The puja ceremony organized on the eve of Diwali is a major and most significant part of Diwali celebrations.

Diwali Puja

As soon as one utters the word 'Diwali', it conjures up images of bright vibrant lights, colors of joy and an atmosphere of congeniality. Shopping, visiting family and friends, distributing gifts as well as sweets, lighting diyas and burning firecrackers constitute an integral part of Diwali festivities. Deepavali, a festival of celebrating various legends, is especially dedicated to the worshipping of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha, who are believed to be the harbingers of health, fortune, well being and wisdom.

The Diwali Puja is performed on the eve of Deepavali, as per the auspicious timings deduced by studying the Hindu calendar and astrological charts by the priests. The puja can be carried out in the simplest of manner or in an elaborate way, depending on the resources a devotee has, though having faith and true devotion are the basic necessities. At the time of Diwali puja, people keep their doors as well as windows open and light diyas, since it is believed that the deities descend on earth on this day and visit the homes of their devotees. To know more about the Diwali Puja, keep reading the following lines.

Traditional Diwali Puja
Since India is a land of diversities, one can see various regional as well as cultural influences on the customs and rituals of Diwali puja, as they differ from one place to another. In rural regions, the cattle are ornamented and worshipped on this occasion by the farmers, since they are considered as the main source of their livelihood. In southern India as well, cows are offered special veneration on this day as they are revered as an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. However, in majority of the households across India, Diwali puja is performed plainly by adorning and setting up idols of Goddess Laxmi and Lord Ganesha on the eve of Deepavali.

Before the puja begins, all family members gather in the puja room, after which the idols of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are installed in the small makeshift temple. The eldest member of the family, along with the family priest, performs the rituals in the prayer ceremony. First and foremost, idols are bathed with water, followed by panchamitra, a potent mix of milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey. It is believed to have purifying tendencies that sanctifies the ordinary statues to invoke the divine deities into them. Once this is done, five clay diyas, filled with ghee, are lit and placed facing the deities, so that shadows of the evil spirits can be dispelled. Beautifully decorated puja thali, adorned with the offerings for the deities, is placed in front of the idols.

Soon after this, the chanting of mantras begins by the priest and the other family members follow the recitations of the priest. If one is not able to do so, then sitting quietly and remembering the deities with full devotion is also fine. It is believed that though the rituals are important, but heartfelt emotions are the most appealing thing to deities as they shower their blessings on a truthful person. With hymns completed, all family members make auspicious offerings to the deities like abir (red color), sindoor (vermillion) and haldi (turmeric), flower and sweet dishes. Many people make offerings of gold and silver coins as well as ornaments to the deities.

Once the rituals and individual puja is completed, people sing soulful devotional songs to please and welcome the deities to their homes and thank them for all the good things in their lives. To conclude the puja ceremony, aartis are performed. First Ganesh aarti is sung, followed by the Lakshmi aarti. The puja thali is taken into every room of the house to spread piousness in the aura. The family priest is gifted with various gifts and the process of lighting diyas in the entire home begins. Once this is accomplished, people eat the 'prasad' and start bursting firecrackers or visit homes of their near and dear ones.