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Tradition of Diwali (Deepavali)
Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. The Diwali illuminations with lighted divas bring the hope of finding light in darkness, bringing knowledge where there is ignorance, and spreading love amidst hatred. Light is significant in Hinduism because it signifies goodness. During the Festival of Lights, 'deeps', or oil lamps, are burned throughout the day and into the night to ward off darkness and evil.

Homes are filled with these oil lamps, candles and lights. Some people use decorated light candles, some decorated diva or clay lamps, and other decorative lights and put them in their windows for the festival. Traditionally people use 'earthen lamps' with cotton wicks and oil to light up the dark night. In the modern times electric lights of different shapes and sizes illuminate the dark, cold nights of Diwali.

The idea behind the Festival of Lights comes from various versions of an ancient Hindu story. In northern India, the Ramayana tells about the holy Lord Rama's return from a fourteen-year exile and the celebration by the people for their beloved hero. The pious and rejoicing people decorated their city with candles and lights to welcome him back. In southern India, the story talks of the Goddess Durga's triumph over the evil demon Narakasura. This triumph of good over evil brought back the light of knowledge and truth to mankind.

Five days of Diwali

Diwali (Deepawali) is enthusiastically celebrated for five continuous days and each day has its significance.

First Day - Dhanteras
This falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The word 'Dhan' means wealth. This day has great importance for the rich merchantile community of Western India. Home entrances are decorated with Rangoli designs to welcome Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity.

Second Day - Choti Diwali (Narka-Chaturdashi, Kali Chaudas)
This falls on the fourteenthday of Ashwin. The demon king Narakasur defeated Lord Indra and snatched the magnificent earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess and imprisoned 16,000 daughters of the gods and saints. Lord Krishna killed the demon and liberated the imprisoned girls and recovered the earrings of Aditi. Krishna returns home early on Narakchaturdashi day.

Third Day - Lakshmi Puja
This day is also known as Chopda Puja. It falls on the dark night of Amavasya day but is regarded as most auspicious. On this day Lakshmi showers her blessings on man for prosperity. In Northern India it is also celebrated as the return of Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana from his 14 year exile after defeating Ravana. The people of Ayodhya illuminated the kingdom and lit fireworks to celebrate his homecoming.

Fourth day - Padwa or Varshapratipada
This day marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikram-Samvat (Indian Calendar) started on this Padwa day.  This day is also observed as Annakot meaning mountain of food.

Annakot is celebrated in observance of the episode in Sri Krishna's childhood, in which He gave protection to the cowherd clan of Vrindavan from the wrath of Indra and humbled Indra in that process. After lifting of the huge Sri Goverdhan Parvat for continuous seven days prior to Diwali, the Lord put it back on earth & asked the citizens to worship the mountain. The cowherds, their wives, children and cattle jubilantly surrounded Sri Krishna. They were awed by His superhuman accomplishment and celebrated Sri Krishna's feat with a sumptuous feast. Thus began the tradition of Annakot.

Fifth Day - Bhai Bij
This is the final day of Diwali and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. It is observed as a symbol of love between brothers and sisters.

Spiritual Significance of Diwali
(from Hinduism Today)

Asatyo Manhethi Prabhu Parama Satye Tun Lai Ja
Unda Andharethi Prabhu Parama Teje Tun Lai Ja
Maha Mrutyumanthi Amruta Samipe Natha Lai Ja

Tun Hino Hun Chhun To Tuja Darashanan Dana Dai Ja

O Lord! Lead me from Falsity to Truth,
From Darkness to Light,
From Death to Immortality.
I am alone, without you, O Lord!
Bless me that I may see Thee

We should be celebrating Deepavali in renewal of our quest for the Inner Spiritual Light. The significance lies in the traditional lamps or divas. The diva represents the 4 essential elements that are required in the seeker. Detachment (the clay container), Devotion to the Lord (the oil), Prayer and Meditation (the cotton wick) and spiritual wisdom (the matchstick to light the lamp). The flames of all lamps burn brightly and reach upward through the entire night showing the possibility that with the removal of darkness and ignorance the tiny flickering light in us can also shine brightly. May we all progress speedily to the highest levels of spirituality - from darkness to light and beyond.

Page last updated  23 October 2015

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