Cover Story: Deepavali: The Festival of Five Days
Deepavali is a festival of lights and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by all Indians all over the world. The uniqueness of this festival is its harmony of five varied philosophies, with each day to a special thought or ideal. People celebrate each of the five days of festivities with true understanding, as it uplifts and enriches their lives.
Dhanteras is the first day of Deepavali. Dhan refers to wealth; hence, this day is celebrated to worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. It is also called Dhanvantari Triodasi . It is in fact the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksh, the dark forthnight of the month of Kartik. According to the Ayurveda it is the birthday of the deity Dhanvantari, so on this day Ayurvedic doctors (vaidyas) worship Him. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurveda for mankind. This day marks the beginning of Deepavali celebrations. At sunset, Hindus bathe and offer a lighted diya with prasad (sweets offered at worship time) to Yamraj, the Lord of Death and pray for protection from untimely death. This offering should be made near a Tulsi tree, or any other sacred tree .
Across every State, the celebrations revolve around the common theme of dispelling the darkness of ignorance and welcoming the light of knowledge.This festival falls towards the end of the Hindu month of Ashwin and the beginning of the month of Kartik.
2. Choti Deepavali
The second day marks the celebration of Choti Deepavali. The second day of Deepavali is called Narak Chaturdasi. On this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and made the world free from fear. On this day, one should massage the body with oil to relieve it of tiredness, bathe and rest so that Deepavali can be celebarated with vigour and devotion.
According to the epic Ramayana, Deepavali commemorates the return of Sri Ram from his 14-year exile after rescuing Sita and killing the demon Ravana. In rural areas of India, Deepavali, which occurs at the end of a growing season, is a harvest festival. After reaping their harvest, farmers celebrate with joy and thank the God and the demigods for granting them a good crop.
3. Lakshmi Puja
This is the actual day of Deepavali, commonly known as the Hindu New Year. Third day is basically dedicated to the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu, to receive blessings of wealth, prosperity, triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. For Jains, this day is known as Deva Deepavali. On this day, homes are brightly lit, and scriptures are read in order to worship Lord Mahavir. Kashmiri Pandits celebrate this day as Sukhsuptika, which literally means sleep with happiness. Badhausar is the name given to this day in Gujarat. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Lakshmi visits all homes that are brightly lit.
In the Adi Parva of the Mahabarata, the Pandavas also returned from their exile in the forest during Deepavali time, giving people another reason for celebration.
4. Padwa and Govardhan Puja
The fourth day of Deepavali is usually celebrated as the New Year for most Hindus and is called as Bestavarsh. It is believed that Lord Krishna gave his protection to a cowherd family in Vrindavan to save them from the anger of Lord Indra. Hence this day is also termed as Annakoot. In Karnataka, this day is celebrated as Bali Pratipada. On this day, the demon king Bali descends to the earth to visit his loyal subjects. Bali Maharaja was defeated on this day by Lord Krishna's dwarf incarnation, Vamanadeva. This day also ritually celebrates the love and mutual devotion between the wife and husband. Generally no money transaction takes place on this day.
5. Bhai Duj
The fifth day of the Deepavali is called Bhai teeka. The fifth day is also referred to as Yamadwitheya. It is a day dedicated to sisters. In the Vedic era, Yama (Yamraj, the Lord of death) visited his sister Yamuna on this day. He gave his sister a vardhan (a boon) that whosoever visits her on this day shall be liberated from all sins. They will achieve moksha or final emancipation. From then on, brothers visit their sisters on this day to enquire of their welfare. On this day, the sister applies vermillion on the forehead of her brother and prays for his long life
On the same night that Hindus celebrate Deepavali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, and Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas. Deepavali is an official holiday in India,Nepal,Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.We can celebrate Deepavali in the true sense only when we know the significance of each of these days. —Aniket Raja