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One of the grandest festivals celebrated across the world is Diwali. It is celebrated all over India with equal enthusiasm and zeal. The festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for mankind. Diwali is the corruption of the Sanskrit word `Deepavali`, which means `rows of lights`. It usually falls in month of October-November. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated in the last days of Ashvina and at the beginning of Kartika, exactly twenty days after Dussehra. It is celebrated to honour the return of Rama and Sita to their kingdom of Ayodhya, after fourteen years of exile. It is a composite festival, which includes other small festivals as well.
There are few popular legends associated with Diwali and different parts of India have their version to explain.
Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu.
In Bengal, the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the goddess of strength.
In Jainism, Deepawali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana.
Four days of the Diwali have different legends, saga and myths to talk about.
Dhan means "wealth" and teras means 13th day. Thus, as the name implies, this day falls on the 13th day of the first half of the lunar month. It is a belief that, Goddess Lakshmi, an opulent goddess, fulfills all the wishes of her devotes who worship her on this day. 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 many gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband`s room and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. Then, she went on telling stories and singing songs. When Yam, the god of Death, arrived there in the guise of a Serpent, he was blinded by the dazzle of 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 "Yamadeepan" and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yam, the god of Death.
On this day, it is believed, that the demon Naraka was defeated and vanquished by Divine Lord Krishna. This day is also called Chhoti Diwali or Chopda Puja or Kali Chaudas.
The story goes that the demon king Narakasur, ruler of Pragjyotishpur ( a province to the South of Nepal), defeated Lord Indra. He had also snatched away the magnificent earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and saints in his harem. On the day previous to the Narakachaturdashi, Lord Krishna killed the demon and liberated the imprisoned damsels and also recovered those precious earrings of Aditi. As a symbol of that victory, Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the demon king`s blood. Krishna returned home in the very early morning of the Narakachaturdashi day. The womenfolk massaged scented oil to his body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth from his body.
Since then, the custom of taking bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice, specially in Maharashtra. On the previous day of the Naraka Chaturdashi, people offer prayers to the vessel in which water is being heated for bath. Hindus light fireworks, which is regarded as the model of Narakasura who was killed on this day.
Naraka is personified as Hell. He is assumed as the monsoon which deluges the countryside with excessive rain.The death of Narakasura signifies the end of monsoon; and Diwali is the celebration of this event.
Another legend is about King Bali, son of Virochan and grandson of Prahlada, the nether world mighty power. By his sacrifice and valour, he became very powerful and gained dominion over the three worlds - the Heaven, the Earth and the Hell. Indra, the king of celestials was deprived of his abode. Indra and the gods propitiated Lord Vishnu (the Preserver god of the trio of gods of the Hindu pantheon). They pleaded to him for their rescue, as there was danger of the three worlds being overrun by the asuras. Vishnu agreed to help them.
The asura (demon) king was very pious and generous. Though an asura, he liked acts of kindness. He was very generous and his fame for generosity was widespread. Anyone coming to the king with his wishes was never returned empty-handed.
But, it was not easy to kill Bali because he was one of the staunch devotees of Vishnu. In order to curb his powers, Lord Vishnu was born as Vamana, a dwarf, in the house of a Brahmin called Kashyap. Bali had arranged a yajna (sacrificial fire) and Vishnu, as a dwarf, went to the sacrifice and begged for alms. King Bali asked for his wishes. Vamana asked for space equal to three of his strides. Bali thought of it as a rather strange wish and insisted Vamana to ask for something else and something more. However, Vamana told him that he needed just that amount of land, nothing more and nothing less than that. Bali agreed and took some water in his right hand and passed it to the Vamana`s right palm, and ordered the wish to be granted.
With this, the Vamana grew in size and took his first step. His foot covered the Heaven. He now raised the other leg and said. "With the second, I take away the earth. "By now, King Bali had realized that it was Lord Vishnu in the guise of the Vamana.
After the second, stride there was no space left for his third stride. Then, the Vamana asked, "Where should I keep the last step, to have my wish fulfilled?" Bali, the king of asuras surrendered and said with absolute humility, "Lord, keep your foot on my head because it is the most valuable to me than all of my possessions."
