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The word Diwali has been derived from Deepavali which in turn is formed by dipa (lamp)+ avali (row),which translates into "row of lamps".It symbolizes that age-old culture of India which teaches to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity and to drive away darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge.

Diwali (also spelled Devali in certain regions) or Deepavali,popularly known as the "festival of lights", is an important five-day festival in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

The celebration of the five-day long festival, Diwali, begins on Aswayuja Bahula Chaturdashi and concludes on Kartika Shudha Vijaya. The first day of this festival begins with 'Dhan Trayodashi' or 'Dhanteras'. After the Dhanvantari Trayodashi the second day of Diwali is 'Narak Chaturdashi', which is popular as 'Chhoti Diwali'. The third day of Diwali, which is also called 'Badi Diwali' is the main day of celebrations of the festival of Diwali. People perform Lakshmi Pujan (worship of divine Goddess Lakshmi) on this day and offer prayers to her to bless them with wealth and prosperity. The fourth day of Diwali is devoted to Bali Pratipada or Govardhan Pooja (worship of Lord Govardhan Parvat). The fifth day of the Diwali is Bhai Dooj, the time to honor the brother-sister relationship.

* Spiritual significance

Diwali is the festival of lights.In each legend, tradition and story of Deepawali lies the significance of the victory of good over evil; and it is with each Deepawali and the lights that illuminate our homes and hearts, that this simple truth finds new reason and hope. From darkness into light — the light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds, that which brings us closer to divinity. During Diwali, lights illuminate every corner of India and the scent of incense sticks hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of fire-crackers, joy, togetherness and hope. Diwali is celebrated around the globe. Outside India, it is more than a Hindu festival, it's a celebration of South-Asian identities.

While Deepavali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light". Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Deepavali as the "victory of good over evil", refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings ananda (joy or peace). Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of this Inner Light.

While the story behind Deepavali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying Reality of all things (Brahman).

* Mythological association with diwali

There are many mythological stories has been associated with Diwali. However, the most famous of them is the legend of Lord Ram. Diwali is the day when King Rama's coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya after his epic war with Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. By order of the royal families of Ayodhya and Mithila, the kingdom of which Sita was princess, the cities and far-flung boundaries of these kingdoms were lit up with rows of lamps, glittering on dark nights to welcome home the divine king Rama and his queen Sita after 14 years of exile, ending with an across-the-seas war in which the whole of the kingdom of Lanka was destroyed.

Five days of diwali

Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi

Narak Chaturdashi

Lakshmi Puja

Bali Pratipada and Goverdhan Puja or Nutan varsh(new year)

Bhaiduj or bhaubij or Yamadvitiya

Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi:

This itself is called Dhanteras in common language. Dhana means wealth and Trayodashi means 13th day. This day falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. It is considered an auspicious day for buying utensils and gold, hence the name 'Dhana'. Businessmen worship their treasuries on this day. A commercial year comprises of the period between one Diwali and another. New account books are begun on only this day.

Narak Chaturdashi:

Chaturdashi is the 14th day ,According to Shrimadbhagvat Puran on this day Lord Krushna slayed Narkasur. A powerful demon called Bhoumasur or Narkasur formerly ruled a place named Pragjyotishpur. His arrogance and anarchic temperament was evident in his crooked behavior. He was a trouble-maker to the gods and the pious sages and would disturb their penance or create havoc during the rituals. To prove his power, Narakasura usurped some territory belonging to Aditi, the king of Suraloka and a relative of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna's wife. Not only this, he carried away 16000 women and imprisoned them in his palace. Vexed with this harassment, the gods led by Indra approached Lord Krishna and pleaded with him to protect them from the demon "Narakasura".

On coming to know about this, Satyabhama was enraged by Narakasura's malevolence towards women, and she appealed to Krishna to give her the golden chance to destroy Narakasura. The legend also says that Narakasura was given a curse that he would be killed by a woman. Krishna granted Satyabhama a boon to fight with Narakasura.

With Krishna as the charioteer, Satyabhama entered the battle field. During the war, Krishna swooned for a while, a preordained divinely act adopted to empower Satyabhama to kill the demon, Narakasura. After Narakasura was beheaded, the imprisoned women were released, and Krishna accepted to marry them.

The killing of Narakasura was a victory of good over evil. It is interesting to note that Bhudevi, mother of the slain Narakasura, declared that his death should not be a day of mourning but an occasion to celebrate and rejoice. Since then, Deepavali is being celebrated by people every year with joyous celebrations with lot of fun and frolic, and fire works.

Lakshmi Puja:

Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The word ''Lakshmi'' is derived from the Sanskrit word Laksme, meaning "goal." She is also called "Shri", the female of the Supreme Being. She is worshipped for promotion, success and personal virtues.

