Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated all across India and around the world with lots of zeal and enthusiasm. Generally, marked by sparkling fireworks and noisy crackers, Diwali is a gala time to rejoice with family, friends and loved ones. This auspicious festival has been celebrated since a long time ago and has its base in various episodes of Hindu mythology. Diwali celebrations combine five different festivities observed over a period of five days. There are many stories related to the history and origin of Diwali, and each festive day signifies a different approach. In the following lines, let us look at the history associated with each day of Diwali.
History and Origin of Diwali
The first day of Diwali celebrations is called Dhan Trayodashi or Dhanteras. This day is of great significance to the business communities and traders as it marks the beginning of preparations for the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi. There is another interesting legend to Dhanteras, about the sixteen year old son of King Hima. His horoscope predicted that he would die on the fourth day of his marriage by being bitten by a venomous serpent. Due to the fear of losing her husband, the wife did not let her husband sleep on the fourth night. She stacked golden and silver ornaments and coins at the entrance door, lighted countless lamps and candles and sang to her husband all through the night. When the god of Death, Yama arrived in the form of a serpent he was blinded at the sight of all the light and dazzle. He climbed up the stack of ornaments and listened to the wife’s songs and left in the morning. Thus, the husband was saved and since then, Dhantrayodashi also came to be known as ‘Yama Deepa Daana’, which means ‘lighting the lights to pacify the Lord Yama’.
Narak Chaturdashi History
The celebrations on the second day start with Narak Chaturdashi or what we commonly know as Choti Diwali. Narak Chaturdashi signifies the annihilation of the evil Narakasura by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. The Bhagavata Puranan has it that, Narakasura, the king of Kamrupa obtained a lot of power from Lord Brahma and created chaos everywhere by taking over both heaven and earth. Narakasura couldn’t be killed easily as he had the advantage of being killed only by his mother Bhudevi. Hence, Lord Krishna’s wife Satyabhama reincarnated herself as Bhudevi. In the battle with Narakasura, Satyabhama became the charioteer of Lord Krishna and ultimately, she successfully killed Narakasura. The essence of Narak Chaturdashi is that the greater good of the society should always be placed above our personal attachments and obligations.
The third day of Deepavali or Diwali is considered the most auspicious day as it marks the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi on Earth. Lakshmi Puja which falls on the dark night of Amavashya is performed to eradicate the darkness and ignorance of mankind. People worship to attain a sense of self-enlightenment just like the glowing diyas which lighten up the dark night. On this day, there is an interesting custom of gambling, which is believed to bring prosperity in the year ahead. The most famous legend associated with the celebration of Diwali is the story of Lord Rama. The Hindu followers believe that Diwali is celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Rama over the demon Ravana and his return from 14 years of exile.
Govardhan Puja and Varsha Pratipada
The fourth day of Diwali celebrations is associated with Govardhan Puja and Varsha Pratipada. Govardhan Puja borrows its history from the incident where Lord Krishna protected the cattle from heavy rainfall by lifting the Govardhan Mountain. Varsha Pratipada, also known as Padwa, falls on the first day of the Kartik month and heralds the beginning of a new year. On this day, businessmen start their new accounts hoping for prosperity in the upcoming New Year. It also marks the honoring of the crowning of King Vikramaditya.
Bhai Dooj History
The fifth and final day of Diwali celebrations falls on the second day of the Kartik month marking another Diwali ritual known as Bhai Dooj. According to legends, on this day, the God of Death, Yama visited his sister Yami and both had a great time together. This day signifies the love and intimacy between brothers and sisters. Also known as ‘Yam Dwitiya’, Bhai Dooj has become a tradition of brothers visiting their sisters and offering them gifts.
Diwali for Different Communities
In West Bengal, Kali Puja celebrations coincide with Diwali. Kali Puja is performed on the moonless night of Kartik Amavasya to seek blessings from Goddess Kali to be protected from evil. The Sikh community celebrates Diwali, to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone of the Golden Temple. For the Jain community, it is on this day of Diwali that Lord Mahavira attained Moksha or Nirvana.