Vishnu lifted his foot and pushed Bali to the Patallok (underworld or nether regions). Impressed by Bali`s generosity, Lord Vishnu gave him the lamp of knowledge. He was allowed to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to drive away the darkness and ignorance and spread the light of love and wisdom.
In this form, Vishnu is called Trivikram and is shown in black or gold colour with one leg raised. The three strides of Vishnu in his dwarf incarnation are believed to be the rising, the culmination and the setting of the sun.
In ancient times, the festival of Bali was celebrated on the first day of bright half of Kartika, the day following Diwali.
In South India, the story widely associated with this day of Diwali is that of Narasimha, the man-lion incarnation of Vishnu. According to a legend, Hiranyakshipu was an evil demon king. He was unjust and cruel to his people. However, he was almost invincible. He had received a boon from Brahma that he would be killed neither by beast nor man and nor by any God, neither inside nor outside, neither during the day nor at night, neither by any weapon, nor by any natural cause, neither on land nor in space and neither by fire nor by water. When his atrocities became unbearable, the gods sought Vishnu`s help. Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Narasimha, the man-lion. Lord Vishnu, in this fifth incarnation, killed Hiranyakshipu with his claws on the threshold of his palace, just before daybreak, hence steering clear of the boundaries of the boon.
Kerala is probably, the only state in India where even Hindus do not celebrate Diwali. The major festival there is Onam. In West Bengal, Kali Puja is performed on Diwali. It is believed that on this day Kali killed the wicked Raktavija.
In Hindu mythology, the Skanda, the guardian of heaven, destroyed many demons who were against the rule of Gods. He, along with other gods, could not kill the demon Raktabija. Raktabija`s each drop of blood transformed into another demon when it touched the ground. Within a few minutes of attacking this asura (demon) with their weapons, the gods would find the entire battlefield covered with millions of demon clones.
In despair, the gods went to Shiva. But, Shiva was lost in meditation, so they turned to his consort Parvati. The goddess immediately set out to fight this dreaded demon in the form of Kali.
She rode into the battleground on her lion, and Raktabija experienced fear for the first time in his demonic heart. Kali ordered the gods to attack Raktabija. She then spread her tongue to cover the battlefield. This prevented even a single drop of Raktabija`s blood from falling on the ground. Thus, Raktabija could not reproduce demons.
Drunk on Raktabija`s blood, Kali ran across the cosmos killing anyone who dared cross her path. She adorned herself with the heads, limbs and innards of her victims. To pacify her, Shiva threw himself under her feet. This stopped the goddess. She calmed down, embraced her husband, and shed her ferocious form.
Diwali The actual day of Diwali, is celebrated on the third day of the festival, when the moon completely wanes and total darkness sets in the night sky. Diwali is the day when Rama`s coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya after his epic war with Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Ayodhya and Mithila, the kingdom of which Sita was princess, and many other cities bordering these kingdoms were lit up with rows of lamps, glittering on dark nights to welcome home the divine king Rama and his queen Sita after 14 years of exile, ending with an across-the-seas war in which the whole of the kingdom of Lanka was destroyed.
It is believed that the people lit oil lamps along the way to light their path in the darkness. Every house in Ayodhya was illuminated to welcome Him. The illuminations symbolize the removal of spiritual darkness from the country and the expression of Ram Rajya, the rule of Rama. In North India, the festival is held on the final day of the Vikram Calendar. The following day marks the beginning of the North Indian New Year, and is called Annakut.
According to Vishnu Bhagawatham, the devas and asuras churned the Milky Ocean to extract Amrut ( nectar of immortality ) from it. During the process Goddess Lakshmi was born of it. Attracted by the beauty and form of the Goddess all groups offered their best possessions as their gift. This day is celebrated as Diwali.
After this, was held the occasion of her Swayamvar ( A marriage ceremony when a young woman chooses one person from among the gathered prospective grooms). All people present then offered themselves as suitors for the Goddess who was free to choose. Born wise, Goddess Lakshmi weighed the nature of each group and finally selected Lord Vishnu to the surprise of all. She found Rishis had enough Thapas ( penance ) but had little control over their anger. Chandra was beautiful and handsome but had a mind full of lust. Indra though a King of heavens and had everything, had unfulfilled desires (greed).
