DIWALI: FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
The Diwali festival is likely a fusion of harvest festivals in ancient India. the religious significance of Diwali varies regionally within India. The festival is associated with a diversity of deities, traditions, and symbolism.
Diwali is a five-day festival, the height of which is celebrated on the third day coinciding with the darkest night of the lunar month. Diwali is also marked with fireworks and the decoration of floors with Rangoli designs. Food is a major focus with families partaking in feasts and sharing mithai.
This festival is an annual homecoming and bonding period not only for families but also for communities and associations, particularly those in urban areas, which will organize activities, events, and gatherings. Rituals and preparations for Diwali begin days or weeks in advance, typically after the festival of Dussehra. Each day has some rituals and significance.
Lakshmi puja or kali puja is the third-day Festival and coincides with the last days of the dark fortnight of the lunar month. This is the day when Hindu, Jain, and Sikh temples and homes glow with lights, thereby making a “festival of lights”.
The youngest members of the family visit their elders, such as grandparents and other senior members of the community, on this day. Unlike some other festivals, the Hindu typically do not fast during the five-days long Diwali including Lakshmi Puja, rather they feast and share the bounties of the season at temples and homes.
Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, prosperity, auspiciousness, and good fortune, and Lord Vishnu’s wife, visits her devotees and bestows gifts and blessings upon each of them. Women worship maa Lakshmi in the evening after cleaning their house and decorating the floor.
In India Lakshmi believed to roam the earth on the night of Lakshmi Pooja. On the evening of Lakshmi Pooja, people open their doors and windows to welcome Lakshmi and place Diya lights on their windowsills and balcony ledges to invite her in. people wear new clothes as the evening approaches. Then Diya’s are lit, pujas are offered to Lakshmi, and one or more additional deities depending on the region of India.
On this day, the mothers, who work hard all year, are recognized by the family. Mothers are seen to embody a part of Lakshmi, the good fortune and prosperity of the household. Small earthenware lamps filled with oil are lighted and placed in rows by some Hindus along the parapets of temples and houses. Some set diya’s adrift on rivers and
streams. Important relationships and friendships are also recognized during the day, by visiting relatives and friends, exchanging gifts and sweets.
Diwali makes the win of good over evil. It is believed that on Diwali, Lord Rama returned from a 14year long exile with his wife Sita and younger brother Laxman. The residents of his kingdom Ayodhya were so pleased with his return that they lit Diya's to brighten up the atmosphere. It is said that the night was a no moonlight and it was Ayodhya’s lighted earthen lamps and Diya's which illuminated the sky
It is popularly believed the Lakshmi likes cleanliness and will visit the cleanest house first. Hence, the broom is worshipped with offerings of Haldi(turmeric) and Sindoor on this day. The most auspicious time for puja is decided when Amavasya Tithi prevails during “pradosh kaal” or the evening time. On this day, the sun enters its second course and passes the constellation Libra, which is represented by the balance or scale.
After the puja, people go out and celebrate by lighting up fireworks. The fireworks signify the celebration of Diwali as well as a way to chase away evil spirits and the inauspicious, as well as add to the festive mood. On the night of Diwali, rituals across much of India are dedicated to Lakshmi to welcome her into their cleaned homes and bring prosperity and happiness for the coming year. While the cleaning or painting, of the home, is in part of goddess Lakshmi, it also signifies the ritual “Re-enactment of the
cleaning, purifying action of the monsoon rains” that would have concluded in most of the Indian subcontinent.
The Diwali night lights and firecrackers, in this interpretation, represent a celebratory and symbolic farewell to the departed ancestral souls.