Story of Diwali - Five Days of Tradition, Myths, Storytelling, Celebration and Cultureby: Jennifer Kumar
Day 1: Dhanteras
The first day is called Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Kartik. The word "Dhan" means wealth. As such this day of the five-day Diwali festival has a great importance for the rich mercantile community of
In villages cattles are adorned and worshiped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. In
A very interesting story about this day is of the sixteen year old son of King Hima. As per his horoscope he was doomed to die by a snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage. On that particular fourth day of his marriage his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband's boudoir and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. And she went on telling stories and singing songs. When Yama the god of Death arrived there in the guise of a serpent his eyes were suddenly blinded by the dazzle of those brilliant lights and he could not enter the Prince's chamber. So he climbed on top of the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat there whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he quietly went away.
Thus the young wife saved her husband from the clutches of death. Since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of Yamadeepdaan and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yama, the god of Death.
Day 2: Nakra-Chaturdashi
The second day is called Nakra-Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali falls on the fourteenth day of the month of Kartik. It is on this day that Lord Krishna returns from Pragyotishpur (
On Nakra-Chaturdashi day, people dedicate themselves to lighting lamps and praying. On this day, people believe that the lighting of lamps expels ignorance and heralds a future full of joy and laughter. The story behind this holiday tradition revolves around King Bali of the nether world. His mighty power had become a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a small boy (batu waman) visited him and begged him to give him as much land as he could cover with his three steps. Known for his philanthropy, King Bali proudly granted him his wish. That very moment that small boy transformed himself into the all-powerful Lord Vishnu. With his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second step he covered the earth. Before taking the third and final step, Lord Vishnu asked
On this Diwali day, we light lamps to commemorate the sacred memories of those great men who lived to brighten the lives of millions of their fellow beings:
● Lord Shri Krishna around whom revolved the entire story of our great epic Mahabharat and the philosopher, who preached Karmayog through his Geeta to Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, discarded his body.
● Bhagwan, Mahavir, the Jain prophet also attained nirvana on this day.
● Swami Ramtirth, the beloved "Ram Badshah" of millions of Indians was not only born on this day and took both sanyas and samadhi on this day.
● Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of Arya Samaj in 1875 in Mumbai, with his superb yogic powers freed his soul from his body and mingled with divinity on this auspicious day of Diwali.
Another very interesting story about this Diwali day is from the Kathopanishad. In this story, a small boy called Nichiketa believed that Yam, the god of Death was as black as the dark night of amavasya. But when he met Yam in person he was puzzled seeing Yam's calm countenance and dignified stature. Yam explained to Nichiketa on this Diwali day of amavasya that by only passing through the darkness of death, man sees the light of highest wisdom. It is only then only his soul can escape from the bondage of his mortal frame to mingle with the Supreme Power. It was then that Nichiketa realized the importance of worldly life and significance of death. All of Nichiketa's doubts were set to rest and he whole-heartedly participated in Diwali celebrations.
Day 4: Padwa or Varshapratipada
It is the fourth day that marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya, initiating Vikram-Samvat from this Padwa day.
Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. As per Vishnu-Puran the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honor of Lord Indira, worshiping him after the end of every monsoon season. However, one particular year the young
On this day in the temples of
Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in every Hindu household and her blessings sought for success and happiness. This day is looked upon as the most auspicious day to start any new venture. In many Hindu homes it is a custom for the wife to put the red tilak on the forehead of her husband, garland him and do his aarthi with a prayer for his long life. In appreciation of all the tender care that the wife showers on him, the husband gives her a costly gift. This Gudi Padwa is symbolic of love and devotion between the wife and husband. On this day newly-married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals and given presents. In olden days brothers went to fetch their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day.
Day 5: Bhayya- Duj
The fifth and final day of Diwali is known as Bhayya-Duj. It is also known in Hindi as Bhav-Bij and in Marathi and Nepalese as Bhai Tika.
Legend says Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yami on this particular day. She put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and fed him with special dishes. Together, they ate the sweets, talked and enjoyed themselves to their heart's content. While parting Yamraj gave her a special gift as a token of his love and in return Yami also gave him a lovely gift which she had made with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister will never be thrown. That is why this day of Bhayyaduj is also known by the name of Yama Dwitiya.
Since then this day is being observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It became also imperative for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhayyaduj.
Summing Up Diwali
In today's world when pressing everyday problems are teaming as under all the tender words of personal relationships, the celebrating of this day has its own importance in continuing to maintain the love between brothers and sister. It is the day of food-sharing; gift-giving and reaching out to the inner most depths of the hearts.
Diwali on the whole has always been the festival with more social than religious connotations. It is a personal, people-oriented festival when enmities are forgotten; families and friends meet, enjoy and establish a word of closeness.
As a festival of light and beauty it encourages artistic expressions through home-decorations stage-plays, elocution competitions singing and dancing programs, making gift items and delectable sweets thereby discovering new talents of younger people. As a result innumerable communities with varying cultures and customs mingle together to make Diwali celebrations a very happy occasion for all.
Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has communicated the true significance of Diwali in one beautiful line: "The night is black. Kindle the lamp of love with thy life and devotion."
This story was sent to me through a friend on e-mail. Hope you have enjoyed it!
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Other Articles on Diwali by Jennifer/Alaivani.com
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Diwali Photos on Flickr
A favorite choice for Diwali parties and celebrations.
Updated October 2008.
Updated October 2008.
This article is reprinted from my old tripod site. Original posting date 9/2001. Hits 2001-2007 totaled over 304,000! Thank you everyone!Updated October 2011.
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