Diwali is a festival of joy, splendor, brightness and happiness and celebrated by Indians all over the world. It is held unique since it is the harmony of five different philosophies and each day in the five day festival is dedicated to a special thought or ideal. People celebrate each of the five days of the festival with true understanding, which eventually uplifts and enriches their lives. The first day is celebrated as Dhanteras, followed by Chhoti Diwali, Diwali or Lakshmi Puja. On the fourth day, Govardhan Puja is performed, while Bhai Duja is celebrated on the fifth day. The Dhanteras marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations when Hindus bathe at sunset and offer a lighted lamp to Goddess Lakshmi as she is associated with bestowing prosperity and well-being.
Prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi, who, in turn, blesses the devotees with wealth and prosperity. On the second day, Chhoti Diwali is celebrated when one must massage the body with oil to relieve it of tiredness. Narak Chaturdashi is the celebration of Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon, King Narakasura. Then, he should bathe and rest so that Diwali can be celebrated with vigor and devotion. The third day or Diwali is celebrated by worshipping Goddess Lakshmi to achieve blessings of wealth and prosperity and pray for the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. On the fourth day, Govardhan Puja is performed, while on the fifth day “Bhai Dooj” is celebrated when all brothers visit their sisters to enquire of their well-being.
The festival of lights, Diwali ends with the celebration of Bhai Dooj, an occasion marking the precious and special relationship of a brother and his sister. On the festive occasion of Bhai Dooj, sisters meet brothers, and vice verse, and exchange gifts and sweets to express their eternal bond. Bhai Dooj is also known as Bhai Bij, Bhaubeej Bhav Bij and Bhai-phota in different parts of India.
The second day of Diwali is called Narak Chaturdashi, which is popularly known as Choti Diwali. Narak Chaturdashi is the celebration of Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon, King Narakasura. People light up their homes with diyas and play with firecrackers. It falls on the day before Amavasya and Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped to mark this auspicious occasion.
Dhanteras, also known as Dhantrayodashi or Dhanwantari Triyodashi, is the first day of Diwali celebrations. ‘Dhan’ means ‘wealth’ and ‘Trayodashi’ means ‘13th day’. Thus, the name Dhanteras implies that this occasion falls on the 13th day of Krishna Paksha in the Kartik month of the Hindu lunar calendar. On Dhanteras, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped as she is associated with bestowing prosperity and well-being.
Govardhan Puja, also known as Annakut, marks the fourth day of the Diwali festivities. It is most prominently celebrated in northern parts of India, especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Conversely, in the western regions, this day is commemorated as Gudi Padwa. The festival remembers the incident of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan Mountain in order to protect the people and animals of Vrindavan from torrential rains sent by Lord Indra.
The Lakshmi Puja performed during Diwali is the most auspicious ritual. Lakshmi is the goddess of prosperity and wealth, and is worshipped by the people for the well being of the family. The day of Lakshmi Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya. People light up diyas outside their homes in the hope that Goddess Lakshmi will come and bless them.