October , 2021
Deepavali – A festival of unity
16:53 pm

B.E. Bureau

Deepavali is an important Hindu festival, celebrated on the dark fortnight of Hindu month ‘Aswin. In 2021, it will be celebrated on November 4, over five days commencing from Aswayuja Bahula Chathurdasi and culminating in Kartika Sudh Vijaya. The term Deepavali means festival of lights. On Deepavali night in the dark background, the flames emanating from several earthen lamps lit all over the places make the place appear as made of glittering gold. Lighting lamps or illumination is symbolic of many things. It is symbolic of triumph of good over evil and dispelling darkness of ignorance to awakening of knowledge and wisdom. It stands for ‘sathva guna’ or nobility and prosperity. We are reminded of the need for eschewing vices and cultivating virtues in life. It has a deeper inner or spiritual meaning. It is awareness of inner light or ‘Atman’. Deepavali is celebrated at the end of the harvest season in most parts of India and hence it is a period of bounty. It is an occasion to express our gratitude to mother earth/Nature. It reveals our love of nature. It is a special day for worship of Goddess Ashsta Lakshmi - the giver of wealth.   There are many legends relating to Deepavali celebrations. One legend is regarding Lord Srirama’s home coming or coming to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana and after 14 years of exile. As the legend goes, citizens of his kingdom celebrated his return by lighting lamps and bursting crackers. There is another belief that Goddess Lakshmi descends on earth during Deepavali night to visit houses of her devotees to bless them with prosperity, when people enchant her with devotional songs. Another legend is the story of Vamana and Mahabali given in Mahabhagavatam. Another legend pertains to the story of Nacheketa to whom Yama Dharmaraja explained that man has to pass through darkness of death to see light of higher knowledge and that worldly life is the training ground for attaining that state. Darkness could represent trials and tribulations and cravings in one’s life and light facing ups and downs in life with equanimity and imposing ceiling on one’s desires. Another legend pertains to Sathyabhamama’s killing of Narasura who tormented women. Another legend is the visit of Yamaraja, the God of death visiting her sister Yamini to re-establish sisterly relations.

Deepavali is celebrated over five days. The first day is called the ‘Danteras’. On this day, lord Yama is propitiated to avert premature death and also for prosperity and well-being. Business people close their annual accounts and open new accounts on this day. There is belief that old things should be discarded and the house should be equipped with new things, anticipating Mahalakshmi’s visit. So, people go shopping on this day. Buying gold and silver is considered auspicious. Second day is celebrated as ‘Naraka Chathurdashi’ commemorating the death of Narakasura in the hands of Sathyabhama, wife of Lord Krishna. This day is also called ‘Chotti Diwali’ and Lord Krishna is worshipped on this day. The third day is devoted to the worship of

Mahalakshmi - giver of wealth and prosperity. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi visits devotees’ houses, kept ready decorated for her visit to bestow her blessings. Goddess Lakshmi is the main deity propitiated during Deepavali. In Northern India, the fourth day is celebrated as Govardhan puja. It entails worship of the Govardhan mountain. This is based on a legend about Lord Krishna. The inner meaning of this worship is that there is divine presence in all creations of the universe and hence we should consider everything accordingly. In temples in Mathura and Nagawara, this day is celebrated as ‘Annakoot’. Food is heaped up like a mount as prasad to Lord Krishna. The celebration of fifth day pertains to a legend Yemaraj, the God of Death visiting his estranged sister Yamini and re-establishing sisterly love. This day is meant for people who have estranged relationships to reestablish their friendship or a Day of Reconciliation. The inner message is that friendly relations and harmony should be maintained. Deepavali, quite apart from being a Hindu religious festival, brings out several human and philosophical ideals, which present day humanity has to practice for wholesome living. The legends bring out those ideals, some of which have been brought out in this article.

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