Diwali is, in true sense, the festival of unity in diversity. It brings people together in spite of religious, cultural, social or geographical barriers. India has a rich cultural and mythological heritage which is evident from the different legends and traditions associated with the origin of Diwali. This jovial and auspicious occasion is celebrated not only across India, but also in various parts of the world. The most common ritual practiced throughout the Diwali devotees is the lighting of small lamps or diyas and placing them in homes, courtyards, verandahs, gardens, and on rooftops and outer walls. Nevertheless, as we move across various regions of India, we find that different cultures have adopted different legends behind the celebration of Diwali. In the following lines, various legends associated with Diwali have been outlined.
Different Stories And Legends Of Deepavali
The Legend of Lord Rama
In northern India, Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, is considered as the sole legend behind Diwali celebration. Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with his wife, Sita, and brother, Lakshman, after fourteen years of exile. During the period of exile, Lord Rama’s wife Sita was kidnapped by the evil king of Lanka, Ravan. In the consequent events, Lord Rama rescued Sita and killed Ravan. It is believed that all the people of Ayodhya decorated their homes and paths with diyas and lamps to welcome their return. The victory of Lord Rama is symbolic of the victory of good over evil.
The Annihilation of Narakasura
Another legend related with the origin of Diwali is the death of Narakasura at the hands of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s wife. Narakasura was a demon who ruled the kingdom of Pragjyotispur. Narakasura, after a lot of penance and devoted worshipping of Lord Brahma, was able to please the Lord. At this, Lord Brahma granted him the boon of being killed only by his mother. This invincibility made him defiant of everyone as he took over the Earth and Heaven and created chaos everywhere. Narakasura, to prove his power, stole some earrings belonging to Aditi, mother of all Gods and even abducted 16,100 women and imprisoned them at his palace. The gods were unable to confront him because of the boon given by Lord Brahma. Ultimately, Narakasura was killed by Satyabhama, the re-incarnation of his mother Bhudevi. While another interpretation of the legend suggests that Narakasura was killed by the Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Krishna. Narakasura’s mother announced that the death of her son should be a day to rejoice the victory of good over evil rather than being a day of sorrow and mourning.
The Incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi
Another legend suggests that Goddess Lakshmi was incarnated during Diwali on the day of Amavashya. The Asuras and Devas worked together to obtain the Amrit from Samudra Manthan. Consequently, Goddess Lakshmi emerged with the Amrit; hence, Lakshmi Puja is held during Diwali. Goddess Lakshmi symbolizes wealth, fortune and prosperity and people worship her to bring prosperity into their lives.
The Return of The Pandavas
The legend of the Pandavas and Diwali can be found in the Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. The Pandavas were forced to go on an exile of 13 years after being defeated by the Kauravas in a game of dice. After the period of exile, they returned to Hastinapur on Kartik Amavasya. The people of Hastinapur illuminated the city with diyas and lamps to welcome the Pandavas. This legend has been kept alive over the ages with the celebration of Diwali on Kartik Amavasya.
King Bali and the Vamana Avatar
The legend of the Vamana Avatar of Lord Vishnu and King Bali is most popular in South India. King Bali was a generous ruler yet very ambitious. Gods, who were concerned with his popularity pleaded Lord Vishnu to put a check on King Bali’s rise. So Lord Vishnu came down to earth in the form of a Vamana Priest, i.e., a dwarf. He asked King Bali, if King Bali would give him the space that he could cover in three strides. The unsuspecting King Bali agreed to the wish of the Vamana Priest. At this, the dwarf started to grow bigger and bigger, and he covered the earth with one stride and the sky with another. He asked for the place to put his third stride as promised by King Bali. At this, King Bali generously offered his head to put the third stride and was sent to the underworld by Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu, impressed by the humility of King Bali, gave him a boon, that he would be remembered for his generosity and the promise that he kept. Hence, King Bali was allowed to visit earth once a year to light up the world and disperse all darkness and ignorance.
Crowning of King Vikramaditya
Diwali also has its connection with the story of the crowning of King Vikramaditya. King Vikramaditya, one of the greatest Hindu kings, was ascended the throne on the day of Diwali.