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Deepawali

Deepawali, Diwali

Deepawali or Diwali is the biggest festival of the year for Hindus. It is celebrated by all the Hindus spread across all around the world. Besides Hindus, people from few other faiths and religions observe and celebrate it for different reasons. Precisely, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism are the other religions besides Hinduism that hold this festival in a bracket of significance. Out of the kind of celebrations it involves, and out of the literal meaning of its term, it defines itself as ‘a row of lamps’ and ‘a festival of lights’.

Time of Celebration
Time of celebration of Deepawali varies in one part of the country with another, because people residing in a certain part do not essentially abide by the same calendar as abided by the people in another part. According to Hindu calendar, it is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the month of Kartika.  According to Georgian calendar, it usually falls either in the month of October or November.

Legends
There are numerous legends associated with this festival. Here are the most prominent of them:

1. Amongst the followers of Hindu religion, the day commemorates for homecoming of Lord Ram in Ayodha after passing through the 14 year long period of banishment, in which he had to fight a battle with Ravan, the king of Lanka for liberating his wife from his confinement. On this occasion, the locals of Ayodha lighted oil lamps all over the town to welcome Lord Ram, his wife Mata Sita, and his brother Laxman.

2. This day marks the homecoming of Pandavas to their reign after observance of 12 years of Vanvas (banishment) and one year of Agyatvaas (living incognito).

3. According to beliefs prevalanet in Southern part of the country, this festival marks the conquest of Asura Naraka, a cruel and immoral king of Assam, by the hands of Lord Krishna. On this day, Lord Krishna liberated all the prisoners captured by that king.

4. In Bengal, the day is celebrated as Kali Puja, the day on which the Kali form of Shakti is worshipped with fervour.

5. Amongst the followers of Jainism, this festival is celebrated in commemoration of the attainment of Moksha or Nirvana by Lord Mahavira in 527 BCE.

6. Amongst the followers of Buddhism, it is marked as the day when King Ashoka accepted Buddhism as his faith.

7. Amongst the followers of Sikhism, this festival is celebrated as Bandi Chhorh Divas in commemoration of the return of Guru Har Gobind (Sixth Guru) after liberating from the confinement in Gwalior Fort.

Preparations
1. Though, traditionally Diwalis is only about one single day, celebrations around it go on for a prolonged period of five days, beginning from the day of Dhan Teras. Preparations for celebrating it begin far before than that. People get their house and workplace cleaned up. Also, markets are beautifully decorated with different sorts of adornments and lights.

2. The mood of the festival gets apparently reflected in the way people engage during the time of the festival. They along with their entire families come out of their homes, visit markets, and enthusiastically engage in lots of shopping. Markets try to allure more and more people by get themselves beautifully decorated and illuminated.

3. Community fests are also organized in some places, in which locals as well as tourists come all together to participate and celebrate.

Distribution of Gifts and Sweets
Another ritual or tradition associated with this festival that takes quite a few days before the D-day is the distribution of gifts and sweets amongst different personal and professional associates. People show immense generosity during this time of the year. They make sure to present everyone in their friends and family circle with a Diwali gift, which is considered as a gesture of conveying wishes and auspiciousness. Also, equal degree of significance is given to present professional associates with present. Usually, it is the employer who either presents gifts or confers a Diwali bonus to all the employees on the occasion.

Lamps, Crackers, and Rangoli
1. Quite a few days before the arrival of Diwali, people hang fancy lights on the boundaries of their homes. On the day of Choti Diwali (a day before Diwali) and Diwali, illuminated small-size clay-made oil lamps and candles are placed all around the house, especially on all those minor and major ways marking an entry into the house.

2. Lighting of oil lamps and candles signifies for the victory of good over evil. It is also a way of conferring devotion and conveying warm reception for Goddess Laxmi.There is a belief that Goddess Laxmi, the Hindu deity of wealth and prosperity, arrives in that house on the night of Diwali which is utterly  clean and filled with light.

3. Bursting crackers is another way of spreading light. However, utmost care and concern is required on this aspect. It is meant to be brought in use as a source of light, rather than a source of noise or pollution, and that is what one should consciously be directed at.

4. Conventionally, lighting of lamps and candles are required to be performed during the evening time. There is nothing as such confinement of time for bursting crackers, but it is essentially required to be done with fervor on the evening of Diwali.

5. Another important part intrinsically associated with this festival is of drawing colorful Rangoli, which are usually drawn at the main entrance of the house. Drawing it is believed to bring in lots of cheer and positivity, as well as conveys a gesture of gratitude and warmness towards Goddess Laxmi.

 Diwali Puja
1. Laxmi Puja is the most important conventional aspect associated with the festival of Deepawali, in specifically amongst the Hindus belonging to North and West India. On the evening of festival, after sunset, all family members gather to be a part of this ritualistic worship. As a part of this worship, Goddess Laxmi, the Hindu deity of wealth and prosperity, is worshipped.

2. Besides performing it at home, people with their own business or trade make sure to perform it at their workplace as well. Also, the festival is like a New Year for all traders and businessmen, and to mark the occasion, they get themselves new account books on this day.

3. Temple of the house is cleaned and adorned for this special day. All idols and images of Gods and Goddesses are washed, cleaned, and appropriately placed. They should preferably be placed on a raised platform, which should not be very-high, such that everyone in the family can view it easily.

4. Oil lamps, incense sticks, and candles are lighted, as it sways away negativities. A Kalash filled with rice is also placed. Flowers, betel leaves, and cloves are offered, and abir, sindoor (sacred red powder), and haldi (turmeric) are applied to idols.

5. Diwali Puja requires one to pay worship to five deities. As religiously believed, Puja should essentially get started with the worship of Lord Ganesh. Then, one should pay worship to the three forms of Goddess Laxmi - Goddess Mahalakshmi, the deity of wealth, Goddess Saraswati, the deity of art, wisdom, and communication, and Goddess Mahakali. Puja concludes with the worship of Lord Kuber, who has been described to be the Hindu treasurer of Gods in beliefs of Hinduism. As a part of worship, all family members sing devotional songs in sync, and in the end, offer prayers for overall wellbeing, success, happiness, and growth.

6. After Puja, Bhog is offered to all deities, in which eateries including sweets, fruits, and traditional Diwali items are bestowed. Prasad is distributed amongst everyone present.

7. Dakshina (alms), according to one’s own degree of gratitude, should be offered to a priest. Helping poor in any way is equally virtuous.

As soon as Puja gets over, everyone engages in celebrating the festival by first treating themselves with the special dinner made for the day and then by bursting crackers for as long as they can.

 

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