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The Mystical Magic Of Diwali
diwali, the festival of lights is a wonderful time to celebrate, enjoy and spread happiness around. The festival extends over five days, each having its own relevance and splendor.
The Indian heritage, which is our inheritance, is a delightful mosaic of myths and legends, kept alive through festivals that commemorate them. Every festival brings alive those stories, that are etched in our imagination through the vivid recanting of our Grandparents, aunts and uncles, which further imbue them with the credibility that only affection inspires.

Every Indian festival is resplendent with the memory of the joy that is a celebration. Yet this celebration through all generations has never lost the solemnity of the myth behind it, or the magic of it coming alive year after year.

The most scintillating event in the Hindu calendar of festivals is Diwali. A festival of Light or Deepavali where the black depths of the darkest day of the year is pierced by garlands of light is truly a spectacular.

Jubilation heralds the advent of Kartik, the holiest month and is celebrated in every corner of India. The Deepavali festival dates back to the Satya Yuga and innumerable legends account for its celebration.

Deepavali is very enthusiastically celebrated for five continuous days and each day has its own significance, with a number of myths, legends and beliefs.

The first day is called DHANTERAS or DHANTRAYODASHI, which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The word "Dhan" means wealth. This five-day Diwali festival is of particular importance for the rich mercantile community of Western India. Lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli bedeck every doorstep to beckon in Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights. Believing his day to be auspicious, women purchase some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas of clay are lit to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. "Bhajans" -devotional songs-in praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung and "Naivedya" of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. In villages cattles are adorned and worshipped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. In south cows are offered special veneration as they are supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are adorned and worshipped on this day. A very interesting story about this day is of the sixteen-year-old son of King Hima. As per his horoscope he was doomed to die by a snakebite on the fourth day of his marriage. On that particular fourth day of his marriage his young wife did not allow him to sleep She laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husbands boudoir and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. And she went on telling stories and singing songs. When Yam, the God of Death arrived there in the guise of a serpent that dazzle of those brilliant lights blinded his eyes and he could not enter the Princes chamber. So he climbed on top of the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat there the whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he quietly went away. Thus the young wife saved her husband from the clutches of death. Since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of "YAMADEEPDAAN" and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yam, the God of Death.

The second day is called NARAKA-CHATURDASHI or CHOTI DIWALI, which falls on the fourteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The story goes that the demon king Narakasur ruler of Pragjyotishpur (a province to the South of Nepal) after defeating Lord Indra had snatched away the magnificent earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and saints in his harem. On the day previous to Narakachaturdashi, Lord Krishna killed the demon and liberated the imprisoned damsels and also recovered those precious earrings of Aditi. As a symbol of that victory Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the demon kings blood. Krishna returned home in the very early morning of the Narakachaturdashi day. The womenfolk massaged scented oil to his body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth from his body. Since then the custom of taking a bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice especially in Maharashtra. In South India that victory of the divine over the evil is celebrated in a very peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise, prepare blood by mixing Kumkum in oil and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste. Another legend is about King Bali of the nether world, whose mighty power had become a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of the Waman avatar curbed his powers and sent him to the nether world. At the same time for his generosity Lord Vishnu gave him the lamp of knowledge and allowed him 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. This Narakachaturdashi day therefore is dedicated to lights and prayers heralding a future full of joy and laughter.

The third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of LAKSHMI-PUJAN, devoted entirely to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. This day is also known by the name of "CHOPADA-PUJA". On this very day the sun enters his second course and passes Libra, represented by the balance or scale.

This design of Libra is believed to have suggested the balancing of account books and their closing. Despite the fact that this day falls on an amavasya day it is regarded as the most auspicious. All of a sudden innumerable rays of pierce the impenetrable darkness light for just a moment and the next moment a blaze of light descends down to earth from heaven as golden-footed Deep-Lakshmi alights on earth in all her celestial glory amidst chantings of Vedic hymns. A living luminescence of Universal Motherhood envelops the entire world. A sublime light of knowledge dawns upon humanity and devotion finally conquers ignorance. This self enlightenment is expressed through the twinkling lamps that illuminate the palaces of the wealthy as well as the lowly abodes of the poor. It Is believed that on this day Lakshmi walks through the green fields and loiters through the bye-lanes and showers her blessings on man for plenty and prosperity. When the sun sets in the evening and ceremonial worship is finished all the home-made sweets are offered to the goddess as "NAIVEDYA" and distributed as "PRASAD". Feasts are arranged and gifts are exchanged on this day gaily dressed men, women and children go to temples and fairs, visit friends and relatives. Everything is gay and unethereal, a recreation of heaven on earth! One of the most curious customs, which characterises this festival of Diwali, is the indulgence of gambling, especially on a large scale in North India. It is believed that goddess Parvati played dice with her husband. Lord Shiv on this day and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the coming year. This tradition of playing cards-flush and rummy with stakes on this particular day continues even today. The FOURTH day is PADWA or VARSHAPRATIPADA marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day. Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. The Vishnu-Puran narrates how the people of Gokul celebrated the festival in honour of Lord Indra and worshipped him after the end of every monsoon season. One particular year the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. But Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella. Till today Govardhan, a small hillock in Braj, near Mathura is decorated with flowers and worshipped. This day is also observed as Annakoot meaning mountain of food. In temples specially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given a bath in milk, dressed in shining attires and ornaments and worshipped. The delicious sweets are ceremoniously offered in the form of a mountain before the deities as "Bhog" and then the devotees approach the Mountain of Food and take Prasad.

The fifth and final day of Diwali Festival is known by the name of "BHAYYA-DUJ" in the Hindi-speaking belt "BHAV-BIJ" In the Marathi speaking communities and In Nepal by the name of "BHAI-TIKA". As the legend goes Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yami on this particular day. She put an auspicious tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and feted him. Yamraj announced on this day that anyone who receives tilak from his sister will never be over thrown.
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5/11/2005
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