07 November 2018
Bhubaneswar: On this one day every year, India lights up like no other day. While a three-storied mansion puts up a string of fairy lights somewhere in the city, a tired rugged hand lights a diya somewhere in the village. Widely known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ Diwali, is said to bring happiness and good luck into all families irrespective of caste, creed, race or religion.
The festival is celebrated by lighting up public and private spaces alike. The themes of good versus evil, victory of the light over the dark and triumph of knowledge over ignorance are celebrated in Diwali.
According to the Hindu calendar, Diwali falls under the month of Karthik and is celebrated on Amavasya (no moon night) with earthen lamps and artificial lights to illuminate the place. The commonly accepted tradition behind the festival is associated with the Hindu epic Ramayana. It says that the people of Ayodhya lit lamps and rejoiced the return of Rama, who was earlier sent on exile, back to Ayodhya after 14 years. Thus, the people traditionally celebrate the victory of 'good versus evil' in Diwali as Lord Rama had defeated demon king ‘Ravana’ is Lanka.
The celebrations for Diwali usually last for five days. The third day is when main Diwali is celebrated. Here is a breakdown of all the important dates of Diwali 2018:
People often clean up their home while some also get their house freshly painted before Diwali. On the main day, people wear new clothes and decorate their houses with earthen lamps, candles and electric lights. Public places are also cleaned and decked up. Gifts are distributed among neighbours, friends and family. Some people also prepare sweets at home and distribute among friends.
A Vedic legend also suggests that it was on the night of Diwali when Goddess Lakshmi chose to stay with and wed Lord Vishnu. Thus, the main day of Diwali celebrations is also known as Lakshmi Pujan as Lakshmi, being the Goddess of Wealth, is worshipped. The muhurat or propitious timing for conducting Lakshmi Pujan during Diwali 2018 will be between 5.57 pm and 7.53 pm. The goddess is welcomed into clean homes to bring prosperity and happiness for the coming year. At dusk, family members gather for the puja and after that, they get together to hold feasts, exchange gifts and burn crackers.
Along with Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Ganesha is also remembered as the symbol of new beginnings and worshipped on the day of Diwali. Businessmen and shopkeepers, worship both Goddess of Wealth and the Destroyer of Obstacles (‘Vighnaharata’), and start a fresh accounts book on the auspicious day.
For people of East India, Diwali is associated with ‘puja’ of Goddess Durga’s fierce Kali avatar while people on Braj region of Northern India, people believe that Diwali was the day when Krishna overcame and destroyed evil king Narakasura.
West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Tripura worship ‘Kali Maa’ along with neighbouring countries Nepal and Bangladesh as they also have a culture. The regular image of Kali invokes fear, but Goddess Kali is seen as the loving and caring mother who destroys all the negative energies surrounding her devotees. She is the manifestation of supreme power and is looked upon to eradicate all impurities, negativity and darkness within her devotees.
Another unique tradition in Odisha also entails the departure of the ancestors, who had arrived on Earth on ‘Mahalaya’. Mahalaya essentially heralds the homecoming of the goddess and the beginning of Debi Paksha (period of the goddess). Observed on a New Moon Day (Amavasya), prayers and obeisance is offered to one’s forefathers on Mahalaya and to accept them the forefathers descend on Earth. Later after a month on Diwali (which is also on a New Moon Day), the forefathers are bid goodbye by showing them light and guiding their path.
All these different rituals across India make Diwali a very unique and the most looked-forward-to festival. With such a rich legacy and tradition in its background, the responsibility now lies with the present generation to carry it forward and to make Diwali a ‘happy and safe’ experience for years to last.