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Diwali 2018: Significance of 5 Day Celebration of Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights Diwali or, as it is known by its other name, Deepawali occurs during late October or during early November. Do you know everything about the festival of lights?

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diwali images

Diwali 2018

diwali worshipping goddess lakshmi

Welcoming the Goddess on Dhanteras

diwali rangoli

Rangoli on Roop Chaturdashi

diwali hawa mahal

The Row of Lights on Hawa Mahal

govardhan pooja

Govardhan Pooja

bhai dooj

Bhai Dooj

Diwali in India or, as it is known by its other name, Deepawali is one of, if not the most popular Hindu festival celebrated by not just Hindus but people from different religions all over India as well as the world. Perhaps because of the pomp and show that is involved with Diwali, the festival is also known as the "Festival of Lights".  The word "Deepawali" consists of two words. The word "Deep" means "light" and the word "avail" means "a row". Hence, "Deepawali" means "a row of lights".

Diwali occurs during late October or during early November. It is important to know that the Diwali date falls on the 15th day of Kartik, which is a Hindu month. Hence, the exact Diwali date varies every year.

Diwali has its origins in Ancient India. It is considered to be an extremely important harvest festival. Many believe that Diwali is the occasion of Lord Vishnu marrying the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Others believe Diwali is to be celebrated as goddess Lakshmi's birthday.

Ancient Hindu tradition commemorates Diwali as the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman's to Ayodhya, ending a fourteen-year long exile. To celebrate the return of Lord Rama, the people of Ayodhya lit the entire kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers.

Diwali or Deepawali is a festival that goes beyond cultures and religions.

Marking the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, this festival of lights embraces and engulfs everyone in its jollity.

The houses are cleaned and decorated with colourful earthen lamps, candles and lanterns. Floors are decorated with beautiful and intricate rangoli designs. Gifts are bought for near and dear ones and people perform pujas for goddess Lakshmi and lord Ganesha with absolute devotion. But what makes Diwali truly special is the fact that this glittering festival is a part of a five-day long celebration that begins with Dhanteras and ends with Bhai Dooj.

Here is a list of all the 5 days of Diwali, with their names, religious significance and forms in different parts of India. Read on!

First Day: Dhanteras - 5th November 2018

The first day of this five day Hindu festival starts with 'Dhanteras' or 'Dhantryaodashi' sets the mood for Diwali celebrations. The day pays homage to Lord Dhanwantari who is associated with Ayurveda and various healing practices for the good of mankind. On this day, there is a tradition of taking a holy bath at sunset, lighting a diya lamp around 'Tulsi' plant and praying to Lord Yama for their well-being. On this day, people participate in 'havan' and also chant powerful mantras.

Second Day: Narak Chaturdasi -  6th November 2018

Hindus observe the second day as 'Narak Chaturdashi'. The significance of this day is grounded in the story of Lord Krishna's overwhelming triumph over a ferocious demon named 'Narakasur', who kidnapped the 'gopis'. On this day, people keep their houses clean and use fragrant oils and flowers to keep vibrations uplifted. Artistic patterns of 'rangolis' made from a mixture of rice flour and water can be seen ubiquitously at the threshold of each house. A 'diya' is placed in each room as well as in the backyard through the night.

Third Day: Diwali -  7th November 2018

Perhaps the most festive of the five days of Diwali festival is Diwali. The celebration of Diwali is based on the episode when Lord Rama finally returned home from exile and was welcomed with a glittering row of lights radiating from every household. It also coincides with the Pandavas' return from the forest. The word 'Deepavali' means an array of lights. Diwali, is, indisputably, among the most enlivening and significant festivals of India.

Well-illuminated houses, parks and public places make up the landscape on Diwali night, while colorful fireworks dot the sky. In the market place, people are spoilt for choices in their new purchases. Households are abuzz with hectic activity around the preparation for Lakshmi puja to honor the Goddess of wealth. A pandit performs the puja ceremoniously while family members participate in the rituals and offerings. Distribution of sweets and 'prasad' follows. Businessmen also perform 'Chopda Pujan' on this day by inaugurating their new books of accounts for the ensuing year. Starting out on a good business proposition or venture is seen as auspicious on this day. In West Bengal, the night is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kali.

Fourth Day: Govardhan Puja -  8th November 2018

On the fourth day of this five day Hindu festival, Govardhan Puja is performed. The legend goes that Lord Indra was provoked and tried to submerge the town of Gokul. Lord Krishna saved the people of Gokul from the wrath of Lord Indra by lifting the Govardhan Mountain to provide succor. A blessing was bestowed on the Govardhan Mountain that it will be honored through the ages. The tradition has been followed ever since. Mathura and Nathadwara also witnesses huge gathering of crowds in temples, where deities are bathed ritualistically and adorned with ornaments.

This day is also observed as 'Padwa' as Vikram-Samvat was started from this day. Most households mark this day by wearing new clothes and jewellery, greeting family members and also distributing sweets and gifts among friends and neighbors.

Fifth Day: Bhai Dhooj -  9th November 2018

The second day after Diwali is 'Bhai Dooj', marking the end of this five day Hindu festival. It is unique in nature as it is solely dedicated to the strong bond of love between a brother and a sister. The festival is associated with the legendary tale of brotherly love between Lord Yama and his sister Yami. After several decades of separation, Lord Yama decided to visit his sister. When he went to meet her, he was touched by the warmth and hospitality she showed. Yami welcomed her brother with full fanfare and respect and put a tilak on his forehead to mark the occasion. Yamraj blessed her and announced that henceforth a brother who will greet his sister on this day will have a long life.

On Bhai Dooj, a 'teeka' of rice and vermilion is applied on the brother's forehead, followed by 'arti' and partaking of sweets. Usually a meal comprising special dishes and sweet delicacies follows. The brother promises to protect his sister from untoward situations while the sister prays for her brother's longevity. This day is eagerly awaited by all sisters and brothers, given their enduring nature of relationship.

Diwali has and will always remain as a celebration to look forward to. But with rising pollution and devastating effects on the nature, we must also pledge to make this Diwali an “Eco Friendly” affair by sharing love, sweets and joy instead of burning dangerous and harmful crackers. Hence, Go green this Diwali!

Have a safe and prosperous Diwali in 2018!

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