But, Lord Vishnu was contended, calm and serene, with no desires. She decided he would provide her utmost safety. Lord Vishnu also gave her the best spot of his Vakshathala -chest. From that position she could see Lord`s face all times.
It is said that the Lord`s kindness, compassion, easily approachable quality, and mercy are always there due to Goddess Lakshmi. This event too adds to the importance of Diwali. During the Deepawali day, people follow the tradition of gambling. There is a tale associated behind gambling. There is a prominent belief that Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiva, and ordained that any person on earth who will gamble on Diwali night will flourish throughout the following year. This tradition of playing cards- flush and rummy with stakes on this particular day continues even to-day.
On this day, Lord Shri Krishna discarded his body. The entire story of our great epic, Mahabharat, is centered around Lord Krishna. He is the philosopher, who preached Karmayog through his Geeta to Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
One very interesting story about this Diwali day is from Kathopanishad. It is a story of a small boy called Nichiketa who 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 confused seeing Yam`s calm countenance and dignified stature. Yam explained to Nichiketa on this Diwali day of Amavasya that man sees the light of highest wisdom only when he passes through the darkness of death and then only his soul can escape from the cage of his mortal frame to merge with the Supreme Power without whose will not a ton moves in the world. And then, Nichiketa realised the importance of worldly life and significance of death. Nichiketa`s all doubts were set at rest and he whole-heartedly participated in Diwali celebrations.
The full moon day in Kartik, the first month of the Indian calendar, brings in the festival of Dev Diwali. For the Jains, it is the day of `Nirvana` of Lord Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara. Lord Mahavira attained Niravana at Pavapuri. They worship Mahavira on this day, Agams (Jain holy books) are read and homes and temples are illuminated. Lamps are lit under the moonlight sky and a family feast celebrates this day.
Thousands of Jain pilgrims from all over India visit the sacred Mount Girnar in Gujarat. Special celebrations are held on this day. It is said that the first scriptural reference to Diwali is found in the Jain scripture, Harivamsha Purana, by Acharya Jinasena. None of the principal Hindu scriptures mention the festival in particular. This has made some people to believe, that Diwali was originally a Jain festival and later adopted by Hindus as a festival of their own.
According to Jain legends, the first disciple of Mahavira, Ganadhar Gautam Swami, also attained complete knowledge on this very day.Thus, Diwali is a really special occasion for the Jains.
The Jains celebrate Diwali in a different way. There is a note of asceticism in what ever the Jains do and the celebration of Diwali is not an exception. The Jains celebrate Diwali during the month of Kartik for three days. During this period, devoted Jains observe fasting and chant the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contain the final pravachans of Lord Mahavira and meditate upon him.
Swami Ramtirth, the beloved "Ram Badshah" of millions of Indians was not only born on this day and took "Sanyas" but also took "Samadhi" on this day. Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of Brahma-Samaj, with his superb yogic powers freed his soul from his body and became one with divinity on this auspicious day of Diwali.
Padwa, is the beginning of the New Year. As the name suggests, this day is celebrated as the New Year`s day amongst Hindus. People visit temples and elderly people to seek their blessings and good wishes so that new year passes with ease.
This day is celebrated in commemoration of the lifting of Mount Govardhan by Krishna. According to a legend, before Krishna was born, Indra, the Rain God, was the chief deity of Braj. Then, Krishna urged the people of Braj to stop worshipping Indra. Indra wanted to show his power over Krishna and flooded the countryside for many days. People were afraid of the non-stop rain and feared that it was the result of their disregard to Indra worship. But, Krishna assured them protection from any harm. He lifted the Govardhan mountain with his little finger and shielded them from the rain. This gave him the epithet Govardhandhari. Then, Indra accepted the supremacy of Krishna.
On this day, brothers and sisters meet to express their love and affection for each other.
The legends goes that Lord Yamraj, the God of Death, visited his sister Yamuna on the `Shukla Paksha Dwitiya` day in the Hindi month of `Kartik`. When Yamraj reached Yamuna`s home his arrival was celebrated in a special way. His sister welcomed Him by performing his aarti, applying `Tilak` on his forehead and by putting a garland around His neck. Yamuna also cooked varieties of dishes and prepared lots of sweets for her brother and offered all those to Him. Lord Yamraj ate all those delicious dishes and when He was finished He blessed Yamuna and gave her a boon that if a brother visits his sister on this day he would be blessed with health and wealth. This is why, this day of Bhayya Duj is also known by the name of `Yam-Dwitiya`.
And thus, it has become a tradition that on the day of Bhai-Dooj brothers visit their sisters` home and offer them gifts. Sisters also make various dishes for their brothers and also give gifts to them and wish for their long life, health and properity.
Another legend is that of Lord Krishna and his sister, Subhadra. After destroying Narakasur, Lord Krishna went to his sister. Subhadra welcomed her winner brother in the traditional way by performing His `aarti`, flowers and sweet and applied a holy `Tilak` on His forehead. This day gained importance as a celebration of the relationship between a brother and sister.
One more story behind the celebrations of Bhai-Duj is that when Bhagwan Mahavir attained `Nirvana`, his brother Raja Nandi-Vardhan became very sad. He missed Bhagwaan Mahavir very badly. Then, it was his sister Sudarshana, who comforted him. Since then, women have been revered during this festival. This day helps to strengthen the ties between brothers and sisters.
Celebrations & Significance
Diwali is celebrated whole-heartedly by Hindus all over. Everybody in his own way celebrates Diwali. Lighting up entire house, decorating it, making rangolis outside the porch of the house, shopping for new clothes, bursting crackers distributing sweets are the spirits tagged to Diwali. The North Indian business community usually starts their financial new year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.
To add to the festival of Diwali, fairs called Melas are held throughout India. A mela generally becomes a market day in the countryside There are plenty of activities that take place at a mela. These activities include performances from jugglers, acrobats, snake charmers and fortune tellers. Food stalls, selling sweet and spicy foods, are set up. A variety of rides are present during the fair
This festival is quite popular with the kids as they get to buy new clothes, can have tempting delicacies and burst loads of crackers.
The first day of Diwali, Dhanteras, is celebrated in honour of Dhanwantari the physician of Gods. He is believed to be a minor incarnation of Vishnu and arose out of the ocean of Milk, carrying pot of Amrita, the drink of immortality. He is considered the father of the Indian system of medicine called Ayurveda. Dhanteras is part of Deepawali celebrations and not a festival on its own right. People bathe early in the morning. A fast is observed which is broken only after sunset, when the housewife lights an earthen lamp at the gate.
Small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. This is a sign of arrival of Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune, Beauty, Prosperity and Wealth. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights during Diwali. Women believe this day to be auspicious and purchase some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas (lamps) are lighted in a small clay vessel to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung and "Naivedya" (offering of food) of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to lightly crush dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer it as Naivedya.
On the second day, Narak Chaturdashi, the sun enters his second course and passes Libra which is represented by the balance or scale. Hence, this design of Libra is believed to have suggested the balancing of account books and their closing. Though, this day falls on an Amavasya day it is regarded as the most auspicious.
This day also called, Chhoti Deepawali -minor Deepawali- when after puja( worship) five lamps are lit at five strategic places in the house: the gateway, the barn, the well, the peepul tree and the kitchen. Traditionally, these lamps are of earthenware, filled with clarified butter into which cotton wicks are immersed. These days oil or wax is used instead of clarified butter. Nowadays, more people prefer candles to earthen lamps.
In South India, the victory of good is celebrated in a peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise, prepare blood by mixing Kumkum in oil. Then, break a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna. After this, they apply the mixture of kumkum on their foreheads. Then, they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.
In Maharashtra also, traditional early baths with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders are a `must`. All through the ritual of baths, deafening sounds of crackers and fireworks can be heard. Children enjoy these sounds while bathing. Afterwards, steamed vermicelli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served.
Deepawali is celebrated on the darkest night of the month. The houses, shops, places of work etc., are lit through the night, lest Lakshmi turn her back on the house that is dark. Since she will not enter a dirty place, the houses or the place of work is thoroughly washed and cleaned. Lakshmi has an elder sister called Jyeshtha Devi, who loves squalor and dark and dingy corners. There is an understanding between the two sisters that either will not enter a house if the other is present.
