This post is part of our ongoing series featuring the works of Professor LeBoeuf 's students in her Introduction to Religions of Asia course at Whittier College!
Diwali is an annual festival that is celebrated in either October or November depending on hindu calendar. Diwali is the biggest festival in India and is the most widely celebrated and also one of the most popular ones along with Holi. Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman, from his fourteen-year-long exile and defeating the demon-king Ravana.
Diwali lasts over five days, each day has a significance behind it and each day celebrates something different. The first of five days of Diwali is called Dhanteras. This marks the official start of Diwali. It is also the thirteenth lunar day in the Hindu calendar. On this day, Lord Dhanvantari is believed to have come out of the ocean with Ayurveda, the science of medicine. That is one legend that talks about Dhanteras, but there are others too with different stories. Another way to celebrate Dhanteras is by worshiping Goddess Lakshmi. On Dhanteras, Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth is worshiped to provide prosperity and well being. “It is also the day for celebrating wealth, as the word 'Dhan' literally means wealth and 'Tera' comes from the date 13th.”(Das). In the evening, the lamp is lit and Dhan-Lakshmi is welcomed into the house. Alpana or Rangoli designs are drawn on pathways including the goddess' footprints to mark the arrival of Lakshmi.
The second day of the five days is called ‘Choti Diwali’ which translates to small diwali. This is the day before the maid day of diwali. It is also known as Naraka Chaturdashi and Kali Chaudas. Legend has it that the demon king Narakasur, the ruler of Pragjyotishpur (a province to the south of Nepal) defeated Lord Indra in a fierce battle. He then snatched the glittering earrings of the Mother Goddess, Aditi (the ruler of Suraloka and a relative of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna's wife). The evil demon king also abducted and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the Gods and Saints in his harem. Upon hearing of the atrocities carried out by Naraksura, Satyabhama was enraged and she pleaded with Lord Krishna to give her the opportunity to destroy the ruthless demon king and thereby vanquish his evil rule.
Traditions for choti diwali are different from region to region. In South India that victory of the divine over the mundane is celebrated in a very peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise prepare a paste by mixing Kumkum in oil, symbolizing blood and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.In Maharashtra, a traditional early morning bath with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders is a `must'. All through the ritual of baths, deafening sounds of crackers and fireworks can be heard as children get into the Diwali mode.
Deepavali is the third day of diwali. This is the actual day of Diwali, commonly known as the Hindu New Year. The faithful cleanse themselves and join with their families and priests to worship the goddess Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu, to receive blessings of wealth, prosperity, triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. This is also the day Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, having successfully rescued Sita and defeated the demon Ravana. On this day we have the biggest puja. We usually have maybe around 20-25 diyas that are placed in a thali and we pray to Lord Krishna, Goddess Lakshmi and also in my family to Lord Hanuman.
The fourth day of diwali is the day of the spiritual harvest. Thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna caused the people of Vrindavan to perform Govardhana Puja. It is written in the Ramayana that when the bridge to Lanka was being built by the Vanara army, Hanuman (a divine loyal servant of Lord Rama possessing enormous strength) was bringing a mountain as material to help with the construction of the bridge. When a call was given that enough materials had already been obtained, Hanuman placed the mountain down before reaching the construction site. Due to lack of time, he did not return the mountain to its original place.
The last day of diwali is known as Bhratri Dooj, it is dedicated to sisters. This day is also known as Bhai Fota among Bengalis, when the sister prays for her brother's safety, success and well being. This day marks the end of the five days of Diwali celebrations.
About Siddharth Tibrewala
I mostly go by Sid. I am from Mumbai, India. I am a first-year business management major. I love playing soccer, it is a huge part of my life and I also love playing video games.