It is also believed that Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi married on Diwali day
By Dharmendra Kanwar
Diwali is the festival of the homecoming of Lord Rama. It is said that the people of Ayodhya lit lamps to celebrate the return of their king and the tradition of lighting diyas has been in existence ever since. Equally important is the fact that Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped across the country on the eve of Diwali. The tradition continues to this day in northern India.
Diwali night, in these areas, is a night of fireworks that are burnt throughout the night. The idols of Goddess Lakshmi, who signifies wealth and prosperity, and Lord Ganesha, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, are worshipped in most homes on this day. Temples also celebrate Diwali with equal enthusiasm.
The erstwhile royal families across India had their own special rituals that were events that were looked forward to by the women of the zenana as well as the royal courts. During the days of purdah, there were special enclosures for women folk and each member was assigned a task to ensure that all festivities were celebrated with due pomp and show.
Jaipur has a very special and interesting reason to celebrate this festival of lights as the Royal Family of Jaipur are believed to be descendants of Kusha, son of Lord Ram, and hence the importance of the homecoming of Lord Rama gives the city another reason to celebrate.
The Jaipur royal family wears black during Diwali even though it is regarded as a symbol of loss and bereavement. It is a tradition that goes back to the fateful night when the Kachhwaha clan suffered fatal casualties in an ancient war that was fought on Diwali night. As a mark of respect, the former royals of Jaipur continue to celebrate Diwali dressed in black.
In the eastern region, oil lamps, candles and lanterns are placed in homes. The brightly lit homes keep the doors and windows open to welcome Goddess Lakshmi, who is supposed to visit every home during this time. This is also a time to ensure that all houses and places of work are clean and open to welcome the Goddess.
In southern India, this festival is marked as the day when Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura. It is also believed that Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi married on this day. It is celebrated in the Tamil month of aipasi or Thula month ‘Naraka Chaturdashi Tithi,’ preceding Amavasya. Naraka Chaturdashi is the main day of the Diwali celebrations in Southern India. Homes are cleaned and decorated with kolam designs. Firecrackers and new clothes are kept aside that are to be used on the following day.
Maharashtra has its own way of celebrating Diwali which extends to four days of festivity. On the first day, Vasubaras is celebrated by performing an arti of the cow and its calf – representing the love between a mother and her child. The next day is Dhanteras, considered a very special day for tradesmen and business people as new account books are opened by them after worshipping Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi. On the third day, Narakchaturdashi, people offer prayers at a temple. This is followed by a feast that includes traditional sweets that include karanji, ladoo, chakli, and sev among other delicacies. The fourth day is Lakshmi puja day, which is illuminated by lamps and fireworks.
In Bengal, it is a time to welcome Goddess Kali with many interesting rituals. Lakshmi puja is celebrated earlier than Diwali celebrations and the main deity celebrated on this occasion is Goddess Kali. In most parts of West Bengal, the nights of “Kali Puja” are marked by high festivities like bursting crackers, fireworks displays, lighting diyas around homes, and painting colorful patterns at the entrance of the house.
In most western states of India, Diwali is a four-day festival, the preparations for which begin many days in advance. The markets liven up much before the festival and are flooded with decorations and special offers. In Gujarat, this marks the start of New Year’s Day.
On the first day, Narakchaturdashi, crackers burst to symbolize the killing of the evil demon Narakasur. On Lakshmi puja, the second and most important day of Diwali, the idols of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi are worshipped. The third day, Padawa is considered one of the most auspicious days of the year and ideal for beginning any new or important task.
Bhau Beej is the last day of the festival that signifies sibling bonding and the celebrations during this day are quite akin to Rakhi. Gujaratis participate wholeheartedly by creating designs associated with the festival like deities, the sun, and flowers from natural powder colors, rangoli, in their homes. Interesting images of small footprints are also drawn outside the house which is supposed to be a way of inviting Goddess Lakshmi inside.
Dharmendra Kanwar is a much-awarded travel writer. She has also authored two bestselling biographies: The Last Queen of Jaipur and Enduring Grace of Maharani Gayatri Devi, the iconic queen of Jaipur.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times