35.1 C
Delhi
Thursday, June 20, 2024

EU States Approve 14th Sanctions Package Against Russia, Diplomats Say

European Union countries have approved a 14th...

Monsoon Advances, Set To Bring Relief From Heatwave

The monsoon is advancing after stalling for...

Significance and meaning of Diwali, Hindu festival of lights

AsiaSignificance and meaning of Diwali, Hindu festival of lights

Diwali, also known as Deepawali, is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated for five days.  The meaning of each day will be explained.

Diwali is heralded across India and other parts of southern Asia, as well as in many other places around the world, the most major Hindu festival and most important Hindu holiday of the year. During Diwali, people perform purification rituals, adorn their homes, gather for special feasts, exchange gifts, and light fireworks.

Though the exact dates change depending on local customs, the festival is typically celebrated in the Hindu month of Kartik, which falls in October or November. In 2018, the festival will start on Nov. 5 and end on Nov. 9, according to the Indian Express.

The significance of Diwali

Diwali celebrates the light overcoming the dark, according to the SCFI’s website, DiwaliFestival.org. The light symbolizes knowledge and wisdom, while darkness symbolizes all negative forces, such as wickedness, destruction, violence, lust, envy, injustice, greed, oppression, and suffering.

Households light dozens of little clay oil lamps, called diyas, to symbolize the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The word “Diwali,” or “Deepawali” in Sanskrit, means “a row of lamps” in Sanskrit.

The festival’s roots lie in Hindu scriptures and legends, with many stories associated with the celebration. For example, Diwali commemorates the triumph of Rama, the lord of virtue, over the demon Ravana, as well as the return of Rama to his kingdom after 14 years of exile.

Hindus also commemorate the victory of the god Krishna over Narakasura, a king who had aligned himself with a demon, causing him to turn evil.

Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth — including the wealth of money, pleasure, power, strength, knowledge, peace, and children — is said to walk the Earth and bless people. Other legends are celebrated according to different local customs. Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists also celebrate Diwali but mark various events and stories. However, they all symbolize the victory of light over darkness.

The five days of Diwali

The names of the five days of Diwali differ by region. Each day has its own set of traditions and rituals. “The uniqueness of this festival is its harmony of five varied philosophies, with each day to a special thought or ideal,” according to the SCFI.

Dhanteras

On the first day of Diwali, called Dhanteras (or Dhanvantari Triodasi, Dhantrayodashi or Dhan Theras), Hindus celebrate the day that Dhanvantari, the god of good health and medicine, emerged from the ocean with the gift of Ayurveda (the knowledge of life) to humanity, according to the SCFI. They also celebrate the day that Lakshmi also came out of the ocean with a pot of gold, according to the Indian Express. “Dhanteras” translates to mean wealth and prosperity.

Leading up to this day, houses and businesses are cleaned and decorated. Floors are decorated with bright, geometric patterns called rangoli, which serve as symbols of good luck and welcome guests and Lakshmi.

Lights are decorated all over and diyas are lit in every room of the home all night long so that the dark cannot enter. Sweet snacks, called prasad, are offered to Lakshmi and Yama Raj, the god of death, with prayers (puja) for protection from an untimely death.

This is also a major shopping day, especially for new clothes and gold ornaments, and silver utensils, to bring luck and prosperity.

Narak Chaturdasi (Choti Diwali)

On the second day of Diwali, known as Choti Diwali or Narak Chaturdasi, Hindus remember Krishna’s victory over Narakasura. Others, especially in northern India, celebrate Rama and his victory against Ravana, while those in Bengal worship Kali, the goddess of death. Jains also celebrate Mahaveera, the 24th tirthankara (spiritual teacher) of Jainism, and his reaching nirvana, or perfection.

On this day, fewer diyas are lit, and fewer fireworks are set off. Many people take a ritual bath before sunrise, rubbing massage oil and uptan (a paste of garam flour and fragrant powders) onto their bodies to relieve tension. They rest to prepare for fully celebrating Diwali.

Lakshmi Puja

The third day, Lakshmi Puja, is the main day of Diwali festivities. It falls on the night of the new moon. Celebrators clean their houses and themselves, dress in their best clothes, and pray to Lakshmi and Ganesha, the god of wisdom and remover of obstacles, according to the Indian Express. The prayer rituals can take hours to perform. Lakshmi is believed to roam the land at night and visit the cleanest house first. Diyas are placed in all the house’s windows to welcome the goddess. The night ends with huge feasts and fireworks.

Padwa

The fourth day of Diwali is known as Padwa or Govardhan Puja. Celebrators prepare and offer up a large mountain of vegetarian food to express their gratitude to the gods, according to the SCFI. The day commemorates when Krishna lifted Govardhan Hill to protect villagers from torrential rains and flooding. The mountain of food represents the hill. After the festival, the food is shared by all.

A ritual performed on this day involves creating a mound out of mud or cow dung to represent Govardhan Hill.  The small mountain of dung is then adorned with food and flowers and prayers are made for lord Krishna.

Bhai Duj

The fifth day of Diwali, known as Bhai Duj (also spelled Bhai Dooj)or Bhai Tika (also spelled Bhai Teeka), is dedicated to sisters. According to legend, Yama Raj, the god of death, visited his sister on this day. He gave his sister a vardhan (a blessing), which would be distributed to all those who visited her on that day, freeing them from their sins and allowing them to achieve moksha (final emancipation). Brothers visit their sisters’ homes on this last day of Diwali to pray for long life and prosperity.

On Diwali Night

On the night of Diwali, rituals across much of India are dedicated to Lakshmi to welcome her into their clean houses and bring prosperity and happiness for the coming year. While the cleaning, or painting, of the home, is in part for goddess Lakshmi, it also signifies the ritual “reenactment of the cleansing, purifying action of the monsoon rains” that would have concluded in most of the Indian subcontinent.

Vaishnava families recite Hindu legends of the victory of good over evil and the return of hope after despair on Diwali night, where the main characters may include Rama, Krishna, Vamana or one of the avatars of Vishnu, the divine husband of Lakshmi.

At dusk, lamps placed earlier on the inside and outside of the home are lit up to welcome Lakshmi.  Family members light up firecrackers, which some interpret as a way to ward off all evil spirits and the inauspicious, as well as add to the festive mood. According to Pintchman, who quotes Raghavan, this ritual may also be linked to the tradition in some communities of paying respect to ancestors.

Earlier in the season’s fortnight, some welcome the souls of their ancestors to join the family for the festivities with the Mahalaya. The Diwali night’s lights and firecrackers, in this interpretation, represent a celebratory and symbolic farewell to the departed ancestral souls.

The celebrations and rituals of the Jains and the Sikhs are similar to those of the Hindus where social and community bonds are renewed. Major temples and homes are decorated with lights, festive foods shared with all, friends and relatives remembered and visited with gifts and it is a happy celebrated season of lights.

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles