Diwali or Deepavali, hailed as ‘Festival of Lights’, is an important festival of Hindus. It is widely celebrated by Hindus living in India and all over the world. Diwali is a pan-Indian festival observed by all sects of Hindus and also by Jains and Sikhs. In some parts of India, Diwali is celebrated as a five-day festival.
India is a big nation with diverse cultures and different traditions and people belong to each region observe the festival according to their tradition and practices. These different traditions add spice and colour to India’s rich cultural heritage and make it one of the memorable occasions of the year.
Diwali festival also acts as a major booster for Indian economy, every year during Diwali huge market activity happens and sale of clothes, sweets, crackers, electronic and consumer goods shoot up.
The Many legends of Diwali
Every Hindu festival and observances trace back their origin to one or more legends. There are several legends associated with the Diwali festival. Some important legends associated with the festival are explained below.
- Diwali and Shri Krishna: an famous legend of Diwali is connected to Lord Krishna. A demon named Naragasura was ruling the parts of present day Assam. He was very notorious and turned a nightmare to devas and rishis. Krishna decided to get rid of Naragasura, he with the help of his consort Sathyabama, killed Naragasura and freed the devas and rishis. Naragasura realized his mistake and sought pardon from Krishna and requested a boon from Krishna that the people should celebrate his passing away. Krishna accepted the request of Naragasura, since then to commemorate Naragasura’s death people burst crackers, eat sweets and light diyas.
- Diwali and Shri Rama: another popular legend of Diwali is related to Shri Rama. Kaikeyi, the step-mother of Shri Ram asked him to go to forests for a 14-year exile. Abiding by her orders shri Ram left the city of Ayodhya along with his wife, Sita and brother, Lakshman. When they were staying in the forests, Sita was abducted by Ravana, the demon king. Rama was devastated and started his search for Sita, after several tribulations, he got the support of vanaras and waged a war on Ravana and killed him. Victorious Rama freed Sita and returned to the Ayodhya Kingdom again. The people of Ayodhya overjoyed with the return of their favourite prince Shri Rama, celebrated by lighting lamps and bursting crackers and the tradition is followed till now.
- Diwali and Pandavas: some relate Diwali to the Pandavas. The Pandavas were five brothers who ruled over Indraprastha. They were sent to exile because of the evil plans of their cousin, Duryodhana. They suffered a lot but got the support and help of Krishna. At last, they won their cousin and got back their rule. The day they returned to their kingdom is celebrated as Diwali.
- Diwali and Goddess MahaLakshmi: there exists rich connection between the Diwali festival and goddess Mahalakshmi. Hindus of Maharashtra and Gujarat perform Lakshmi Puja during Diwali and seek the divine blessing of Mahalakshmi for more wealth and fortune. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi emerged from the Milky Ocean and married Maha Vishnu on a Diwali day and worshipping her on this day will bestow her choicest blessing upon the devotees
- Diwali and Mother Kali: In West Bengal, people celebrate Diwali in honour of Kali, a fierce form of Goddess. The Divine Mother took the form of Goddess Kali to destroy the demons who were troubling the people. She fought and killed all the demons but failed to cool down even after eliminating the demons and went on a destruction spree, destroying anything and everything see came across. The devas and holy men went to Mahadev and sought his intervention to save them from Kali’s anger. Shiva pitied with them and went to the spot and lay down, Kali trampled on Mahadev and realized her mistake and got back her senses and gained composure. On Diwali, Bengalis offer special worship to the Goddess and seek her blessings.
- Diwali and King Bali: the fourth day of Diwali is celebrated as ‘Balipratipada’, in honour of Kin Mahabali’s return to earth. King Bali, who ruled over the netherworld and earth was feared by the devas who sought Maha Vishnu’s help to dispose of him. Vishnu took the form a poor brahmin dwarf and sought alms from Bali. Unaware it was Maha Vishnu, King Bali granted the boons, using the boons as a tool, Maha Vishnu cut short the power of Bali. But considering the noble nature of Bali, Maha Vishnu allowed Bali to return to earth for one day each year, and that one day is observed during the five-day celebration of Diwali.
- Diwali and Jains: People of the Jain faith believe that Mahavira Vardhamana, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism attained Nirvana (highest form of Enlightenment) 2500 years ago on a Diwali day. Mahavira is accorded high status in Jainism and to commemorate his ascension nirvana, the Jains celebrate the day as Diwali every year.
- Diwali and Sikhs : Sikhs celebrate Diwali in the name Bandi Chhor Divas. As per the Sikh tradition, every year the date commemorates the release Guru Har Gobind, the sixth guru of Sikh religion, from the Mughal prison. On this day all Sikhs offer prayers at Gurudwaras and receive the guru’s blessings. The Sikhs have been celebrating this day since the 16th-century.
- Tags: Festival of lights