India is known throughout the world as the 'land of festivals', where people live to their fullest and enjoy small as well as grand occasions of life with equal exuberance. Among the plethora of colorful, vibrant, religious and cultural festivals, Diwali holds a special place in the hearts of all Indians. This festival of light binds together the hearts of all Indians with its universal theme of victory of light over darkness. The festivities of Diwali are not just limited to one day, but span over a period of five days in which people take an off from work and spend time with their loved ones. Each day of these five days of celebrations holds a special religious as well as philosophical meaning that goes deep beyond the lighting crackers, illuminating diyas, and distributing sweets. Some of the intriguing details of Diwali celebrations in India are mentioned in the following lines.
Diwali Celebration in India
Diwali celebrations kick off on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha, of the Hindu month of Kartik, which is celebrated as Dhanvantari Trayodashi, generally referred to as Dhanteras. According to Hindu mythology, it was on this day that Lord Dhanwantari appeared from within the ocean to impart the knowledge of Ayurveda to the mankind, so that men could heal their ailments and live a healthy life. Ayurveda has become one of the most sought-after alternate medicinal sciences in the world, after its lasting as well as natural remedies known to Indians for centuries were discovered by the westerners. On this day, people also worship the God of Death, known as Lord Yamara, and light a special clay lamp 'Yama-Diya' at night to appease him.
The second day of Diwali festivities is popularly known as Choti Diwali, as it seems like a dress rehearsal of the coming celebrations of Deepavali. On this day, people shop and decorate their houses. At night, firecrackers are setoff on a small scale and diyas are also lit. However, speaking in religious terms, the day is known as Narak Chaturdashi, and according to Hindu mythology, it was on this day that Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, destroyed a demon named Narakasur. As per customs, it is considered highly auspicious to massage the body with oil and to bathe on this day.
The third day marks the celebration of Deepavali, also known as Badi Diwali. The main festivities of Diwali take place on this day on an extravagant and grand scale. Religiously, the day is dedicated to the worshipping of Goddess Laxmi, who is believed to be the bestower of wealth and prosperity in Hinduism. On this day, it is believed that the Goddess visits the homes of her devotees; hence, houses are kept skip and span. Decorations of light bulbs, rows of candles and diyas enlighten every nook and corner and firecrackers embellish the night sky with multicolor.
As per the Hindu belief system, on the fourth day of the Diwali festivities, Hindus worship Govardhan Parvat, which is a hillock located near Braj. It is believed that Lord Krishna himself worshiped this mound with the village folk of the region and used it as an umbrella against the insistent heavy downpour. This tradition still continues. Those, who cannot visit the original hillock, make small mounds of cow dung and worship them, instead.
Celebrated on the fifth and final day of festivities of Diwali, Bhai Dooj honors the warm and affectionate relationship between a brother and sister. According to the legends, Lord Yamaraj, the God of Death, visited his beloved sister on this day and declared that whosoever visited his sister on this day would be absolved of all his sins. Thus, on this day, sisters invite their brothers to their homes and the siblings spend time with each other. This is the final ritual that marks the end of the Diwali celebrations.