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Deepavali - Diwali the festival of lights
Diwali or Deepavali or the Festival of lights is an important festival in the Hindu calendar as the celebrations last for almost a week. Even the poorest of poor light oil lamps in a row of earthenware lamps outside their dwellings to usher in peace and prosperity into their homes and surroundings. Firecrackers are lit with a loud bang as they symbolize celebration and epoch the beginning of peace and prosperity.
Diwali is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals in India. According to Indian mythology, in the northern parts of India, Diwali commemorates the victorious return of, Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his loyal brother Laxman to Ayodhya after fourteen long years in exile. Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya defeating the demon king Ravana who abducted Sita. The Diwali festival marks the end of one harvest and the beginning of another and is a festival heralding the beginning of a New Year.
Diwali is celebrated in the last few days of the Ashvin month and first few days of Karthik according to the Hindu calendar. Each day of Diwali has a special significance. The first day of Deepavali is Dhanatrayodashi. This is the thirteeth day of the dark phase of the lunar month. Dhanwantari the physician of the Gods and the founder of Ayurveda was born on this day.
On Dhanatrayodashi, a lamp is lit in honor of Yama. Yama was requested by his messengers not to take away the life of the sixteen year old prince of King Hem on the day of his marriage. Yama complied and announced that anyone lighting a lamp on this day will not succumb to such a tragic fate.
The second day of Diwali is Narka Chaturdeshi. The demon king Narkasur had imprisoned 16,000 princesses in his palace. Lord Krishna killed Narkasur on this day and freed the princesses. Krishna granted the demon his last wish, according to which anyone who took a bath before sunrise on this day was never sent to hell.
The third day of Diwali is Ashwin amavasya or Laxmi Poojan. Oil lamps are lit to welcome Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth in every home.
The fourth day of Diwali is Balipratipada. It is the New Year day for the business community. Businessmen worship their account books on this day to usher in prosperity. According to legend, King Bali had accumulated a lot of virtue that the gods feared that he would conquer heaven. They approached Lord Vishnu to prevent a mortal from conquering heaven. When the King was performing a religious sacrifice, Lord Vishnu in a garb of a young brahmin boy approached King Bali and asked for alms. He wished to acquire only three spaces of land just enough to cover three steps with his feet. King Bali obliged. In his first step, Lord Vishnu acquired Earth, in his second step he occupied heaven, with no space left to put his foot in the third step, King Bali asked the Lord to rest his foot on his head. Lord Vishnu stepped on the king's head and sent him to the netherland.
The last day of Diwali is Bhau Beej where a sister invites her brother for sumptuous feast. The brother reciprocates with gifts. According to mythology, Lord Krishna visited his sister Subhadra after slaying the demon King Narkasura. The sister performs an 'aarti' of the brother praying sincerely for a long and prosperous life.
Chronologically, since all the days of triumph of good over evil as well as the end of the first harvest coincides with this time period, Diwali was celebrated as a festival where the veil of ignorance is uplifted by the lights of righteous and just actions.