DIWALI – THE HINDU FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Presented by Anvita Singh for The Hindu American Temple School
Our Homes, Temples, Markets and Neighborhoods are cleaned, decorated and lit up
Little India (a 2 mile stretch) lit up in Singapore
We wear our finest clothes and ornaments.
Hindu girl on the island of Reunion (France) in the Indian Ocean in her Diwali attire
Our families get together at least once a year during this festival.
3 generations of family get together for Diwali in Chennai (India)
Firecrackers in Kathmandu
DIWALI CELEBRATIONS: WE CELEBRATE BY SETTING OFF 5 FIRECRACKERS
DIWALI CEBRATIONS: We celebrate our Kharif Crop Harvests and thank Devi Lakshmi
• Diwali signifies the end of the harvest of the Kharif crop. • On Lakshmi Puja, poha and other delicacies of partly cooked rice from fresh harvest are made and offered to the Devi, especially in Western India. • Firecracker fumes kill the insects and bugs that damage grains and cause diseases in humans very timely due to change of seasons at time of the year!
We Buy, Exchange and Eat Sweets
DIWALI (MAINLY A 5 DAY CELEBRATION)
# 0 1 Hindu Calender Month Ashwin Ashwin Lunar Half Dark (Krishna Paksha) Dark (Krishna Paksha) Dark (Krishna Paksha) Dark (Krishna Paksha) Day in lunar half 12 13 Festival Vasu Baras (in peninsular India and Gujarat) Dhanvantari Jayanti Dhantrayodashi (Dhanteras) Yama Deepa Dāna Naraka Chaturdashi Ganga Snāna Kālī Pūjā Lakshmi Pūjā Return of Lord Rama Bāndi Chhor Diwas (Sikh) Swami Mahavir Nirvana (Jain) Rishi Dayanand Nirvana Bali Pratipada Govardhan Puja, Annakut Gudi Padwa Bhai Dooj (Yama Divitiya) Deva Deepavali (in Varanasi, Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra)
Bright (Shukla Paksha) Bright (Shukla Paksha) Bright (Shukla Paksha)
2 15 (Poornima)
Note: The actual order and celebrations vary a bit amongst different Hindu communities. The festival is called Diwali in North India and Deepavali in South India.
DAY 0: Worship of Cattle - Vasubaras
• In rural Maharashtra, an Arati of cow and calf is performed a day before the 13th day to symbolize motherly love.
•In other parts of South India, cows are worshipped as an incarnation of Devi Lakshmi on the following day. •For many poor rural households in India, the cow is the only wealth of the family. Therefore, the household women pray for the long life of cows and their calves. •In Gujarat, the celebrations start on the 11th day itself, when delicious snacks are prepared and exchanged with dry fruits and nuts.
DAY 1: DHANATERAS OR DHANATRAYODASHI
• Beautiful color patterns from colored rice floor beads are drawn at home entrances to welcome Devi Lakshmi. Called Rangoli in N. India and Kolam in South India.
Kolam in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
DAY 1: DHANTERAS
• In anticipation of the arrival of Devi Lakshmi, lamps are light throughout the night.
•Homes are cleaned.
•Small footprints of rice-flour and vermillion are marked on the floor of the house starting from the entrance to symbolize Her footprints. •People consider it auspicious to purchase gold, silver or metal utensils on this day (metals represent wealth and Devi Lakshmi is the deity of wealth).
DAY 1: DHANVANTARI JAYANTI
• On this day, Lord Dhanavantari, the founder of Ayurveda, emerged from the ocean being churned by Devas and Asuras with a pitcher of Amrit (ambrosia).
•Practitioners of Ayurveda give neem leaves (which have medicinal properties) and sugar (to sweeten the taste) to visitors for their good health.