Devi Lakshmi was emerged during the churning of the celestial milky ocean by the Gods and Demons. Lakshmi chose Vishnu as Her Consort. Vishnu carried Lakshmi from the ocean into His heaven. Each time Vishnu descends on earth as an avatar. He is accompanied by an avatar of Lakshmi. She was born as Sita when Vishnu appeared as Rama, she was Rukmini when Vishnu appeared as Krishna and she was Padma when her husband came as Vamana.

Lakshmi Puja is performed for prosperity, material abundance, and spiritual prosperity. She is worshipped to remove troubles that prevent us from starting a spiritual path or business.

Hindus worship Goddess Lakshmi in houses and temples by Her devotees. A special worship is offered to Her annually on the auspicious day of Diwali, with religious rituals and colorful ceremonies specifically devoted to Her.

Though generally the new moon day is considered inauspicious, this is an exception to the rule. Though this day is considered auspicious it is not so for all events. Hence it would be more appropriate to call it a day of happiness rather than auspicious.

Lakshmi Puja consists of a combined puja of five deities: Ganesha is worshiped at the beginning of every auspicious act as Vighnaharta; Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped in her three forms - Mahalakshmi (the goddess of wealth and money), Mahasaraswati (the goddess of books and learning), and Mahakali; Kuber (the treasurer of the gods) is also worshiped.

Bali Pratipada and Goverdhan Puja or Nutan varsh(new year)

This perticulare day, the first day of the bright fortnight of Kartik, is celebrated as different name in different part of india.

In North India, this day is celebrated as Govardhan Puja, also called Annakoot, and it is the day Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. According to the story, Krishna saw preparations for an annual offering to Lord Indra and asked his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their 'dharma' truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He said that all human beings should do their 'karma' to the best of their ability and not pray for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan and held it up to protect the people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme.

In Madhyapradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka,it is celebrated as Bali-Pratipada or Bali Padyami.The story behind this goes thus - King Bali was immensely generous. He used to gift a guest with whatever he demanded. Though generosity is a virtue, in excess a virtue becomes a defect. What one should give, when and where is clearly prescribed in the scriptures and the Gita. Offering should be made to the deserving; not to the undeserving. But King Bali disregarding this would give anyone anything that he asked for. When an undeserving person acquires wealth he becomes arrogant and behaves as per his will. Lord Vishnu incarnated as a boy invested with the sacred thread (munja). Vaman means small. The munja is small in size and chants 'Give me alms as He asks for alms. When Lord Vishnu incarnated as Vaman, approached King Bali for alms the king asked Him, "What do you want ?" Vaman asked for land which covered three of His footsteps. Unaware of who Vaman was and not realising the consequence of this offering the king agreed to fulfil His wish. Immediately Vaman assumed a colossal form and covered the earth with one footstep. With the second He covered the sky and then asked King Bali where to place the third footstep. King Bali then told Him to place the third step on his head. Planning to send him to the nether world by doing so Vaman said, "Ask for any boon that you wish". The monarch then replied," Now my entire kingdom on the earth will be destroyed and you will send me to the nether world. So may this event of taking the three steps be represented on the earth for three days of the year as my reign." Those three days are the fourteenth day (chaturdashi) and the no moon (amavasya) day of the dark fortnight of Ashvin and the first day of (pratipada) the bright fortnight of Kartik. This is also called Bali's reign.

In Gujarat, it is celebrated as the first day of Vikram SAmvat Calender.

Bhaiduj or bhaubij or Yamadvitiya

The second day (dvitiya) of the bright fortnight of Kartik is also named Yamadvitiya. This day is widely known as Bhaiduj. On this day, Lord Yama,lord of Death, visited His sister,yami (the river Yamuna) for a meal. Yami welcomed Yama with an Aarti and they had a feast together. Yama gave a gift to Yami while leaving as a token of his appreciation. Hence the day has acquired the name Yamadvitiya.

Extended Diwali Delebration

Tulsi vivaha

This ritual consists of uniting Lord Vishnu [an idol of Balkrushna (Infant Krushna)] and the basil (tulsi) plant in wedlock. In ancient times the practice of child marriage was prevalent. This ritual is performed on any day between the eleventh (ekadashi) and the full moon day (pournima) of the bright fortnight of Kartik. On the eve of the wedding the base of the basil plant is painted and decorated. Sugarcane and marigold flowers are placed next to the plant and tamarind and amla are placed at its bottom. The wedding ceremony is performed in the evening. All the vowed religious observances undertaken in the four months (chaturmas) after the tuLsi vivaha on the twelfth day (dvadashi) of the bright fortnight of Kartik, are concluded. All the food items which one has not eaten due to forbiddance are first offered to a Brahman and then partaken of.

DevDiwali This is a synonym for the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of Margashirsha. On this day, the family deity (kuladevata) is offered five delicacies as offering (mahanaivedya).

* Give and Forgive

Everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by others. There is an air of freedom, festivity and friendliness everywhere. This festival brings about unity. It instills charity in the hearts of people. Everyone buys new clothes for the family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes for their employees.