Writing an essay on Diwali can be tricky, but it is by no means impossible. Here is a brief write-up on Diwali that can be used as a reference point by the school, or college students. Have a fabulous Diwali!
Deepavali in Sanskrit, or Diwali, the more popular name today, is perhaps the most celebrated Hindu festival in India and stands out as a festival of sparkling lights, fun and joy, a time for creative Rangoli decorating each home, and a time for some of the most exquisite delicacies and puja offerings. It is a day when everyone puts on new and colourful clothes, that only adds to the charm and spirit of the festival.
It’s also a day for families to unite and renew their pledge and commitment to follow the path of goodness in the coming year. In many parts of India, Deepavali is celebrated with firecrackers, while in some others, it takes shape in quieter yet colourful forms.
Deepavali is one of the oldest Hindu festivals and finds mention in Padma Purana, Skanda Purana and the Katha Upanishads.
The night Diwali is Amavasya, the darkest day of the Autumn season and marks the end of the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin, with the day after being the first day of the month of Kartika.
Hinduism is an ancient religion that has evolved as has its diverse interpretations and following. There are thousands of gods, and each has its legend and inspirational tale for their respective followers.
Over time, there have been different interpretations of various legends and beliefs and today; we see that in different parts of India, the same festival is celebrated with pomp and enthusiasm but with the varied interpretation of its origins.
Mostly, Diwali is celebrated as a five-day festival, with each region celebrating the festival in their unique way. Here is a summary of various forms of celebrations across India:
- Day 1: Dhanteras, Dhanvantari Triodasi Asweyuja Bahula Tharayodasi, Yamadeepdan, Dhanatrayodashi.
- Day 2: Naraka Chaturdasi, Divvela Panduga
- Day 3: Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Return of Lord Ram, His wife Sita and younger brother Laxman after spending 14 years in exile, Lord Mahavira attains Nirvana, Bandi Chor Diwas – sixth Sikh Guru Har Gobind returns to the Golden Temple, Ashoka Vijayadashami – when Emperor Ashok renounced violence and embraced Buddhism, Kaumudi Mahotsavam – Balindra Puja – Karthigai Deepam – Thalai Deepavali in South India.
- Day 4: Padwa, Balipratipada, Bali Padyam
- Day 5:Bhai Dooj, Bhathru Dwithiya, Yamadwitheya, Divvela Panduga
Significance of the ‘Diya’
Centric to the festival is the ritual of lighting of the traditional ‘diya’, which has its importance and meaning in various parts of India.
Popular belief, especially in North India, is that Lord Ram along with his wife Sita and younger brother Laxman returned to their Kingdom of Ayodhya after spending 14 years in exile. During this time, Lord Ram and his brother Lord Laxman fought a fierce battle with the demon King, Ravana of Lanka, who had kidnapped Sita.
The battle ended with Ravana being killed by Lord Ram and is seen as a victory of good over evil. When the trio return to Ayodhya on the night of ‘Amavasya’, the darkest night of autumn, the villagers lit ‘diyas’ leading into Ayodhya, to welcome their King Ram.
Celebrating Diwali through five days
Dhanteras, Dhanvantri Triodasi Aswayuja Bahula Thrayodashi, Yamadeepdan, Dhanatrayodashi – Day 1
Festivities begin with Dhanteras the first of five days of Diwali celebrations. Dhanteras is celebrated as the birthday of Goddess Lakshmi, who brings wealth and prosperity to whosoever she blesses, and Goddess Dhanvantri, the goddess of health and healing.
In their honour, people and business men begin to clean and decorate their homes and places of work. This is a day when people buy some form of jewellery, be it gold or silver, as it marks the auspicious beginning for the coming new year, as per the Hindu Vikram Samvat. Buying of steel utensils is also seen as auspicious.
Women and young girls start creating beautiful Rangoli designs on the floor of their homes and everyone in the evening perform Lakshmi puja. The diyas remain lit on all days to welcome the goddesses.
In South India, celebrations begin early in the morning by performing the Aswayuja Bahula Thrayodashi which marks the worship of Lord Kuber, the lord of money. The prayers start with the worship of Lord Vigneswara and offerings of delicacies made of jaggery, honey, flour and dry fruits.
In South India, people clean and renovate their homes too, while people in business do the same as they go about closing their books of accounts and prepare for a new financial year.
Naraka Chaturdasi – Day 2
The second day of Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the slaying of the demon king Narakasura, who was killed by Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu, pleased with Narakasura’s devotion granted him a boon of long life.
Misusing this, Narakasura believed in his invincibility and created havoc in all the three worlds. When all the gods and people approached Lord Vishnu for help, he sent Lord Krishna along with his consort Satyabhama to slay Narakasura.
The day is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. As per legend, Narakasura before dying requested Lord Krishna to that people remember his death and therefore, this day is commemorated as Naraka Chaturdasi.
