities. The festival or the ritual of Dewali itself falls on the Amavasya day (new moon night) at the sankramana of the Hindu calendar months of Aswin and Karthik. This falls within the months of October – November of English Calendar. Let us see the 5 days celebration of the rituals and the legends behind them.

Dhan trayodasi

For some business communities the festival time starts with Dhan trayodasi also known as the Dhanteras (Dhan Teras) as the first day celebration. This day of Dhanteras, the owl – goobe the carrier (vehicle) of goddess Sri Lakshmi is worshiped with the belief that this will bring prosperity. This is an important and auspicious day for buying valuables in cost as well as for life like the household utensils and precious metals like silver and gold. The name Dhan came because of this aspect. This celebration is also known as the "Dhanatrayodashi" (dhana means wealth and trayodasi means 13th day) or "Dhanvantari Triodasi" (Dhanvantari is the physician of gods, one form of Sri Vishnu who came out of the churning of the milky ocean of the cosmic) and Triodasi means 13th day. 13th day of which? 13th lunar day of Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight of moon phase) in the Hindu calendar month of Ashwin.

Since the birth anniversary or the day on which Dhanvantari came out of the ocean with the nectar, this day is also known as the day of lord Dhanvantari (the physician of the gods). Dhanvantari came out of the Palazhi (milky ocean) manthan (churning) by the gods and demons together. The English months and the Hindu lunar calendar months differ as the English calendar is based on the solar calendar. This is the 1st day of the financial year of the business community.

Naraka Chaturdasi

diwaliNaraka (a demon's name) Chaturdasi day (14th day) is on the 14th day of the Krishnapaksha of Aswin month. It is the 29th day of the month Aswin. This is the day of vanquish of the demon Naraka. Lord Sri Krishna and his wife Sathyabhama killed Narakasura. Since Narakasura was a tyrant to his subjects his death is celebrated as the victory day of the good over evil. In the entire south India this is a very important day. Early in the morning before dawn people get up and have oil bath; wear new dresses; light clay, brass or bronze oil lamps around the house; and draw rangolis/kolams. On this morning elaborate poojas are done to Lord Krishna or lord Vishnu.
Taking bath before the dawn when the stars are still in the sky is considered as equal in effect to the taking bath in the holy river Ganga (Ganges). Children and youngsters burst crackers as if the demon (Evil) and of the darkness (ignorance) just defeated. The delicious and mouth watering snacks and dishes will be attended to by all in the family during breakfasts and lunches.

Lakshmi pooja

on the day of Diwali the Amavasya day Lakshmi pooja is the main ritual. This day falls on the 30th day or the 15th day of Krishnapaksha of Aswin month. Sri Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) is offered special poojas. Offerings and lighting of lamps in homes and outside to welcome the goddess Lakshmi the goddess of the prosperity and well being will be done in most families. The Deepawali festival is at the end of the main harvest season. The festival is also as part of our thanks giving practice for the good harvest and good business or trade and for the good time till the next term.

Bali Padyami - Bali pratipada

The 5th day of the festival on the pratipada thithi (1st day) of the (Padyami day - known as the Karthika Shudda Padyami day) of Deepawali festival is celebrated as the Bali Padyami. This is to commemorate the sending the Maha Bali from the earth to the Patala Loka to rule that place as its king as suggested by the lord Vamana. Some people mainly the Gujarathis do Govardhan puja is on this day as a remembrance of the raising of the Govardhan mount by Sri Krishna to protect the people and cattle and defeat the effort of the flood created by Indra to punish them.

Yama Dwitiya

Generally for the majority in Karnataka the function will be over with the Bali Padyami day. But some communities from North India observe the Yama Dwitiya. Yama Dwitiya is also called differently as Bhai duj, Bhau beej, Bhayya duj, Bhai Phota or Bhayitka. As the name indicate this is on the Dwitiya - 2nd day of Karthika. It is similar to the Gowri habba where the brothers go to the sisters' places and take food with them and give present to the sisters. This is observed on the belief that Yama visited his sister Yami (Yamuna River) on this day and spend some with her and had food. While returning to his place, Yama gave a present to his sister. Due to this episode the festival bears the name Yama Dwitiya. Brothers visit their sisters n this day and give them gifts as an occasion to renew the bond between them

Legends of Diwali Festival

There are several legends connected with the various days observations during Deepawali. For us the main ones are the Naraka Chaturdasi, Diwali and the Bali Padyami. However let us a brief look at all the legends associated with the Deepawali festival.

