Children, do you know the importance of festivals in our lives? The significance of festivals in India is manifold. Firstly festivals bring a lot of joy and celebrations in our lives by connecting us to our traditions, customs and religious beliefs. Secondly they break the monotony and boredom in our lives and thirdly they help in providing employment to a lot of people. For instance during Deepawali potters get a lot of business of making diyas and traditional lamps, sweet makers get busy in preparation of sweets, tailors too get a lot of business as it is a tradition to wear new clothes during the festival. This way everybody is able to celebrate the festival of lights. This year let us take a pledge to use indigenous products thereby helping our own fellow countrymen and saying no to all foreign products. Also in the interest of the environment we must not burst crackers.
Deepawali is a festival of lights and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by Indians across the globe. 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. This festival falls towards the end of the month of Ashwin and the beginning of the month of Kartik. In rural areas of India, Deepawali, which occurs at the end of a growing season, is a harvest festival. After reaping their harvest, farmers celebrate with joy and thank God for granting them a good crop.
According to the epic Ramayana, Deepawali commemorates the return of Sri Ram from his 14-year exile after rescuing Sita and killing Ravana. In the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata, the Pandavas also returned from their exile in the forest during Deepawali time, giving people another reason for celebration.
On the same night that Hindus celebrate Deepawali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, and Sikhs celebrate it as Bandi Chhor Divas. Deepawali is an official holiday not only in India but also in, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.
We can celebrate Deepawali in the true sense only when we know the significance of each of these days.
Dhanteras is the first day of Deepawali. Dhan refers to wealth; hence, the 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 fortnight 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 Deepawali celebrations. At sunset, Hindus bathe and offer a lighted diya with prasad (sweets offered at worship time) to Yamaraj, 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 .
Another name for the first day of Deepawali is Yamadeepdan. This name is associated with Yama, the God of Death. The sixteen year old son of King Hima was destined to die on this day. However, the devotion of his wife impressed Yama so much that he returned without taking the Prince's life.
On this day, earthen lamps are lit for ancestors of the family and the lamps are floated down a river or pond. Lamps are also lit at the entrance of homes. Offerings comprising of water, rice, jaggery, vermillion, and flowers are kept for Yama. In South India, this day is known as Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi. It is a very auspicious day and every household celebrates by buying silver, gold and utensils. In their homes, people literally wash coins in milk and water and worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. They also distribute money to the poor and needy.
Choti Deepawali marks the second day of Deepawali. It is also 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 Deepawali can be celebrated with vigour and devotion.
This day is also known as Roop Chaturdasi. Hindus perform a ritual bath and meditate in order to enhance their beauty. In connection with this, the second day is also referred to as Kali Choudas. People apply kajal (black eye liner) to the eyes in order to ward off kali nazar (evil eye). In Andhra Pradesh, this day is known as Divvela Panduga. At the end of this day, people take a bath with oil. On second day there is a traditional practice specially in Maharashtra of taking bath before sunrise with oil and Uptan (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders.
Lakshmi Puja The third day of Deepawali is the Lakshmi Puja. On this day devotees worship the Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu, to receive blessings of wealth, prosperity, triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
For Jains, this day is known as Deva Deepawali. 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 some south Indian states, Deepawali is known as Balindra Puja. On this day, a puja is performed to Lord Krishna and an offering of oil is made. Sindhis celebrate Deepawali as Diyari. They too perform a Lakshmi puja on this day.
Padwa and Govardhan Puja The fourth day of Deepawali 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 on this day. Hence the 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. Generally no money transaction takes place on this day.
Bhai Duj The fifth day of the Deepawali is called Bhaiteeka. It 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 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 to enquire of their welfare. On this day, the sister applies vermillion on the forehead of her brother and prays for his long life. This is known as Bhaifota in Bengal. Bhaifota is an event among Bengalis where the sister prays for her brother's safety, success and wellbeing.
This day marks the end of the five days of Deepawali celebrations.