Diwali – India and Varanasi
It’s that time of the year again! Diwali, among the most brilliant festivals of Indian culture, is here Celebrated on the darkest night of the year – the Kartik Amavasya, this festival of lights is celebrated as the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and as a harbinger of the NEW! The common story surrounding the festival is that it marks the homecoming of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after defeating Ravan, but there’s so much more to this interesting festival!
Celebrated between the monsoon harvest and the sowing of the winter crop, Diwali is quite likely a fusion of ancient India’s harvest festivals. One of its earliest mentions is in the Skanda Purana (1st century AD). By the 7th century, it had become a popular theme for plays (Nagananda composed during King Harsha’s reign). The famous Persian traveller, Al Baruni, who visited India in the 11th century even mentions Diwali in his travelogue!
Did you know it’s actually a 5-day festival!?
Generally speaking, Diwali is celebrated on the no-moon night of the Kartik month, but the festivities usually start 2 days before and continue for 2 days after (talk about festival hangovers!). Here are the different events celebrated over the 5 days – 1. Dhanteras (the day of fortune) – Dedicated to the worship and celebration of the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity – Lakshmi. This is considered to be a particularly auspicious day for buying new stuff! (metal and shiny is better :)) 2. Naraka Chaturdasi/Chhoti Diwali – Tied with the story of Lord Krishna slaying the demon Narakasura using his smarts, this is also celebrated as the day of knowledge! 3. Diwali – The main day! Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshipped big time. The idea is to thank for the monsoon harvest and pray for another bountiful produce for the winter crop and the new year! 4. Govardhan Pooja/Annakut – To reinforce the gratitude towards the Gods – by remembering them of their heroic feat (lifting a mountain to protect the devout!) 5. Bhai Dooj – The last day of the festivities is the Rakhsabandhanisque festival – of the sibling love. On this day, brothers visit their sisters and perform a ’tilak’ ceremony.
The living part of the festival
Besides the Godly association, there are several practical applications of Diwali. For instance – 1. The annual clean-up festival! Most days of the year, we are very busy with our regular routines and tend to overlook the cleaning chores. Diwali gives us an excuse to clean up the entire house, repaint things, and also do away with things not needed anymore. You can also donate things and bring a smile on the faces of the less privileged 2. Community bonding – It is customary for people to visit each other’s homes during this period. A thorough home cleaning ensures your home is always ready to receive your Atithis 3. Art exhibition – What with so many visitors, it’s a great time to showcase our arts – be it the Rangoli, Diyas decoration, Culinary (yummy daal ka halwa, gujiya, and more!), or even new clothes!
Being the city of 7 vaar, 9 tyohaar (9 festivals for the 7 days of the week), Varanasi has its unique way of celebrating even Diwali. 5 days are too less for this city crazy on festivities. As such, Banaras celebrates Diwali for the entire month of Kartik – with Akashdeeps (Skylanters) lighting up the Ghats for the whole month. And it culminates on the last day of the month – the full moon of Kartik Poornima with Dev Diwali – Diwali for the Gods when the entire 7 km stretch of the ghats is lit up with diyas even as Gods descend on the Earth to watch the lovely spectacle Beyond all of this fun and frolic, Diwali is also a time to reflect on life and make changes for the upcoming year. So gone – make your resolution. And let us know about it in the comments section below! Wish you a very happy Diwali