1. One legend is about the Vanvas (forest dwelling – exile) of Sri Rama for 14 years. After completion of the term with the misfortunes of missing Sitha Devi and the fight with Ravana, killing of Ravana, installing Vibhishna as the king of Lanka, Sri Rama returns to Ayodhya - capital of his country. All the people, under the leadership of Bharatha who was representing Rama at Ayodhya arranged a welcome to their beloved leader with his wife Sitha and brother Lakshmana and Hanuman. They decorated the entire kingdom with rangolis, thoranas and diyas (oil wick lamps lit. This happened during the Deepawali time. Hence the celebration of Diwali is done in some North Indian states. This legend is more predominant in the North.

2. Another legend is about the Naraka Chaturdasi. The legend is about the killing of the Narakasura (demon Naraka) by Sri Krishna and Sathyabhama. It is believed that the Narakasura was the son of Lord Vishnu and Bhudevi. When Hiranyaksha took the earth and went under the cosmic ocean on request of the gods, Lord Vishnu took the form of Varaha (Incarnation of Varaha) went to Hiranyaksha under the sea fought and killed him. The Varaha Recovered the earth using his face and the tusks to lift up. During the period the Bhudevi conceived and delivered a child Naraka. Since this incident happened at an inauspicious time the child borne was a wicked one with all qualities of a demon. The boy became the ruler of Pragjyothishpur. He will usurp anything he likes if refused by the owners. He used to abduct all good looking kanyakas (maidens – unmarried girls) and there were 16000 of them in his cells. Since he was the son of Lord Vishnu and he has a boon that he can be killed only in presence f his mother, Sri Krishna was approached. Sri Krishna went with Sathyabhama (incarnation of Bhudevi. They fought with the forces of Naraka and finally Naraka was also killed on the Chaturdasi day of the Krishnapaksha Aswin month of the lunar calendar. On their return the people welcomed them with lighted lamps sweets and crackers. In memory of this the Naraka Chaturdasi is celebrated.
This same version with some modification is prevalent is some places that since Narakasura can be killed only by his mother, Sri Krishna prompted and persuaded Sathyabhama who is the incarnation of Bhudevi, mother of Naraka. According to this variation, Sathyabhama killed the demon.

3. One more legend is that the Pandavas completed the Vanvas of 12 years and 1 year of atnathavas (living incognito) and returned to Hastinapur. The people were very happy and received them with the lighted lamps, decorations etc. In memory of this the diwali is celebrated.

Legends on Lakshmi Puja

It is believed that Sri Lakshmi came out of the churning of the ocean of milk (Ksheera Sagar Manthan) on this day.

Another version is that after sending Bali to Patal Vamana returned to Vaikunta – his abode in his original form. On the return of her husband Lakshmi was very happy and people believe that if she is worshiped during this happy occasion it will be very easy to please her and get boons from her for prosperity and peace.

It is also the belief of some that on this day the Panchayathan came into the universe to protect the subjects of the universe. Sri Vishnu, Indra, Kubera, Gajendra and Sri Lakshmi are the 5 Panchayathan. Each of them has a jurisdiction like Lord Vishnu is to provide happiness and satisfaction; Kubera to sharing of wealth and generosity; Indra to opulence (satisfaction due to wealth and to Gajendra to carry the wealth. The divine energy for these tasks is provided by Sri Lakshmi.

Apart from India several other countries observe Deepawali, especially the ones with large Hindus of Indian population. The countries where the festival is observed are Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad, Tobago, Canada, USA and U K. In some of these countries only the Indian population celebrates this festival, in others it has become a part of the local culture.



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