1. India is a country which is synonymous with festivals. It is also called the land of festivals, This is because the great country has huge diversity in caste, creed, regions, religions, traditions, languages and cultures. The country has the most number of festivals celebrated not only in India but across the globe, be it Basant Panchmi, Baisakhi, Holi, Id, Buddh Purnima, Ram Naomi, Raksha Bandhan, Ganpati Visarjan, Baisakhi, Christmas and so on.
2. All Indian festivals are special but Diwali (also called Deepavali) is one of India’s grandest festivals and is celebrated between October and December, dates falling as per the Hindu calendar. Diwali is, in fact, most eagerly awaited festivals in India falling exactly twenty days after Dussehra. Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. Lord Rama, the King of Ayodhya, with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana came back to Ayodhya after killing the demon king Ravana (the King of Ceylon) in a war.
3. Few days before the start of Diwali, houses, streets, shops, markets and temples are thoroughly cleaned, painted and decorated. Then people start lighting up their homes and shops to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi and to give them good luck for the year ahead. On the day of Deepawali, people put on their best clothes and exchange greetings, gifts and sweets with their friends and family. One can see houses and buildings illuminated with earthen lamps, candle-sticks and electric bulbs. The markets are overcrowded with people jostling to buy sweets for their own families and also send them as presents to their friends and relatives. The Goddess Lakshmi is also worshipped in the form of earthen images, the silver rupee. Hindus believe that on this day, Lakshmi only enters houses which are neat and tidy and doors are kept open for the Goddess to enter. Lights are kept on all through the night believing that Goddess Lakshmi will not have difficulty in finding her way in.
4. Diwali also means rows of lamps. There were days when Diwali celebrations without bursting of crackers were unheard of. In fact, the bursting of crackers was synonymous with Diwali be it phooljhadi, charkha, rockets, anar. Nowadays bursting of crackers has been restricted in India due to the population it causes. But no worries as this is also a time for sharing and distributing gifts and sweets amongst family, friends and neighbours. For those with a sweet tooth, this is a season of absolute delight as you can enjoy barfis, pedas, sohan papri, various sweets, chocolates. Diwali is also a gifting season and you don’t go empty hand to your friends or relatives. Diwali is a festival of the masses and people of any caste or religion can join in the Diwali celebrations. Diwali, therefore, symbolizes the communal spirit and is the reason why it has become one of the most popular festivals in India and across the globe.
5. In some parts of India, it marks the beginning of a new year. Deepawali is also celebrated and is a public holiday in countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and even in some states of US with sizeable Hindu population. It is said that there are five days of Diwali in the following manner.
6. First Day of Diwali. The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras. It is said that on this day Lord Dhanvantari, came out of the ocean and imparted the wisdom of Ayurveda for the betterment of mankind and to rid it of the sufferings of diseases. On the night of the Dhanteras, lamps (diyas) are lighted everywhere and virtually kept burning all through the nights in honour of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.
7. Second Day of Diwali. The festival of Narak Chaturdashi falls on the second day of Diwali. It is said that Lord Krishna destroyed the demon king Narakasur. This festival is also known as Choti (small) Diwali in North India and ‘Kali Chaudas’ in Gujarat, Rajasthan and a few parts of Maharashtra. It is also a big business for shopkeepers as it considered extremely auspicious to make new purchases, especially gold or silver articles and new utensils and therefore people throng to the shops. Dhanteras has come to be known as the most auspicious occasion for making purchases of gold, silver, kitchenware, appliances and even automobiles. This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations.
8. Third-Day of Diwali. This is the actual day of Diwali and is celebrated when the moon completely wanes and total darkness sets in the night sky. First of all, the worship unto Mother Lakshmi is performed. All family members join together and worship the divine Goddess Lakshmi to seek her blessings for wealth and prosperity.
9. Fourth Day of Diwali. On the fourth day of Diwali, falls the Goverdhan Pooja festival. This day commemorates the the incident when Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill to provide the villagers of Vrindavan shelter from torrential rains. It represents how Lord Krishna provided shelter to people and he will protect all devotees who take refuge in him.
10. The Fifth Day. On the fifth day of Diwali falls the festival Bhai Dooj which is a day dedicated to sisters. If Raksha Bandhan is a brothers day then Bhai Dhooj is a sisters’ day and brothers give gifts to their sisters. It is said that on this day, Lord Krishna, after killing the evil demon Narakasura, visited his sister Subhadra who gave him a warm welcome and affectionately applied tilaka on Krishna’s forehead.
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