Lord Dhanvantari, the patron Deity of Ayurveda
DAY 1: Yama Deepa Dāna
• According to the legend, The daughter in law of King Hima lit a special lamps and sang songs all night to distract Yama (the Lord of Death) and prevent him from taking the life of her husband. She also made a heap of her jewels, silver coins, gold and silver ornaments to dazzle Yamaraja who came as a snake. Her efforts were successful. Dazzled by the lamps and distracted by her melodious songs, Yamaraja left without doing his task. •This event is celebrated by lighting 1 or 13 lamps of wheat flour dough on the South side of the house Symbolizes prayer against untimely death in the household.
•This is the only day on which lamps are lit in the south side of the house (South = direction of death).
Image of Yamaraja from Nepal
DAY 2: Narakasura Chaturdashi
Causes for Celebration:
•Narakasura, the evil king of Pragjyotishapura (in modern Assam, India), imprisoned 16000 daughters and wives of Devas and Rishis and also snatched the ear rings of Aditi – the mother of Indra. Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhāmā invaded his kingdom and they killed the evil king, freeing his captives.
•This is the major day of celebration in South India in the entire Deepavali festival.
• Celebrated as ‘Chhoti Diwali’ (little Diwali) in N India Hindus do last minute shopping before the markets close the next day.
DAY 2: Bath in the Ganga (Narakasura Chaturdashi Gangāsnāna)
Cause: • When Lord Krishna returned to Dwaraka after killing Narakasura, his wives applied fragrant oils, sandal paste etc. to him to clean him of the demon’s blood and other dirt from the battle. Celebration: • To commemorate the above event, Hindus in peninsular India dip marigold petals in their bathing water. Before sunrise, they apply the ‘ubtan’ (a paste of chick-pea flour and fragrant powders) and oils and then take a bath. A bitter fruit representing Narakasura’s head is broken, and then people apply a paste of kumkum (vermillion), oil and the fruit on their forehead. Finally, another bath with oil and sandalwood paste is taken. •It is believed that Ganga is present in all waters this day. Therefore, Hindus ask each other – “Did you take a bathe in the Ganga river?” Girls and elderly women perform Arati of men and receive gifts. •In Maharashtra, the entire family prays at temples and eats spicy and sweet Marathi delicacies. •In Gujarat, Hanuman is worshipped to ward off evil spirits (‘Kali’). The festival is called Kali Chaudas. •In Rajasthan, the day is celebrated as ‘Roop Chaudas’ (beauty makeover). Women bathe before sunrise and apply fragrant ointments and beauty aids.
DIWALI DAY 2: Kālī Pūjā in Bengal
In Bengal, this day is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Devi Kali over the demon Raktabija. It is said that he was invincible because every drop of his that touched the ground during battle generated his duplicate. Therefore, the Devi Parvati assumed the horrific form of Kali and killed the demon. She spread her tongue on the battlefield so that his blood would not touch the ground. Drunk with his blood, she started killing everyone who came in her way and decorated herself with the skulls and limbs of her victims - till her husband Lord Shiva lay in her path. This pacified Mother Kali and she reverted back to her pacifying form as Devi Parvati. In Bengal, Hindus pray to Mother Kali for strength and also remember their departed ancestors.
DAY 3: Return of Devi Sita, Lord Rama and Lakshmana to Ayodhya
• Main cause and day of celebration in Northern India and Nepal.
•According to Ramayana, Shri Rama, Devi Sita and Lakshmana returned from their 14 year long exile to Ayodhya. To welcome them, the citizens of Ayodhya lit lamps of butter 17 to illuminate the moon-less night.
DIWALI: DAY 3 – The (Re)Birth of Mahādevi Lakshmi
Devi Mahalakshmi appeared from the Ksheer Sagar (ocean of milk) on this day as the Devas and Asuras churned the ocean using Snake Vasuki as the rope Therefore, this day is celebrated as –Mahalakshmi Pujan. In Northern India and in Rajasthan and Gujarat, the mercantile communities balance their account books (‘chopda puja’) and close them for the fiscal year. New accounting ledgers are started and worshipped with an invocation to Lord Ganesha.
