Diwali and Dhanteras – The Festivals of India
Diwali – The Festival of Lights
India is the land of Festivals. Diwali is one of the most famous and well-known festival of India. It is also called as ‘The Festival of Lights’. It is celebrated by people of various religions all around the world with great enthusiasm and happiness. In 1999, Pope John Paul II performed a special Eucharist in an Indian church where the altar was decorated with Diwali lamps, the Pope had a ‘tilak’ marked on his forehead and his speech was bristled with references to the festival of light. The festival of Diwali is celebrated for 5 days and ‘Dhanteras’, which is celebrated two days before Diwali, marks the first day of Diwali celebrations.
Dhanteras - The Festival of Wealth
As Dhanteras marks the beginning of the great Indian festival, it has its own importance for the people of India. The word ‘Dhanteras’ comes from the combination of two Sanskrit words, ‘Dhan’ which means wealth and ‘Teras’ which means thirteen. Dhanteras falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. It is also known as ‘Dhanwantari Triodasi’ or ‘Dhantryaodashi’.
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Why Dhanteras is celebrated
It is believed that on this day, God Dhanvantari (an incarnation of God Vishnu) came out during the churning of the great ocean by the Gods and the demons. Thus, on this auspicious day, people purchase utensils, and gold and silver jewellery with a belief that it will bring prosperity to their houses. It is also considered as a sign of good luck.
People also purchase diyas, crackers, lights, and the clay idols of Goddess Lakshmi (The Goddess of Wealth) and Lord Ganesha (The God of Auspicious Beginnings) to perform ‘Lakshmi pooja’, asking the Goddess for her blessings in the form of wealth and prosperity.
Dhanteras seems to be very important from the business point of view because people purchase utensils, jewellery, clothes, gifts, etc. on this occasion. Amongst the business community the jewelers specially celebrate this festival in a more enthusiastic manner in the gold market areas. Thus, Dhanteras is celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Why Diwali is Celebrated
For Hindus, Diwali marks the returning of Lord Rama to his kingdom, Ayodhya, after being in exile for 14 years. He also defeated the demon king, Ravana, the ruler of Lanka. Therefore, Diwali also signifies the victory of good over evil.
Diwali has different significance for different religions. For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of moksha by Lord Mahavira; and for Sikhs, Diwali marks the return of Guru Har Gobind Singh to Amritsar after freeing 52 Hindu Kings Imprisoned in Gwalior Fort. Thus, Diwali has different significance for people of different religions.
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How Diwali is celebrated
On the day of Diwali, people worship Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), and Lord Ganesha (the God of Auspicious Beginnings). People clean their houses and decorate them by making beautiful and traditional Rangolis on the entrance of the door to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Some people also make small footprints of Goddess Lakshmi with flour all around the house. People also brighten their homes with lamps and lights to welcome prosperity and well-being. Burning of crackers also marks the celebration of Diwali. People wear new clothes on this festival, and also exchange sweets and gifts with their loved-ones.
Nowadays, ‘Diwali Melas’ are also being organized by various societies few days prior to Diwali celebration. A Diwali Mela has various stalls for people to shop, eat, play and enjoy.