In the East which includes Bengal, Bihar and Assam, people believe it was Goddess Kali in furious rage who destroyed Narakasura and therefore, on this day Kali Puja is celebrated. The day is also celebrated as Shyama Puja or Nisha puja in certain parts of Eastern India.
The big day of Diwali – Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Lord Mahavira’s Nirvana, Bandi Chorr Diwas, Ashoka Vijayadashami, Kaumudi Mahotsavam – Balindra Puja – Karthigai Deepam – Thalai
Deepavali in South India – Day 3
This is the day when Lord Ram, Sita and Laxman return from exile and the nation celebrates with prayers, the lighting of diyas and filling the skies with firecrackers.
In the East, the day is celebrated as Lakshmi Puja. While firecrackers have now become a national phenomenon, it is not as prevalent in East or South India, as it is in North and Central India. The evening of Diwali is marked with prayers to Lord Ganesha, Goddess Saraswati and Lord Kuber, in addition to Goddess Lakshmi.
In South India, too, Goddess Lakshmi is widely worshipped on this day and the day begins with extensive prayers and offerings to the Goddess
Legend of Lord Vishnu as Vamana Avatar
In Karnataka and other parts of South India, legend has it that when King Bali wreaked havoc, all the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution. As a result, Lord Vishnu himself came down to earth in the form of a dwarf – Vamana Avatar. He then presented himself as a humble Brahmin before King Bali, who asked him what he wanted. Vamana Avatar asked for land that would cover his three footsteps.
Given the small request, King Bali agreed immediately. Vamana Avatar then took his original form as Lord Vishnu and with two steps covered heaven and earth. Since King Bali agreed for three footsteps, he offered his head for the third step, and thus Bali was banished to hell; some believe he was forced into the ground – the underworld.
It is said that Lord Vishnu allowed King Bali to return once a year on Deepavali to light up the earth and bring joy to people. It is also believed that Lord Vishnu finally agreed to release King Bali on the third day of Deepavali – Kartik Shuddha Padyami, to return to earth and rule with goodness.
It is interesting to note that for the Sikh community, this day holds significance as Bandi Chorr Diwas. This was the day when Mughal Emperor Jehangir agreed to release the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind along with 52 Hindu princes from the Gwalior Fort prison. To mark the occasion, it was on this day in 1577 that the foundation stone was laid for the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Bandi Chorr Diwas is celebrated with all-day prayers at the Golden Temple and by Sikhs all over the world.
For followers of Buddhism, this day marks Emperor Ashoka’s renouncement of violence, after the bloody battle of Kalinga, and his embrace of Buddhism, to follow a path of peace and attainment of knowledge.
For followers of Jainism, this day marks the attainment of Nirvana by their Lord Mahavira. The day is celebrated with prayers and festivities by the Jain community all over the world.
It was on this day when Ganadhara Gautam Swami – Chief Disciple of Lord Mahavira acquired complete knowledge and therefore, this day is also dedicated to him.
Padwa, Balipratipada, Bali Padyam – Day 4
This day is the first day of the new year as per Hindu Vikram Samvat. For businessmen and traders, this is the first day of the new year and they offer prayers to begin the year auspiciously.
In many parts of India, the fourth day is celebrated as Balipratipada – the day King Bali returned to earth as a reformed King. In other regions, the day is celebrated as Padwa, a day to mark the love between husband and wife when both once again reaffirm their love and commitment to one another.
In certain parts of North and Central India, this day is also celebrated as Govardhan Puja or Annakut festival. According to popular mythology, Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill so that people of Vrindavan could take shelter from torrential rain. The day is marked by offering of food hills to Lord Krishna.
The day is also celebrated by the Vallabh Sampradaya, Swaminarayan Sampradaya and the Gaudiya Sampradaya of Chaitanya in various forms.
Bhai Dooj, Bhathru Dwithiya, Yamadwitheya, Divvela Panduga – Day 5
The day 5 of Diwali festival is celebrated to mark the love and bonding between brothers and sisters, very similar to Raksha Bandhan but dates back much longer. The day also celebrates the importance of the existence of the girl child and women in our society.
According to legend, Lord Yama and his sister Yamuna are children, Lord Surya. On this day, Lord Yama– the god of death, also known as Dharma Raja, visits his sister Yamuna, after bathing in the Yamuna river. It was due to this visit that the Yamuna finally gives up her fear of death.
Diwali – a festival of joy and bonding
Irrespective of form of celebration, Diwali or Deepavali, is a national festival of joy, happiness and brotherhood, a time when families come together to celebrate the well-being of one another.
While the festival has evolved in form and manner of celebration, it will be helpful to see efforts on the part of youth to use this day to integrate all communities further and include everybody in joining the festivities. The same must also be reciprocated when other communities celebrate their respective festivals. It is then that India will be able to claim the spirit of inclusiveness and secularism truly.
Happy Diwali to all!
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