Monday 24 October is the Observance of Diwali (or Deepavali) – an event that is celebrated by South Asian communities and religious groups. Diwali, which translates to ‘Festival of Lights’ is one of the major annual Indian festivals and is celebrated over a period of five days by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs across the globe. It is a highly anticipated celebration and is renowned for its beautiful and bright illuminations which bring the community together.
October 22 – Dhanteras or Dhan Trayodashi.
October 23 – Narak Chaturdashi or Kali Chaudas.
October 24 – Chhoti Diwali and Badi Diwali.
October 25 – Govardhan Puja.
October 26 – Bhai Dooj.
The Significance of Diwali by Swami Krishnananda Saraswati
The Dipavali festival is regarded as an occasion particularly associated with an ancient event of Lord Krishna overcoming the demoniacal force known as Narakasura, recorded in the epics and Puranas. After the great victory over Narakasura in a battle which appears to have lasted for long, long days, Lord Krishna with his consort Satyabhama returned to his abode in Dwaraka. The residents of Dvaraka were very anxious about the delay caused in Lord Krishna’s returning, and it is said that they were worshipping Goddess Lakshmi for the prosperity and welfare of everyone and the quick return of Lord Sri Krishna and Satyabhama.
After Krishna returned, the story goes that he took a bath after applying oil over his body, to cleanse himself subsequent to the very hectic work he had to do in the war that ensued earlier. This oil bath connected with Lord Krishna’s ritual is also one of the reasons for people necessarily remembering to take an oil bath on the day known as Naraka Chaturdasi, prior to the no-moon-day (Amavasya) when offerings are made to Goddess Lakshmi. Everyone in India remembers to take an oil bath on Naraka Chaturdasi in memory of, in honour of, Lord Sri Krishna’s doing that after the demise of Narakasura. Having taken the bath, they all joined together in great delight in the grand worship of Great Mother Lakshmi for the general prosperity of everyone. This is the traditional background, as is told to us, of the rites and the worships connected with Naraka Chaturdasi and Dipavali no-moon-day.
The Days of Deepavali:
Each day of Deepavali has its own tale to tell. The first day of the festival, Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama.
Amavasya, the second day of Deepavali, marks the worship of Lakshmi when she is in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who, in his dwarf incarnation, vanquished the tyrant Bali and banished him to hell. Bali is allowed to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps and dispel darkness and ignorance while spreading the radiance of love and wisdom.
It is on the third day of Deepavali, Kartika Shudda Padyami, that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. The fourth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
All of the simple rituals of Deepavali have a significance and a story behind them. Homes are illuminated with lights, and firecrackers fill the skies as an expression of respect to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, and prosperity.
According to one belief, the sound of firecrackers indicates the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the firecrackers kill or repel many insects, including mosquitoes, which are plentiful after the rains.
From darkness unto light—the light empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds and brings us closer to divinity. During Deepavali, lights illuminate every corner of India, and the scent of incense sticks hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of firecrackers, joy, togetherness, and hope.