Diwali is the most awaited festival in Hindu calendar. Apart from being a festival of lights and color, Diwali is also a celebration of happiness, prosperity and a day that brings family members together. Diwali start with Dhanteras in the Kartik month followed by Naraka Chaturdasi. The third and the most important day of Diwali is celebrated on the amavasya of Kartik month. This day marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Diwali is celebrated all over India for various reasons. Here is a compilation of 10 reasons whyDiwali is special in India.
Kids love It
Diwali is a festival that kids eagerly await for throughout the year. It is the best time of the year for them. With school holidays, it is all about crackers, sweets and gifts to them. Children enjoy their Diwali adorning their new clothes, setting off fireworks, and relishing on homemadesavories. The variety of crackers and sweets available in the markets are getting wider and wider each year and children seem to never have enough of both of them during Diwali.
Celebrated All Over India
Diwali is a festival that is celebrated in almost all states of India. In Gujarat, celebrations startfour days ahead of the rest of India. In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, it is known as Deepavali and is celebrated a day ahead of the rest of India to celebrate the death of Narakasura and commemorate triumph of good over evil. In West Bengal and Assam, goddess Kali is worshipped on the night of Diwali with fireworks and lamps. Diwali is also celebrated in other parts of the world, particularly in countries with considerable population of Hindus and Sikhs like Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canda, South Africa and many more.
It is the tradition in all Hindu families that all members gather together for the three-four daysof celebration of Diwali. In recent times, there has been a trend to give gifts and greeting cards to family and close friends. Families gather to relish on special cuisines, exchange gifts, play games and strengthen the bond of family. This is one of the most important aspects of Diwali as it brings together members, who live far-off from family, to share a celebration of faith, of happiness and of lights.
Regional New Years
Gujarati New Year is celebrated on the next day of Diwali. It is taken as the first day of the first month of Gujarati calendar. Most other Hindus celebrate the New Year in early spring. Gujarati community worldwide celebrates New Year after Diwali to mark off the commencement of a new fiscal year. Diwali also marks the new financial year for many Hindu business communities in India. On this day new stocks books and account ledgers are used and profit/loss is calculated for the previous financial year. In Nepal, the fourth day of Diwali is celebrated as a new year.
Mahavira Attained Nirvana
Diwali is also a very important day in Jainism. Diwali marks accomplishment of moksha or nirvana by Mahavira in 527 B.C. He attained nirvana at the dawn of amavasya. Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu mentions that gods were present there illuminating the darkness and the following night was pitch black without the light of the gods or the moon. To keep this symbolical light of Mahavira’s knowledge active, they celebrate this day with lights and fireworks.
Guru Hargobind Singh
Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhorh Divas to commemorate the return of their 6th Guru Hargobind Ji, who was freed from imprisonment and also managed to arrange the release of 52 Hindu kings, who were political prisoners at the same time from the Gwalior fort by making ingenious manipulation of Jahangir’s order. Jahagir ordered to allow anyone who could hold on to the Gurus coattails to leave the fort with the Guru in October of 1619. He arrived at Amritsar on the day of Diwali and that day Golden Temple was lit with hundreds of lamps to celebrate his return after imprisonment. On this day, family members get together to have a vegetarian meal and also fireworks are launched into the air to represent freedom.
Return of Pandavas
Diwali has its origins in Mahabharata also. On the Kartik Amavasya, Pandavas returned from their 12 years in exile and one year of Agyatvas (living disguised). They were banished because of their defeat at the hand of kauravas in the game of dice. On their return, people of their kingdom welcomed them by lighting earthen lamps and since then Diwali is celebrated to mark the return of Pandava brothers after a long harsh exile.
Killing of Narakasura
The second day of Diwali is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi. Narakasura was an asura, who ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. He had a long life and was very powerful from the boons he was granted by Vishnu. Drunk with the power, he brought all the kingdoms of the world under his rule and then he cherished a desire to rule Swargaloka. Unable to bear with his cruel monocracy, all gods pleaded to Krishna to help them in destroying him. He also had a boon that he would die only at the hands of his mother Bhudevi. Krishna therefore asked his wife Sathyabhama, reincarnation of Bhudevi, to help him in the battle to kill Narakasura. In the battle, when Krishna fell unconscious after being hit by an arrow of Naraka, Sathyabhama took the bow and aimed the arrow at Naraka, killing him instantly. It was Narakasura’s last wish to celebrate his death with colorful lights.
Return of Rama
Ram’s return to Ayodhya after his 14 years of exile and his coronation as the king of Ayodhya is celebrated as Diwali. Hanuman was the messenger, who passed on the good news to the people of the city. The whole city was decorated with flowers and garlands. Every house adorned a beautiful look of cleanliness and was lighted with lamps. Perfumes and scent filled the air. Every street was cleaned and decorated with rangoli to welcome Ram, Sita and Laxman back to their city after slaying Ravan. They were invited with grand procession that included every single member of the kingdom of Ayodhya. To this day, Diwali is celebrated in memory of their return.
The third day of Diwali (Amavasya of Kartik month) is considered as the most auspicious day for Lakshmi Puja. Lakshmi Puja is the most important event of Diwali in Northern and Western India. Houses are cleaned in advance, rangoli is drawn and in the evening lamps are lit around the time of puja to welcome the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. In Vaishnava philosophy, goddess Lakshmi is respected as “Iswarigm sarva bhootanam” meaning she is not just the goddess of wealth, but also the supreme goddess. Due to its importance, people perform the puja in a very elaborate manner to seek her blessings. Lakshmi Puja brings peace, prosperity and happiness to the family. Lakshmi Puja in 2012 falls on 13th of November.