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Diwali- the festival of lights

November 14, 2020

Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated annually by the Hindu community across the world with grandeur. Diwali symbolises the celebration of the victory of good over evil and luminescence of knowledge to get rid of ignorance. 

Diwali is observed on the new moon day (the final day) of Ashwin month as per Hindu calendar, and it usually falls in the months of October or November as per Gregorian Calendar. Diwali is also known as Deepawali, Deepotsav and by other names depending on the regions where it is celebrated.

The festival is being celebrated from ancient times in India and recorded in various scriptures like Padma Purana and Skanda Purana. Further, foreign travellers like Al Biruni (Persia), Niccolo de Conti (Italy) and Domingo Paes (Portugal) mentioned about the festival in their records which are centuries old.

There are many variations why Diwali is celebrated, but all of them signifies the remembrance of the victory of good. The Great Indian Epic Ramayana says people of Ayodhya celebrated the return of King Rama with his consort Sita and brother Lakshmana after killing the wicked king  Ravana. They lit the lamps across the city and celebrated the homecoming of Rama.

It is also said in the scriptures where Satyabhama, the consort of Krishna killed Narakasura, the cruel King of Pragjyotishpura (the present-day Assam) and liberated 16,000 girls who were held captive by Narakasura. So people celebrate the liberation from the brutality of Narakasura.

Besides Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and a sect of Buddhists called Newar Buddhists also celebrate Diwali.

The third Sikh Guru Amar Das made Diwali as a special day (like Baisakhi) for the congregation of Sikhs. In 1619, the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind was released from the prison held by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Hence Sikhs considered Diwali as the remembrance of those events.

Jains observe Diwali as “Mahavira Nirvana Divas”, the day on which Mahavira met final nirvana (physical death). Newar or Nepami sect of Buddhists in Nepal also celebrate Diwali like Hindu community.

Diwali is a five-day festival. The first day is “Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi”. People clean and decorate their houses and offer prayers to Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. After offering prayers, people usually buy jewellery, utensils or other things. Further, Dhanteras is also the birthday of Dhanvantari, father of Ayurveda. People offer him prayers and seek his blessings for the well-being of their health. “National Ayurveda Day” is celebrated annually on the birthday of Dhanvantari who invented Ayurveda medicine.

The second day is called Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali. It is the day on which Narakasura was killed. And on this day, people remember their ancestors and offer gratitude to them.

The third day is called Diwali, which is the main festival. Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess Kali in Bengal) is worshipped, and diyas (lamps) are placed in the evenings in front of every house. People celebrate Diwali night with bursting crackers.

The fourth day is called Annakut (heap of grain), Bali Pratipada, Bali Padyami Padwa, Govardhan puja. According to the scriptures, King Bali was defeated by Lord Vishnu on this day. Further, the day also signifies the food as “Annakut” food mountain” and farmers pay gratitude to the gods for the harvest they received as it is the end of the old crop season. Besides, this day also exhibits the affection, long-living and well-being of married couples. Additionally, the new year starts from this day for Gujaratis.

The fifth day is called Bhai Duj, which means brothers’ day. Brothers go to their sister’s home, meet her family and celebrate the day by offering prayers and having lunch together. It goes in the spirit of Raksha Bandhan, and marks the sister-brotherhood. It interprets the sister-brotherhood relation between the Yama and Yamuna and Subhadra and Krishna.

Whatever the reasons behind celebrating Diwali, there are scientific rationalisations too. Diwali usually falls in October/November when winter season just starts. Accumulation of water because of the lack of water flow at the end of the rainy season causes stagnated water bodies breeding grounds for bacteria, mosquitoes and insects.

Diyas which are lit with the help of oil attract the insects with its light. The insects then come and fall in it. Therefore winter crops are protected from the insects when diyas are lit at every house. Further, the sesame oil used for lighting the diyas purifies the surroundings by killing the bacteria around it with its vapours. Also, the firecrackers burst during the Diwali nights kills the mosquitoes, which is proven scientifically. But the extensive use of firecrackers causes sound and air pollution.

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Date:
November 14, 2020
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