Deepavali - The Radiant Festival of Light.
The festival of Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is one of the most anticipated and celebrated festivals across India and among Indian communities worldwide. Globally, it has now become a festival that unites people from diverse backgrounds and cultures in a grand celebration of light, positivity, and the victory of good over evil.
Naraka Chaturdashi: The Prelude to Diwali
Naraka Chaturdashi, which falls on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwini, is the day before the main Diwali celebrations. In parts of Northern India, It is also known as Choti Diwali, Roop Chaturdashi and Kali Chaudas. This day holds great significance because it celebrates the defeat of the demon king Narakasura by Lord Krishna.
The legend of Narakasura's defeat and the rescue of 16,000 imprisoned princesses symbolises the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and the restoration of righteousness. This legend captures the essence of Diwali which is the celebration of victory of dharma (righteousness) over adharma.
Dhanteras: The day before Naraka Chaturdashi
Naraka Chaturdasi is celebrated the evening after Dhanteras, which is the thirteenth day of the waning phase of the moon. Legend has it that this was the day Lakshmi Devi appeared during the churning of the ocean. Another legend says that Dhanvantri, the God of all medicine and Ayurveda appeared. Therefore, on the evening of Dhanteras, people usually have elaborate pujas to Lakshmi Devi, Lord Kubera as well as Dhanvantri and pray for a healthy and wealthy life. In preparation for these celestial bodies and divine energies to visit, all homes are cleaned and rows of lamps lit in the welcome. Dhanteras is the start of Diwali Celebrations.
On the evening of Naraka Chaturdashi, oil lamps are lit outside every home to symbolise the defeat of darkness and fireworks are lit to celebrate the victory over adhama. Just as Naraka Chaturdashi celebrates the killing of Narakasura, Diwali marks the day that Sri Ram returned to Ayodhya with his consort Seeta after vanquishing the demon king Ravana.
To celebrate this, on the morning of Deepavali or Diwali, homes are decorated with beautiful and colourful rangoli patterns. Everyone is up before sunrise and have an oil bath that symbolises the cleansing of all impurities. Almost everyone celebrates by wearing new clothes bought for the festival and a wide variety of sweets and savouries prepared for this day are enjoyed throughout the community. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi visits homes that are clean, well-lit, and adorned with rangoli. It is to welcome her, that people light lamps at their entrances and windows.
Diwali is a time when homes are thoroughly cleaned, decorated, and illuminated with earthen lamps, known as diyas and these days colourful electric lights. The idea is not only to create a festive and inviting atmosphere but also the dispelling of ignorance and the welcoming of knowledge, positivity, and good fortune.
The Global Significance of Diwali
While Diwali is definitely an Indian festival, it has transcended geographical boundaries and is celebrated by Indian communities worldwide. Diwali is also a public holiday in many other counties such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji, and their celebrations are marked by cultural performances, art exhibitions, and illuminations.
In essence, Naraka Chaturdashi and Diwali are a reminder of the eternal battle between light and darkness, knowledge and ignorance, good and evil. They are a call to embrace the light within ourselves, to dispel the darkness of negativity, and to stand up for righteousness. As we celebrate these festivals, let us remember their deeper significance and the values they represent.
May the radiance of Diwali brighten your life and fill your heart with love, compassion, and the eternal light of knowledge. Happy Diwali!