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Deepavali – The festival of Lights
Deepavali or Diwali is a colorful festival celebrated by people of Hindu religion in India. ‘Deepavali’ means a ‘row or garland of lights’ and the festival is termed as the festival of lights. The festival falls on later October or early November. Diwali celebrations of Hindus are spread over five days in India. Deepavali is celebrated on the new moon day of the month Karthika. Deepavali symbolically represents the victory of good over evil. Deepavali is associated with the victory of Lord Krishna (one of the chief male deities) over the evil Demon King, Narakasura. Hindus, on the day of Deepavali light oil lamps in the houses as a symbol of gratitude towards the Gods for the peace, happiness and prosperity they received. The interesting legend behind this ‘festival of lights’ is Narakasura, the king of demons who tortured the common people. Narakasura who ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapura presented nothing but hardship to the people. This unruly Narakasura used to bound women and children in his palace. The subject of his kingdom found his tortures unbearable and appealed to Lord Krishna who declared war and destroyed the demon king Narakasura. As he was dying Narakasura begged the mercy of Lord Krishna and revealed the wish to celebrate his death as an ultimate triumph of victory over evil. His wished his people to be merry and happy at the anniversary of his death. Deepavali thus commemorates the defeat of Narakasura who represented evil. Lighting lamps symbolizes worshipping Krishna on deepavali day.
Diwali, the festival of Hindus
Deepavali is a wonderful occasion of joy and celebration for the entire Hindu world. Deepavali is celebrated in great pomp and show and the very preparation starts two or three weeks prior to the day of the festival. Hindus clean their houses and may even renovate it to prepare for Deepavali. Everybody will be getting new clothes which they wear on the day of deepavali. Houses are decorated and guests are invited to dine together. The days of deepavali is also a time of shopping carnival as the shops would be swarming with greeting cards, gift items, flowers and idols. To add to the celebration of deepavali, melas (big markets with local products) are arranged in all towns and villages. Melas are so famous that thousand of villages come for purchasing goods. Farmers buy and sell handicraft items and pottery items in the mela.
On the day of deepavali the Hindus wake up early morning and take an oil bath, which is mandatory on the day. The will be dressed in their new attire; ladies mostly in colorful pattu (silk) saris. In the morning younger ones pay respect to elder ones by bowing down and touching their feet. After having breakfast the Hindus go to temples and pray for prosperity and happiness on Deepavali. Firecrackers makes a great light feast in deepavali festival. Crackers resound and brighten the earth and the sky. Varieties of crackers are burned during the nights on deepavali days. Children and youngsters get large amount of fireworks and play with them. The fireworks are considered as the effigies of Narakasura the demon king who was killed on that day. Earthern oil-lamps (deyas - small clay pots filled with coconut oil, with a wick inserted in it) illuminate all houses during deepavali nights.
Diwali rituals and celebration
Children and youngsters rejoice in their dazzling hues and colors. ‘Deepotsavas’ or light Illumination is done in temples, riverbanks and all sacred places of Hindu worship. Devotees gather there and celebrate the victory of goodness. This great illumination in temples and banks of rivers symbolizes the spread of spiritual radiance from these holy places. The glowing view of thousands of people dressed in colorful clothes, especially ladies in their colorful saris decorated with the best of ornaments, is a great feature of deepavali celebrations. The finest illuminations of deepavali are found in the city of Amritsar and Bombay. The celebrated Golden Temple at Amritsar is illuminated with thousand of small lamps that make it a big attraction during the deepavali days. A typical caste groups called Vaishnavites celebrate deepavali by performing the Govardhan Pooja (worship of cows) and feeding the poor on a large scale.
During deepavali days, the Hindus offer prayers and gratitude to the bygone ancestors and seek their blessings. Apart from this, deepavali is the special occasion of worship of ‘Maha Lakshmi’ the goddess (female deity) of wealth and prosperity. Receiving the guests and visiting the houses of the relatives is yet another activity during the festive days of Deepavali. People greet others asking "Have you had your Ganges bath?" (refers to the bath in the holy riverGanges). Deepavali is also the festival of freedom, love and friendliness. People forgive the wrong done to them and reestablish relationships and friendships. Deepavali arouses the feelings of unity and charity. Employers get gifts and new dress for their employees and people buy dress for their relatives and children also. Deepavali also marks the end of the harvest season in various parts of India. Farmers thus worship their Gods and offer thanks for the heavy harvest during the days of deepavali. They also offer various poojas (rituals) for a plentiful season.
The Hindus prepare varieties of food items during the days of deepavali. Delicious sweets and various other items would be prepared. Laddu, Halwa, burfi and kesari are some of the popular sweets prepared and served on account of deevali. Sweet shops would be busy during these days people buy large amounts of sweets for their relatives and friends. Morning breakfast will be of ‘dosas’, ‘idli’, ‘pongal’ etc. In South India Deepavali lunch include varieties of dishes and different types of rice items including ‘lemon rice’, ‘cocunut rice’ and ‘tomato rice’. Sweets and other items are shared among neighbors and relatives.
Deepavali is otherwise termed as the "festival of lights", the most notable spiritual interpretation is "the awareness of the inner light". Deepavali creates a heavenly atmosphere as during these days villagers forget all their enmities and celebrate together the ‘festival of goodness’. People embrace one another and present them the gifts of love. Deepavali is a festival of unity and love. These greetings of love echo in the air during the days of deepavali. This reverberation of peace and goodness continues even after the days of deepavali.