Diwali is a major Hindu festival although Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists also celebrate it. Known as the “festival of lights,” is symbolises the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for mankind. The celebration focus on lights and lamps, particularly traditional diyas. Fireworks are associated with the festival in some — of the country.
Diwali is celebrated for five consecutive days in the Hindu month Ashwayuja. It usually occurs in October/November, and is one of most popular and eagerly awaited festivals of India . Hindus, Jains Sikhs alike regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to —– family and social relationships. For Jains, it is one of the most important festivals and beginning of the Jain Year. It is also a significant festival for the Sikh faith.
As per the sacred texts, according to Skanda Purana, the goddess Shakti observed 21 days of austerity, starting from ashtami of Shukla paksha (the waxing period of moon) to get half part of the body of Lord Shiva. This vrata is known as kedhara vrata. Deepavali is the day of completion of this austerity. This is the day on which Lord Shiva accepted Shakti into the left half of the from and appeared as Ardhanarishvara. Ardent devotees observe this 21-day vrata by making a Kalasha with 21 threads on it and 21 types of offerings for 35 days. The final day is celebrated as kedhara gauri vrata.
Diwali also celebrates the return of Lord Rama, the king of Ayodhya, with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya from a war in which he killed the demon king Ravana. It is believed that the people lit oil lamps along the way to light their path in the darkness. According to the Vikrami Samvat, the day following Diwali marks the beginning of the North Indian New Year, and is called Annakut. Diwali also commemorates the killing of Narakasura – an evil demon who created havoc by Lord Krishna’s wife Sathyabhama. This happened in the dwapara yuga during the time of Lord Krishna’s avatarar. In another version, Lord Krishna himself killed the demon. In south India , Deepavali does not coincide with the beginning of a new year, as South Indians follow a different calendar the Shalivahana calendar.
THE FIVE-DAY FESTIVAL: Diwali is celebrated over five days in most of North India . All days, expect Diwali, are named using the designation in the Indian calendar. Lunar half-month lasts 15 days. Diwali as a new-moon day marks the last day of the 15 days. Diwali as a new moon day marks the last day of the 15-day period.
1. Dhan-trayodashi or Dhan teras: Dhan means wealth and trayodashi means 13 th day. Thus, as the name implies, this day falls one the 13 th day of the first half of the lunar month. It is an auspicious day for buying gold and silver jewellery as well as household utensils.
2. Naraka Chaturdasi: Narak means a new era of light and knowledge.’ Chaturdasi implies the fourteenth day.
3. Diwali: They actual day of Diwali is celebrated on the third day of the festival, when the moon completely wanes and total darkness sets in the night sky.
4. Varsha-pratipada or Padwa: It is the beginning of the New Year according to Kartikadi Vikram.
5. Bhai Duj (Also Bhayyaduj, Bhaubeej or Bhai Tika): On this day, sisters apply Tilak on the foreheads of their brothers to express their love and affection Brothers also give gifts to their sisters.
DIWALI IN SIKHISM: Every year, thousands of Sikhs and Hindus celebrate Diwali at the Golden Temple in Amritsar , India . Sikhs also celebrate Diwali to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone for Golden Temple in 1577. It is also known as Bandi Chhorh Divas. The Mughal emperor Jahangir arrested Sikh Guru Hargobind Singh and imprisoned him In Gwalior. Later, Hehangir relented and released the guru. The guru asked that 52 rulers imprisoned with him should also be released. To the joy of the Sikhs the guru returned to Amritsar on Diwali and it prompted the followers to celebrate the day with joy and happiness.
On Diwali, Sikhs illuminate their Gurdwaras and homes with Deewe (earthen oil lamps) or candles. Early in the morning, Sikh pilgrims take a dip in the sacred tank while reciting Japji Sahib, and then pray at the Golden Temple . Circumambulation of the tank is also done.
DIWALI IN JAINISM Lord Mahavira, the last of the jain Tirthankaras, attained nirvana on this day at Pavapuri. According to Jain tradition, the Chief disciple of Mahavira, Ganadhar Gautam Swami, also attained complete knowledge on this very day.
Diwali is first mentioned in Jain books as the date of the nirvana of Lord Mahavira. The oldest use of the word “Diwali/Dipavali” occurs in Harivamsha Purana written by Acharya Jinasena, composed in Shaka Samvat 705.
The way Jains celebrate Diwali is different in many respects. There is a note of asceticism in whatever the Jains do, and the celebration of Diwali is no an exception. The Jains celebrate Diwali during the month of Kartik for three days. During this period, among the shvetambasras, devoted Jains observe fasting and chant the Uttaradhyayan Sutra, which contain the final pravachans of Lord Mahavira, and meditate upon him.
Vira Nirvana Samvat: The Jain year stars with pratipada following Diwali. Vira Nirvana samvat 2533 will start with Diwali in the 2006. Jain businessmen traditionally start their accounting year from Diwali.
In Malaysia , Diwali is known as Hari Deepavali, and is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday. In many respects, it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent.
In Nepal , Diwali is known as Tihar and celebrated during the October/November period. Here, though the festival is celebrated for five days, the traditions vary from those followed in India . On the first day, cows are given offerings, in appreciation of the food they have given and all living animals are revered and offered special food. On the third day, celebrations follow the same pattern as in India , with lights and lamps and much social activity. On the fourth day, Yama the lord of death is worshipped and appeased. On the fifth and final day, brothers and sisters meet and exchange pleasantries.
Diwali is celebrated in the Caribbean Islands as well Especially in Trinidad and Tobago ; Diwali is marked as a special occasion and celebrated with much fanfare. It is observed as a national holiday in this part of the world.