The ancient festival of Diwali has been celebrated for ages in India and annual celebrations are still held each year all over the country with great flourish, enthusiasm and gaiety. Diwali, well known as the festival of lights illuminates the whole India on that evening. Traditionally the festival is believed to be a Hindu festival of wealth and prosperity. Celebrated with great excitement and grandeur, Diwali or Deepavali is one of the prime Hindu festivals that unites the whole of India. But not every part of India celebrates with the common perspective though the common celebration includes lighting earthen lamps or diyas and bursting crackers.
In most parts of India, Diwali is celebrated for five days. First day is celebrated as Dhanteras which is worshiping Lord Yama and buying of metal objects. Second Day is called the Choti Diwali. On the third day Laxmi and Ganesh Pujan is done. On fourth day Goverdhan puja is performed. Fifth Day or the last day, also known as Bhai Dooj or Bhai tika, the day is dedicated to brothers and sisters. On this day sisters pray for their brothers’ long life.
The Indian states are known for their unique idiosyncrasies presented through various traditional costumes, culture and lifestyle. And the same is for the manner of celebration of Diwali in various parts of India. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the festival takes the flavor of the region.
In Northern India, the religious significance of Diwali is associated with the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya with wife Sita and brother Laxman after 14 years of exile. So the legend of Lord Rama is celebrated with great flourish in the Northern states by following the tradition of lighting up oil lamps and electric lights to recreate the welcome for Lord Rama.
Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya was also associated with the significance of the victory of good over evil. The tradition continues even today in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar and neighboring areas. In Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Punjab people are also engaged in gambling on Diwali night, which is considered to be auspicious. During Diwali the Ghats of Varanasi are lit up with innumerable divas and prayers are offered to the holy river of Ganges.
The basic rituals remain the same in Eastern India, which include lighting of lamps, candles, diyas, along with bursting of crackers. In West Bengal, Laxmi Puja is celebrated six days after Durga Puja. West Bengal worships Goddess Kali, the destructor of evil, on the new moon night of Diwali while the rest of India worships Goddess Lakshmi. Bengalis perform Lakshmi puja after five days of Dussehra, instead of the Diwali day.
In Odisha, one peculiar ritual is the calling of spirits of the forefathers, to lead them to Heaven during Diwali festival. The family members hold burning jute stems and chant prayers to light up the paths to the Heaven, for their ancestors’ souls. Doors and windows are also kept open throughout the evening to give a free path to Goddess Lakshmi who is believed to visit homes on Diwali night.
Western India is mostly associated with business and trade. Diwali is a festival of wealth and prosperity, and it is a major celebration for the business communities. The state of Gujarat known for its entrepreneurial potential celebrates Diwali festival with highest regard. Goddess Lakshmi the deity of prosperity is worshipped on Dhanteras as well as Diwali day with hopes of getting her blessings. In Gujarat, on the night before Diwali, Gujarat is creating colorful rangolis in front of their houses. Rangoli is an integral part of Diwali in all states in Western India.
The Jains also celebrate Diwali festival with gusto and that day also marks the anniversary of attainment of Nirvana by Lord Mahavir for them. In Maharashtra, Diwali is celebrated for 4 days. Here Diwali festival becomes unique through the celebration of Vasu-Baras, a celebration of cows, which are considered holy by the Hindus. On this day women pray to cows with calves. Dhanteras is celebrated in its southern states. The third day is ‘Diwalicha Padwa’ which celebrates the togetherness of husband and wife. And fourth day is celebrated as Bhai Dooj or Bhai tika, the day is dedicated to brothers and sisters. n Goa, effigies of Narakasura are burnt before dawn to celebrate Narakachaturdashi during Diwali.
In Southern India, Diwali is celebrated in the Tamil month of aipasi 'naraka chaturdasi' thithi, preceding amavasai. Naraka chaturdashi is the main day of the Diwali celebrations in this area. One Another unique ritual in South India observed on Diwali is Thalai Deepavali. On this day, newlyweds spend their first Diwali in the bride’s parental home. Harikatha or the musical narration of the story of Lord Hari is performed in many areas like Andhra Pradesh.
It is believed that Lord Krishna’s consort Satyabhama had actually killed demon Narakasura. In Karnataka on Narakachaturdashi, people wake up before sunrise and bathe after an aroma infused oil massage. The women make rangolis on doorsteps and families light earthen diyas and burst firecrackers before dawn to mark the beginning of a new day after destruction of evil.
The next day is celebrated as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padyami, which honors the return of the virtuous demon King Bali to Earth. Lakshmi puja is also performed in most of the South Indian families. Although the reasons to celebrate or the rituals of celebration vary as we move from the North to the South, the Diwali festival unites the country through the spirit of celebration.