Diwali, or Deepavali gets its name from the row(avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. It is the darkest night of the Kartika month(Amaavasya) of Hindu calendar.This year Diwali is being celebrated on November 7.
Though the significance of Diwali is same all over the country, it’s interesting to know how people of different regions in India interpret the story behind it.In all interpretations, one common thread rings true—the festival marks the victory of good over evil,knowledge over ignorance.
STORIES OF DIWALI:
1) Southern India:
Celebrates it as the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.
- Narakasura was son of Lord Vishnu and Earth who turned evil, ill treating innocent people, saints and women. He was blessed to be killed only by his mother.
- Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Krishna and Earth as Satyabhama, Krishna’s wife. They started war against Narkasura and killed Mura, Narkasura’s Army General. That is why Krishna is also called Murari. When the battle got intensified,whole world was scared as there were heavy storms and thunders coming out from battle field every now and then when Krishna’s and Narakasura’s weapons were striking together.
- Finally Krishna fainted when the demon hurt him by his trident.HOWEVER, it was a divine plan as Narakasura was destined to be killed only by his mother. Satyabhama became very angry seeing her husband fainted in battle field and took the charge. She doubled the attack and finally killed Narakasur. The people were overjoyed and welcomed Krishna back with colourful lamps in their hands. Since then we celebrate Deepavali.
2) Northern India:
Celebrates it as the day that Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after he defeated demon king Ravana.
- On this day Lord Rama,along with his consort Sita and loyal brother Lakshman returned to his hometown Ayodhya after 14 long years of exile in the forest. He had just finished battling and overcoming the fierce demon king of Ceylon, Ravana, who had abducted Sita. In this battle he was ably helped by Lord Hanuman and his army of courageous monkeys.
- The people of Ayodhya lit lamps in every home to welcome their true King as well as celebrate his victory over Ravana and also the safe return of their Queen Sita. They danced and made merry and lit firecrackers to express their joy over his return. And as a mark of respect and worship, the festivities continue every year till today. Read more at Rama and Sita: The Story of Diwali
3) Eastern India:
Marks it as the day that Lord Vishnu sent the demon King Bali to rule the nether world (Bottom world or Paathalalokam).Some Hindus of eastern India associate the festival with the goddess Durga, or her fierce avatar Kali (Shaktism), who symbolises the victory of good over evil.g
- According to the Bhagavata Purana (the most sacred Hindu text), it was on a Kartik day that Lord Vishnu, took on the form of a dwarf (Vaman-avtaara) and defeated King Bali.
- Bali, or rather King Mahabali, was a powerful demon king who ruled the earth. Once Bali got a boon from Lord Brahma that made him unconquerable. Even gods failed to defeat him in battles. Though he was a wise and kind king, Mahabali was cruel to the Devas (gods). Finding no way to defeat Bali, the Devas went to Lord Vishnu and insisted him to find a way to stop Bali.
4) Worship of Goddess Lakshmi:
According to Hindu puranas, on this Diwali day, the Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi rose up from the ocean. The Hindu scriptures tell us that long long ago both Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) were mortal. They had to die sometime or other, like us. But they wanted to live forever. So they churned the ocean to seek Amrita, the nectar of immortality (an event mentioned in the Hindu scriptures as “Samudra-manthan” or “Ksheera Sagara madhanam”), during which many divine objects came up. Prime among these was Goddess Lakshmi, the daughter of the king of the milky ocean, who arose on the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month. That very night, Lord Vishnu married her. Brilliant lamps were illuminated and placed in rows to mark this holy occassion. This event is supposed to have given rise to an annual celebration at the same time each year. Even today, Hindus celebrate the birth of the goddess Lakshmi and her marriage to Lord Vishnu on Diwali and seek her blessings.
5) Return of Pandavas:
According to Hindu epic Mahabharata,the five royal brothers, Pandavas, suffered a defeat in the hands of their brothers, the Kauravas, in a game of dice (gambling). As a rule imposed on them, the Pandavas had to serve a term of 13 years in exile. When the period was over, they returned to their birthplace Hastinapura on ‘Kartik Amavashya’ (the new moon/no moon day of the Kartik month). The five Pandava brothers, their mother and their wife Draupadi were honest, kind, gentle and caring in their ways and were loved by all their subjects. To celebrate the joyous occassion of their return to Hastinapura and to welcome back the Pandavas, the common people illuminated their state by lighting bright earthen lamps everywhere. The tradition is believed to have been kept alive through the festival of Diwali, which many believe, is held in remembrance of the Pandava brothers’ homecoming.
Non-Hindu communities have other reasons for celebrating the festival:
- In Jainism, it marks the nirvana or spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira on October 15, 527 B.C.
- In Sikhism, it marks the day as Bandi Chhor Divas as Guru Hargobind, the Sixth Sikh Guru was freed from imprisonment.
- In Buddhism, Newar people of Nepal who revere various deities in the reflection of the freedom to worship any deity for their worldly betterment within Mahayana Buddhist tradition and celebrate Diwali by offering prayers to Lakshmi.
Read this book to talk to the child inside you Amma, Tell Me about Diwali!
Wish you a Happy and Prosperous Deepavali 🙂
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