It is believed that on this day, Devi Lakshmi walks through all the sources of wealth such as agricultural fields and blesses them for prosperity. Diwali signifies the harvest period for the Kharif crop in India, and therefore its association with Devi Lakshmi is quite apt.
DIWALI: DAY 3 - MAHĀLAKSHMI PŪJĀ
To welcome Devi Lakshmi, Hindus clean their homes thoroughly, decorate them and light them up with dozens of earthen lamps (Diyas). In N India, the broom is worshipped with turmeric and kumkum because Devi Lakshmi visits the cleanest house first. (However, Sindhi Hindus give their brooms rest on this day). The front door of the house is kept open to ceremoniously welcome Devi Lakshmi during midnight.
It is considered auspicious to gamble on this night in parts of Northern India (e.g., Delhi) because Devi Parvati played cards with Lord Shiva and blessed gambling for this day only in the whole year.
In the night, families perform worship of Devi Lakshmi and Shri Ganesha (to herald a good New Year) in their homes and temples. Sometimes, Devi Saraswati and Kali are also worshipped. Kubera, the Celestial treasurer is also worshipped. The Shri Sukta from Rig-Veda is recited and Brahmans are fed. Sweets are distributed and exchanged. Minneapolis (USA) Mandir Diwali Mahalakshmi Puja. Picture in The Wall Street Journal dt. 14 Oct 2009
DIWALI: DAY 3 – Other Reasons for Celebration
1. Devi Parvati completed the Kedāreshvara Vrata and united with Lord Shiva to become ‘Arddhanārīshvara’ (The Lord Who is Half Woman). 2. Lord Krishna left the earthly abode to return to Vaikuntha – His permanent abode, and remarried Devi Lakshmi. 3. The residents of Hastinapur lit lamps to welcome Pandavas when they returned from 13 years of exile. 4. The young boy Nachiketa encounters death and learns the meaning of life from Yamaraja, the Lord of death. 5. Celebrated as Kālī Puja in Bengal on this day.
Pakistani Hindu women celebrating Diwali (courtesy: WSJ, 14 Oct 09)
Day 3: Sikh Celebrations
1. Guru Nanak imprisoned by Emperor Babar was freed when Hindus held a ‘candle-light march’ on Diwali to protest his imprisonment. Guru Amardas, the 3rd Sikh Guru, asked all Sikhs to gather every year on Diwali to receive Guru’s blessings. In 1577 AD, the fifth Sikh Guru had a Sufi Mian Mir lay the foundation of the Golden Temple on this day in the Ramsarovar. Celebrated as Bāndi Chhor Diwas (‘deliverer of captives’): The 4th Mughal Emperor Jehangir released the 6th Guru Hargobind from captivity in Gwalior Fort in 1619 AD on Diwali. The Guru accepted release on the condition that the 52 Hindu kings imprisoned will also be released. The demand was granted. Also celebrated as day of martyrdom of Bhai Māni Singh, the head priest of Golden Temple. He was permitted to celebrate Diwali at the Golden Temple in 1737 only if he paid Jaziya to the Muslim governor of Punjab. Not being able to pay the amount, he was offered choice between conversion to Islam or death (by hacking him limb by limb). Bhai Mani Singh chose the latter. Many Sikhs worship Lakshmi and Ganesha today. Golden Temple (Amritsar) lit up on Diwali
Day 3: Jain Celebrations: Swami Mahāvīra Nirvāña Diwas
The 24th (and last) Tirthankara Swami Mahavir of Jains obtained Moksha on this day in 527 BC.
As his soul left his body, Devas gathered in the sky and illuminated it. Swami Mahavir’s principle disciple Ganadhara Gautama Swami attained complete spiritual knowledge on this day. Many Jains also worship Devi Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha on this day.