This custom of washing the houses may have started in ancient times when people realized that the rains following the hot summer made the houses unairy and damp and led to the growth of germs. The germs were killed by washing the houses with lime water.
In the olden days in South India, Deepavali was once called as `Kaumudi Mahostavam`. The kings used to supervise the festivities of Diwali during the nights. People eat black gram leaves, and other such customs are followed since those days. Lamps are distributed. Women bring out their household weapons like dustpans, mops, etc, late in the night to drive away `Jyesthadevi`, the Goddess of penury.
It is believed that on Amavasya (no moon day), Goddess Lakshmi is present in sesame oil, and Gangadevi (Goddess of river Ganga) is present in all wells, lakes, and ponds. Sesame oil is used for taking bath.
This day is the most important and eagerly-awaited part of the Diwali celebrations.
After bathing, people receive new clothes and gifts from their elders. They wear these new clothes and then, the family prays to Vishnu for its well-being and prosperity. After the prayers, the main celebrations start. People burst crackers and light candles. This is known as atishbaji. References to the word "atishbaji" or "crackers" are found even in ancient literature. According to one belief, the sound that resounds throughout the universe makes all aware of the great homecoming of Rama. At day break, all celebrations end. People then visit friends and relatives and exchange sweets.
Yama is worshiped facing the South. It is believed that this helps in preventing untimely death and in giving peace to the departed souls. In the evening, lamps are lightened almost everywhere in the town including the temples, hills, graveyards, etc.
On Deepawali night, first Lakshmi is worshipped and silver coins are offered to her. Clay figurines of Lakshmi, Vishnu and other gods are also worshipped. Lamps are placed on the roofs, along the walls, at the doorways. The entire house is brightened with lights. The lamps are also meant to welcome the souls of the departed ancestors who are believed to visit the family on Deepawali night.The lighting of lamps on the night of Deepawali is important. Even when a family is mourning and no festivities take place, they light five lamps at strategic places in the house.
On this night, people play cards and gamble. It is the same custom as Dyutapratipada observed in ancient times on the Shukla pratipada (the first day of the bright half of Kartika). On this day, people used to gamble in the morning and believed that it would be a prosperous year, if one wins the game. The same tradition is followed and believed till today. Evenings were spent with friends and family.
The day after Diwali is celebrated as Govardhan Puja. Mount Govardhan is a small hillock in Braj, near Mathura. On this day of Diwali, people of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar build cow-dung, hillocks, decorate them with flowers and then worship them.
This day is observed as Annakoot, meaning mountain of food. In temples specially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given milk-bath, dressed in shining attires with ornaments of dazzling diamonds, pearls, rubies and other precious stones. After the prayers and traditional worship, varieties of delicious sweets are ceremoniously raised in the form of a mountain before the deities as "Bhog" (the offering of food) and then the devotees take Prasad from the Mountain of Food.
At homes, people stay awake the whole night and cook fifty-six different types of food as the bhog to Lord Krishna. The bhog is piled in the form of a mountain. Various types of food - cereals, pulses, fruit, vegetables, chutneys, pickles and salads - are offered to Lord Krishna. Then, this food is distributed as Prasad to the devotees.
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.
The word Padwa is analogous to the Sanskrit word for crop, which is Pradurbhu. Padava might be a corrupted form of the original word for "crop" which was used to term the new year festival. The term `padwa` or `padavo` is also associated with Diwali. It is another New Year celebration that comes at the end of the harvesting season. Thus, this validates the agricultural link to the festival.
For Farmers, this is a festival marking the end of one Harvest and the beginning of another. Gudi Padava is also considered as a new year in some parts of India such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra coming in the month of Chaitra (March-April).
On this day, courtyards in village houses are clean and covered with fresh cow dung. Even in the city, people take the time out to do some cleaning. Women and children draw rangoli designs at their doorsteps. Everyone dresses up in new clothes and it is a time for family gatherings.
This fourth day of Diwali falls on the first day of Karthik Masa of the Indian calendar. It is known as Varshapratipada or Pratipad Padwa. VarshaPratipada that is the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day. Business-men start new account books and every kind of transaction, receipt or payment and business is postponed. On this day, many people gamble. This day is considered as the most auspicious day to start any new venture.
