Diwali, Deepavali



By Aju Mukhopadhyay

Deepavali is a festival of lights. The earth, every corner of it, is garlanded with lamps. Illumination is the prime activity. With other things, our heart is illuminated. It is a movement from darkness toward light, from evil toward goodness. With crackers we try to dispel doubts. The sights and sounds of Deepavali are light, fire, smoke and crackers, creating fracas. From civil administration to police, every ministry and department of the Government has been busy for long to control the celebration, to make it peaceful and joyous to everyone. At last it has arrived.

Though the festival is celebrated nowadays for a day on the new moon day (amavasya) of the month of kartika or krittika, it is a festival lasting usually for three days. Three days are the 14th day of the dark fortnight of Kartika-amavasya, the new moon day and the kartika sukla pratipada or the first day of the bright fortnight of the month.

It is Bali’s kingdom so Deepavali. The first day is observed as Naraka Chaturdashi, Bhuta Chaturdashi or Preta Chaturdashi. Observing Naraka Chatrurdashi and worshipping Yama is for propitiating Yama for avoiding hell. Lighting 14 candles on the 14th day of the dark fortnight has been linked with Christian’s and Muslim’s lighting of tombs. Tithitattva refers to the custom of eating 14 kinds of vegetables, somewhere 14 greens on this day. Each of the 14 days symbolizes a kind of plant. Kindling of lamps are meant for their rejuvenation, it is said.

The second day of the festival on amavasya is named Yaksharatri. Vatsayana described it as Sukhasuptika. Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort, rises earlier than her husband. She is freed from Bali’s prison with other Gods, as in Skanda Purana. Lakshmi becomes stable throughout the year as a result of this celebration.

On the last day of the festival, the Bali pratipada, Lakshmi comes out with Bali, who is worshipped with his wife Vindhyavala. Dance, music, merriment, feast are parts of the festival. Bali’s images are drawn on cowdung in villages and curd is sprinkled on it. Agriculturists worship him with white rice grain. Some worship Sun and Niksubha, his wife, God of fertility and Mother Earth. People hope to spend the whole year in prosperity, as it was usual in Bali’s time, as the result of these pujas and observation of rites.

Jains, the followers of Mahavira, linked the festival to the demise of Lord Mahavira. The chiefs and others who were present during his passing away, instituted an illumination saying, ‘Since the light of intelligence is gone, let us make an illumination of material things.’

In Bengal and Kali is worshipped on the amavasya. In some parts of South India Siva is worshipped because of the Kedareshwara Vrata or vow. Some Vaishanavites commemorate it as Rama’s triumphal return after he vanquished the Ravana. It is said that in Garhi village, Saurti, a crude figure of Goddess of prosperity is drawn in every household and worshipped.

On the Christian All-Souls-Day in Mexico, in the month of November, it is said that the dead join their family. All flock once in a year. In Japan, during ancestor worshipping, all flock to the cemeteries and light lamps all around the place. China has a lantern festival on the full moon day and in Cambodia people offer their ancestors food, as in India, on some occasions. In Belgium, a day in early November is fixed to remember their ancestors. In Bengal they float lamps on the water bodies like the rivers, as they do in Thailand, called ‘Loi Krathong’ or homage to Mekhonka (Mother Ganges), which sounds like Ma Ganga.

As Diwali is auspicious for beginning a new financial year, so it is for closing the financial transactions, nay, for declaring the business enterprise closed. Dipawalia, Diwalia or Deulia, meaning bankruptcy, is a situation when the business house is closed forever. Closure is declared by keeping a burning lamp before the door of the establishment closed.

Deepavali satisfies its followers in many ways. Followers are in different countries and communities, in different religions following it in different ways.

© Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2006


***** Diwali, Divali, Devali INDIA SAIJIKI

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