Day 3: Rishi Nirvāña Utsava – Arya Samaji Hindus
Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Hindu reformist movement Arya Samaj, attained Moksha on 31 Oct 1883, the evening of Diwali, in Jodhpur (India). He was poisoned by his Brahman cook, who was bribed by a Muslim dancer in the royal court of Jodhpur; and was mis-treated by the Muslim physician commissioned by the British government. Before his death, Swamiji summoned and forgave the cook, and gave him money to flee to Nepal.
Swamiji died with the recitation of the mantra “Agne naya supathaa…” (Ishavasya Upanishad, verse 18). The scene of his death converted some atheists gathered around him to Vedic Dharma.
BUDDHIST CELEBRATIONS IN NEPAL (days 3-5)
The Newari Buddhist community of Nepal celebrates days 3-5 of Diwali as Swanti (of Swanhu Tithi). •Day 1 is Lakshmi Pujan •Day 2 is worship of one’s own body and is called Mhapuja. It is the Newari New Year. •Day 3 is Kija Puja, when sisters worship their brothers Newari Hindus celebrate all the five days which they call the festival of ‘Tihar’. On day 1, they worship crows as divine messengers. On day 2, they worship dogs as a respect for their honesty. On day 3, Lakshmi Pujan and worship of cows is performed.
DAY 4: GOVARDHANA PŪJĀ
• On this day, Lord Krishna saved the village of Gokul from torrential rains and deluge sent by Indra by lifting the Govardhan mountain above their heads as an umbrella. Indra was upset with Krishna because the latter asked the residents of Gokul to respect the environment instead of worshipping useless gods such as Indra.
•This celebration is very popular in the Mathura-Vrindavan region, in Nathadwara (Rajasthan) and in N India in general. Main festival for Pushtimārgi Vaishnava Hindus.
•Cow-dung is used to fabricate icons (in a lying position on the ground) of Lord Krishna lifting the mountain. Milk is poured on the dung icons as an offering.
Day 4: ANNAKŪTA
Celebrated in N India along with Govardhana Pūjā. A mountain of dishes representing the Govardhana hillock (or 108 dishes, with the deserts closest to the icon) are offered to Lord Krishna and then distributed as Prasad.
Deities in temples are bathed in milk.
DAY 4: BALI PRATIPADĀ
• A major cause of celebration on this day in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and especially in Karnataka.
•Commemorates the advent of Trivikrama Vāmana Avatāra of Lord Vishnu who took three long strides to re-take the three worlds conquered by the Asura King Bali. Thereby, Lord Vishnu frees Devi Lakshmi and other deities imprisoned by King Bali.
•In some calendars, Bali Pratipada is on the 2nd day.
• For the sake of King Bali, lamps and clothes are donated.
The long stride of Lord Trivikrama Vāmana Vishnu
DAY 4: KĀRTTIKA PADWĀ
• Celebrated in peninsular India, especially in Maharashtra.
• Considered the last of the 3.5 holy ‘Padwa’ muhurts in the Maharashtrian Hindu calendar. (The first celebration ‘Gudi Padwa’ in the month of Chaitra is the Maharashtrian New Year).
• Newly wed daughters and their husbands are invited for a special meal by her parents, and gifts are given to them (In older times, the brother would go to invite her sister and brother-in-law). • Also considered a time for renewing the happiness of marital life.
- Wife applies a Tilak to her husband, performs arati, puts a garland around him and prays for his long life. - Husband gives gifts to his wife and pampers her.
DAY 4: VIKRAMA SAMVAT VARSHA PRATIPADA (HINDU NEW YEAR)
• Coronation day of the great Hindu Emperor King Vikramaditya according to Hindu and Jain traditions.
•On this day, he drove out the Shakas (Scythians) from India and re-established Indian rule in western India. •The Vikram Samvat calendar is followed in India and is the official calendar of Nepal.
•Celebrated as New Year in the Vikram Samvat calendar. Hindu traders start new account books and ledgers.
DAY 5: Bhai Duj or Yama Dvitiya
It is Called: • Bhai Phota in Bengal •Bhai Tika in Nepal •Tikka in Punjab (Sikhs also celebrate it). •Bhaiyya Dooj in Hindi speaking areas •Bhau Bij in Maharashtra. • Yama Dvitiya in South India.