In many Hindu homes, the wife applies the red tilak on the forehead of her husband, garlands him and does his "Aarati" 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.
Bhaiya Duj is the last festival associated with Diwali. It is known as Tikka in punjab. In Vedic times, it was called Bhartri-dvitiya. It falls on the second day after Diwali i.e. on `Shukla Paksha Dwitiya` in the Hindi month of `Kartik`. `Dwitiya` means `Duj` or the second day after the new moon. It is known by different names such as `Bhai-Dooj` in north India, `Bhau-Bij` in Maharashtra, `Bhai-Phota` in Bengal and `Bhai-Teeka` in Nepal.
On this day, sisters observe fast till they apply auspicious Tilak or Teeka -saffron or vermilion and rice rains- to the forehead of their brothers. The tilak is applied to protect them from evil and to wish them long life and prosperity. They decorate a puja plate with chandan paste (sandal wood), kajal, morning dew, green grass and paddy seeds or dhan along with sweets, rice and coconut. Brothers sit on a carpet and sisters light puja lamp, utter some mantra, apply tilak of chandan/roli on the forehead, kajal and dew water with their little finger of left hand and give blessings with green grass and paddy seeds (dhan and durba). They perform Aarti of their brothers by showing them the light of holy flame. Sisters sweeten their mouths with sweets, specially made for the occasion. Brothers and sisters then exchange presents with each other.
Women celebrated Diwali with their in-laws. But, this festival allowed them to come to their parent`s home. They got a chance to meet their family. And, it gave their parents an opportunity to give them gifts, an opportunity they did not often get. Nowadays, among many communities, Bhai Duj is observed by both married and unmarried sisters.
The red mark on the forehead suggests the third eye of Lord Shiva and is believed to keep the evil away and thus protect the wearer. This custom of applying tilak to the forehead is significant from the time since the North India was engaged in constant wars. Mothers, wives and sisters applied tilak to the men to protect them from harm.
As a festival of light and beauty, it encourages artistic expressions through home-decorations and stage-plays. At some places, people organize elocution competitions singing and dancing programmes. Delicious sweet-making competitions and gift-making competitions are arranged. This helps in discovering new talents of younger people. This results in the coming together of innumerable communities with varying cultures and customs and makes Bhai Dooj celebrations a very happy occasion for all.
This day is also called `Yam-Dwitiya`. On this day, the people of `Kayastha` community of Hindus worship Lord Chitragupta, the God who maintains the records of life and death of the creatures. The `Kayastha` community also worships the pen, paper and ink on this day in the honour of Lord Chitragupta.
Fireworks and crackers are let off not only for enjoyment but also to scare away the evil spirits that are assumed to wander about on this night.
During these days, the sky is packed with magnificent fire crackers lighting up entire sky.
According to one belief, the sound of fire-crackers are an indication of the ecstasy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their affluent state.
On Diwali days, shops, houses, streets, buildings, temples, etc are beautifully decorated, and surrounding sounds of firecrackers bursting in the air makes the entourage look more festive. Diwali is a season where people tend to forget all their distress, and anguish, and celebrate the festival with immense pleasure and joy.
The excited taste buds are soothed by many mouth-watering preparations. Royal vermicelli kheer, rice kheer, carrot halwa, Besan ka laddoo, chilled curd idlis, lentil salad, gram dhal vada, gujia, malpua, dhudh peda, kesar bhat, jalebi, chocolate chip cookies etc., are some of the preparations.
It is one of the main festivals of the trader community. The markets are beautifully decorated and lit up. Many safety measures and precautions are telecast on television and radio, especially for children.
The fire departments are on an alert, and the municipal corporations of bigger cities also organize buckets and tankers of water at strategic locations.
DIWALI is just not about lights, crackers, sharing sweets and worship of Lakshmi but it is also a chance for reconciliations. There are social gatherings and people exchange wishes. It teaches us to destroy ignorance and remove the darkness that covers the light of knowledge. This is a festival for young and the old, men and women, rich and poor - for everyone. Irrespective of their religious and economic background, the festival is celebrated throughout the country.
Diwali is also celebrated outside India mainly in Asia, Africa,Britain, Fiji, Guyana, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago and Thailand. Diwali is celebrated in South America and among the Hindus all the world over.