Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Dipawali or Diwali ( दिवाळी ) is a major Hindu festival. It is a festival of lights, signifying the victory of light over darkness, of good over evil. The festival gets its name from the row or line called "Avali" of clay lamps "Deepa",which we light in and outside our homes. 

In olden times, simple earthen pots were lit up. These days lamps in numerous sizes and shapes are available which are painted and decorated.'Rangoli' ( रांगोळी ) is drawn at the entrance of the house. This is a decorative coloured pattern drawn with white stone powder, which is thought to be very auspicious. Strings of Jhendu(Marigold) and Mango leaves adorn the entrances.One of the attractions is the "Aakash kandil" (आकाशकंदील) or paper lantern. Since my childhood we have been putting up beautiful akash kandils with an electrical light illuminating them. On a dark night it is a beautiful site to see homes decked with these aakash kandils and strings of blinking fairy lights. One year, we had made a fish-shaped akash kandil. It turned out pretty good considering that I was all but a 10 year old. I'll post the photograph when I find it. My mum, as a child made akash kandils with her family every year. Diwali is a festival of togetherness which friends and family celebrate together and have lots of fun. An array of goodies, both savoury and sweet are prepared during the festival. These are usually home made with families having traditional recipes.

Wasubaras(वसुबारस), is celebrated on the twelfth day 'Dwadashi' (द्वादशी ) of the month of Ashwin (अश्विन). On this day many worship the Cow and her calf. It is the first day of Deepavali.
According to the Hindu calender the 13th day of krushna paksha (कृष्णपक्ष ) of the month of Ashwin (waning moon of the month of Ashwin) is Dhanatrayodashi (धनत्रयोदशी ). On this day businessmen worship their record books. New account books are commenced from this particular day. Many buy some kind of metal like gold, silver or utensils. This day is also known as Dhanwantari Trayodashi (धन्वान्तारीत्रयोदशी), the birth anniversary of Dhanwantari, the God of Ayurveda. On this very day, a lamp is lit, for Yama the God of death, outside the house. This is believed to ward off any untimely death of family members.

Narka chaturdashi is the fourteenth day of waning moon of the month of Ashwin. According to the legend, this is the day when Lord ShriKrishna killed the demon Narkasur (नरकासूर ) and freed the people from their fear and miseries .On this day we wake up very early in the morning and bathe with massage oil and a special aromatic scrub called 'Utana'(
उटण ). In the olden times every one was expected to have bathed before the sunrise lest they land up in hell. Though I did not believe in these stories, it was fun to do so. Once every one has bathed, a puja is performed where we offer the prepared goodies to the deity and then we are ready to welcome family and friends. Its time for 'Faral' (फराळ), relishing the yummy delicacies.

With changing times though, (this must be since my parents generation) preparing these delicacies is not limited to Deepavali. In many homes these are made all the year round and are available in shops too.

The following day is Laxmi pujan(लक्ष्मिपुजन). This is the puja of the Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. In most homes, it is celebrated with great reverence. A picture or an idol of the deity is placed on a 'chaurang'(चौरंग) , a wooden square stool, usually with ornamental decorations) with Rangoli around it. Jewellery and currency and precious processions are artistically placed infront of the deity. The chaurang is illuminated with 'diyas' and decorated with flowers. Special prayers are offered along with "Salichya Lahya" (puffed rice) and "batasse"(sugar candies). Blessings for a prosperous year are sought.

Balipratipada, this is the first day of shukla pratipada (first day of waxing moon) of the month of Kartik, according to the Hindu calendar. On this day the married women, the 'Suvasini' pray for the prosperity and happiness of their husbands.

Bhaubij(भाऊबीज) is the second day of the waxing moon in the month of Kartik, (kartik shukla dwitiya). On this day the sister prays for her brother's long life and wishes him good health. This is the last day of Diwali celebrations. 
With this the beautiful 5 day long festival comes to an end. But the way I see it, this festival actually teaches us to be together, to respect everyone including the animal kingdom and be grateful and humble. Actually I feel it is a beautiful learning process, embedded in the deep culture. The rituals may not be followed to that extent anymore but their essence has great relevance even today! .

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