Causes for Celebrating Yama Dvitiya
On this day, which was the second day after new moon (‘dooj’ or ‘dvitiya’), Yamaraja visited his sister River Yamuna, who applied a Tilak on his forehead. The brother and sister exchanged gifts, and enjoyed delicious dishes. Yamaraja declared that the brother who receives a Tilak from his sister in this day will never go to Hell. On this day, Subhadra also welcomed Lord Krishna after he returned from Assam where he defeated Narakasura. This is the main cause for celebrating ‘Bhai Phota’. Jains believe that when King Nandivarman was sad on the departure of his brother Swami Mahavira, their sister Sudarshana comforted him on this day. Sisters worship and adore their brothers on this day and apply a Tilak to their forehead. They pray for the brother’s long lives, even fasting for his sake in Bengal.
BUDDHIST DIWALI CELEBRATIONS IN THAILAND (called ‘Loi Krathong’)
• According to Thai records, it was adapted from Hindu Diwali by Buddhists to honor Buddha. • Lamps are made from banana leaves, a candle and a coin placed on them. The lamps are then set afloat on a river, creating a beautiful scene. • Families and friends greet each other. • Celebrated in Oct-Nov (around the same time as Diwali).
DIWALI AROUND THE WORLD
Diwali is a national holiday in India, Nepal, Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Suriname, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago.
• It is ‘officially’ celebrated in UK, Canada and in the United States.
The White House added it to the list of festivals for celebration in 2008.
Diwali has an official festival status in the New York City and is celebrated across dozens of University Campuses all over our country.
Diwali fireworks at Univ of Texas (Austin) in 2007
THE FIRST DIWALI IN THE WHITE HOUSE
In 2009, President Obama celebrated Diwali in the White House on 14 October in the East Room. The priest from the Shiva Vishnu Temple of Maryland officiated the ceremony and he recited the mantra – “Asato maa…” This was the very first time that Diwali was observed inside the White House itself.
The President made the Namaste gesture before lighting the lamp and also to the priest after lighting the lamp.
Indian sweets were served to all guests.
Diwali Day (Nov 2004)
5 DAYS AFTER DIWALI (2004)
DIWALI AS A COSMIC FESTIVAL VISIBLE FROM SPACE
(Courtesy: National Geographic Booklet on Diwali)
1. Which major Indian state does not celebrate Diwali?
2. In which major state of India, the Amavasyā day (Lakshmi Pujan) has no celebrations, but the day before it and after it are celebrated?
Hint 1: The Mandyam Iyengar Brahmanas of this state also do not celebrate Naraka Chaturdashi to this day because King Tipu Sultan ordered a massacre of their community on this day in 1790 AD in the holy town of Melkote.
3. Which city celebrates a second Diwali 15 days after the actual Diwali?
Hint: The festival is called Deva-Diwali.
• The victory of good over evil, of Dharma over Adharma. • The victory of light over darkness, spiritual wisdom over ignorance. • The victory of life over death, good health over sickness. • The victory of prosperity over poverty. • The victory of hope over despair. • Auspicious beginnings of all our ventures. • Family ties are very important.
The Message of Diwali
O Lord! Lead us from unreality and falsehood to Reality and Truth. Lead us from darkness (of ignorance) to the Light (of knowledge). Lead us from death to Immortality! 38
Asato maa sadgamaya, tamaso maa jyotirgamaya, mrityormaa’mritam gamaya ||
• This presentation was put together by Anvita Singh and Vishal Agarwal for the Hindu American Temple School (Minneapolis, USA) for educational purposes. • Several pictures and descriptions were taken from various websites and books, notably:
– www.hindujagruti.org – The Wall Street Journal (issue dt. 14 Oct 09’) – Wikipedia – ‘Celebrate Diwali’ by Deborah Heiligman (2006) published by The National Geographic.