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Light, smiles, Diwali: Festival for all to glitter

Light, smiles, Diwali: Festival for all to glitter
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Diwali is said to be the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It’s the festival of lights (deep meaning light and avali a row and the two together means a row of lights). The festival is spread over four days of celebration, which literally illumines the country with its brilliance, and dazzles all with its joy. Each of the four days falling within the Diwali week is unique and they all together contribute to the celebration of life, its enjoyment and goodness.

 Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali or ‘Deepawali.’ Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In the states of West Bengal and Bihar, the festival is dedicated to the worship of mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength.

Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day. In Jainism, Diwali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana. Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman to Ayodhya from his 14-year-long exile after vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers.

Each day of Diwali has its own tale, legend and myth to tell. The first day of the festival Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the second day of Dipawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his Vamanavtar (dwarf incarnation) vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom.

It is on the third day of Diwali — Kartika Shudda Padyami that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth, according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. The fourth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj) and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. All the simple rituals of Diwali have an importance and a story to tell. The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of obeisance to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity.

According to one belief, the sound of fire-crackers is an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the crackers kill a lot of insects and mosquitoes, found in plenty after the rains.

The tradition of gambling on Diwali also has a legend associated with it. It is believed that on this day, goddess Parvati played dice with her husband lord Shiva, and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuing year. Diwali is associated with wealth and prosperity in many ways, and the festival of ‘Dhanteras’ is celebrated two days before the festival of lights.
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