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Historic Significance of Diwali

Posted By ServDharm

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Posted on October 19 2022

Deepawali is the one of the grandest and brightest Hindu festivals and is celebrated pan India with great enthusiasm over a period of five days. The word 'deep' means 'light' and the word 'avali' means 'a row', a row of light that illuminates and empowers the whole region. The festival of Diwali is believed to be the ultimate victory of good over evil and light over darkness.

Diwali festivities, according to the Hindu calendar begins on the Krishna Pakshsa Trayodashi, that is, the 28th day of Ashwin Maas and goes on till the Shukla Paksha Dwitiya of the Kartik Maas extending over a period of five days. Beginning with Dhanteras or dhantrayodashi, and followed by Narak Chaturdashi, Lakshmi Pujan, Goverdhan Puja, it ends with Bhai Dooj. Each and every day and ritual of the Diwali festival has a historical and spiritual significance and an inspiring story behind it.

 

Various Origins of Diwali

Historically, Diwali can be traced back to ancient India. It is most likely a festival of lights which began as an important harvest festival tracing back its origin to more than 2,500 years. It finds mention in Sanskrit texts such as the Padma Purana and the Skanda Purana written in the second half of the first millennium CE. It is also described by various travellers and historians from outside India.

In ancient India, the farmers harvesting their crops between the months of October and November faced a huge threat from the insects that destroyed the crops by eating them. In the absence of insecticides and pesticides, this led to major loss of harvest for the farmers. Thinking out of the box, they started lighting diyas in order to attract the insects and pests, and then kill them. This proved to be a simple, yet successful remedy as their crops stayed safe and they could reap the benefits of a good harvest. Moreover, bursting crackers could eliminate the mosquitoes present in large numbers post monsoon season. As we delve deeper into the ancient texts, we discover that there are a plethora of interesting legends and thought-provoking tales related to the origin of Diwali.

 

Historic Significance of Diwali

Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama, Maa Sita and Lakshman after vanquishing the demon king Ravana of Lanka from his fourteen year long exile. The day of their return coincided with a dark moon night, that is, Kartik Amavasya. It is believed that people of Ayodhya lit the whole kingdom with diyas to show their heartfelt love and devotion.

Deepawali is also believed to be the celebration of the marriage of Goddess Laxmi with Lord Vishnu. Some believe it to be a celebration of her birthday. Most of the Hindu people worship the Goddess of wealth and prosperity on Diwali and seek her blessings. Lord Ganesha, second son of Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati, is also worshipped as a symbol of wisdom and auspiciousness.

In Bengal, Maa Kali, the dark Goddess of strength is paid homage to. According to the legend, Goddess Kali is an incarceration of Maa Parvati and took birth to save heaven and earth from the hands of the demons- Mahishaasur and Rakhtbeej. However, after killing the demons, Maa Kali lost control over her wrath and started indiscriminately destroying and slaughtering everyone who came in her way. Scared by her violent aura, Devas requested Lord Shiva to stop her from her killing spree. When Lord Shiva intervened on the request of Ganas and Devas, Maa Kali stepped on Lord Shiva with her red tongue out and her eyes full of blood. Ultimately, she came out of her trance in horror and remorse. This is the stance or roop in which she is worshipped.

In Jainism, Diwali is the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana. Irrespective of the historical origin and the legends associated, Deepawali celebrations unite people of all castes, religions or socio- economic groups across India. Being a grand festival, Diwali is celebrated over a period of five days, where each day has a special significance and is celebrated with specific rituals and traditions.

 

How the 5 Days of Diwali are celebrated

The first day of Diwali is called Dhantrayodashi, 'dhan' meaning wealth and 'trayodashi' or 'teres thirteenth'. This celebration of wealth and prosperity occurs two days prior to the festival of lights. Buying new utensils and precious metals is considered to bring abundance throughout the year. The tradition of gambling also has a legend behind it. Supposedly, on this day Maa Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva. She decreed that whosoever will gamble on this tith(day) would prosper throughout the ensuing year. 

The second day of festivities called Narak Chaturdashi or choti Diwali celebrates a sense of freedom from all kinds of suffering. In some parts of India, it is celebrated as the victory of Lord Krishna and Satyabhama over the wicked and cruel demon Narakasura who had kidnapped more than sixteen thousand princesses. Lord Krishna defeated him and freed all the princesses. 

The third day of Diwali called Laxmi Pujan is the main day of Diwali. On this day, celebrants welcome Goddess Laxmi into their homes. Devotees seek her blessings and pray. People meet up with their friends, neighbours and relatives, and exchange gifts and sweets. It's a day of joy and celebration inviting abundance in the life of people by dispelling darkness and paving the way to a bright and hopeful future.

The fourth day of Diwali is the Goverdhan pooja. It is a celebration of the time when the folklore says that Lord Krishna lifted the whole Goverdhan parvat on his little finger to save the farmers and cowherd from the ire of Lord Indra who caused life-threatening floods.

The fifth day of Diwali is the Yam Dwitiya or Bhai Dooj. On this day, sisters invite their brothers to their homes since Yama,The God of death visited his sister Yamuna.

Above our faith, religion or nationality; Diwali spreads the universal message of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

May the lights of Diwali help you introspect and reflect on life to make positive changes to set goals for the upcoming years.

 

Written by - Puja Paul

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