Deepavali (Diwali) Festival

Essence of Srivaishnavam Practices

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Deepavali  or ( Diwali)

Deepavali or Deepawali, one of the festivals celebrated all over India is known as Diwali in North India and is celebrated for 3 full days. This festival has an inner meaning giving the divine light from the History known as Ithihas and is widely celebrated. I reproduce the article written by Dr. S. Kandala, especially for this website for the readers to understand the values and inner meaning of the Diwali Festival. The Dhan Trayodasi or Dhana Trayodashi is part of this three day celebrations. Normally this festival falls during Mid October – Mid November. In Tamil, the month is known as Aippasi and in Sanskrit the month in which Deepavali falls is known as “Ashwayuja” month. In this month, From the day of New Moon known as Amavasya the festivity begins. Read further to know the values of Indian customs and festivals.

TRS Iyengar 

BY Dr Satyavati S. Kandala

Deepavali is one of the most auspicious and celebrated festivals  in Bharat (India ). It is a festival of lights. It occurs  on the month of Ashwayuja , on the dark fortnight of Amavasai, every year. It symbolizes the vanquishing of ignorance , and the driving away of the evil and darkness that sometimes overshadows us. “Deepavali ”  is a Sanskrit word , it is the conjunction of the words “Deepa” meaning light and “Aavali”, meaning arrays. It can be derived that Deepaavali is a festival  consisting of an array of lights, and that indeed it is . Every home sparkles with the shining hues of deepas or lamps, in order to welcome the  Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity ). In  most parts of   Bharat  Deepavali continues for five  days , each day having its own significance in myth, belief, and legends. 

The First  Day is called  “:Dhana trayodashi”, (or Dhanteras ) and it  falls on the thirteenth (Trayodashi)  day of Ashwayuja Month. The word “Dhana” means wealth, and indeed this day is of extreme importance to the merchant families and business communities ..Business premises are decorated and sometimes even renovated to prepare for the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi. Entrances are colored with the colorful motifs of Rangoli  designs , and small foot prints  are made with rice flour ,and Vermillion powder  to signify the long awaited arrival of Goddess Lakshmi. Bhajans are sung in Her praise , and Naivedya , the offering of sweets to the goddess , is performed.

An interesting legend pertaining to Dhan trayodashi,  is about the sixteen year old son of King Hima.  The horoscopes predicted that he was doomed to die on the fourth night of his marriage to the venomous bite of a serpent . On that very fourth night, however, the son’s wife would not let him sleep. She piled  golden ornaments, jewelry, silver and gold in a pile towards the entrance to his bedroom, and sang songs all night. Then, just as predicted , Yama, the Lord of Death, came in a  separate form to take  away the life of the young man as predicted.

But , after seeing all the light reflected  by the jewelry and ornaments .Yama was blinded. So he climbed on top of  all the ornaments and listened  to the songs sung by the woman and left in the morning. Thus the young man was saved. Since this day, Dhana trayodashi Dhanteras) came to be known as the day of  ” yama deepa daana” ,means lighting the lamps in order to  pacify the Yama , the Lord of Death.

The Second Day  is called Naraka – chaturdasi  (the fourteenth day of Aswayuja Month. Legend goes that the demon king  Naraka asura ,(Nara  means Man , Asura means demon , “the demon in man” ) ruler  of Pragjyothisha pura ,(prag means former, jyoti means light, sha means forgetting , puram means human body, where  formerly  forgot the Light  within)  had defeated  Lord Indra and snatched away the precious earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess.  He had also imprisoned  sixteen thousand  of the daughters of the saints and gods in his palace.  On the day preceding Naraka – chaturdashi, Lord Sri Krishna  killed the demon   Naraka  and freed all the captured damsels, along with the precious earrings of Aditi.

As a symbol of  His victory   Sri Krishna smeared the blood of his enemies on his  forehead . Krishna arrived home early on the morning of Naraka – chaturdashi, and upon reaching there, the women folk massaged scent oils on his body, and gave  hima good bath to wash  away  the filth from his body. Since that day , the custom of bathing  early in the morning of Naraka – chaturdashi has  been observed  by many.

The Third  Day of Deepavali  (or Diwali ) is considered    to be the most  important, as it is upon this day that Lakshmi – Pooja is celebrated Despite the fact that this day falls on an Amavasya , or a time when there is no  moon., it is taken  as a most auspicious day.  It is believed that on the day of Lakshmi Puja , the man kind is submerged in the blinding light of knowledge, and ignorance  is finally conquered.  This sense of  self-enlightenment is represented through the twinkling lamps that every lights, the rich and the poor.  alike.. On this day, Lakshmi showers Her blessings of prosperity on the heads of mankind. It is believed Goddess Lakshmi visits the Earth only on this day.  When evening approaches , the chanting   of Vedic hymns can be heard commonly ., and home made sweets are offered as Naivedya t (offering) to the Goddess. Gifts  are exchanged.

A curious indulgence given at the time is that of gambling .This is due to the belief that the goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Paramesvara., and decreed that whoever would gamble on the day of Lakshmi Pooja would prosper throughout  the year.

The  Fourth  Day of Deepavali is Varsha pratipada (the first day of the  Kartika Month .  It is observed by some as  Anna koota, meaning  heap of food, and Govardhana Pooja , remembering the incident Lord Krishna who protected  the cattle by lifting  the Govardhana mountain. Bhog (prasadam) is offered  to the deities in the form of a  mountain, and devotees then take their prasadam from this pile. Lakshmi is worshipped in every household, and this day is looked upon as being the most auspicious day to start any new venture.

Traditionally, the wives put a red tilak on the  foreheads of their husbands, give garlands to them, and do aarati with a prayer for his long life. In return, husbands  give their wives costly gifts.

The Fifth  and Final Day of Deepavali falls on the second day of the Kartika Month . It is known by the name  Bhratru – Dvitiya. (Bhaiya  duj) In legend, Yama visited  his sister Yami  on this day  and they had a merry time. This day signifies the love of siblings, and it became imperative that any brother visits his sister’s house on this day. 

Kali Pooja Ritual  in Bengal coincides with Deepavali. Ritual  is a symbolic act which expresses a mystic relationship between man and  deity. Ritual is a symbolic transformation of experience  that no other medium can adequately express.   The  Kali Pooja is performed  during  the dark night of the new moon.  . About three weeks after Durga Puja . The   divine mother is worshipped in the form of  Kali .    Kali comes from the word “Kala ” or time. she is the power of time which devours all.  The Mother Goddess  took several forms to subdue the Demons.  The Demon Rakta bija (symbolic of our passions and instincts . They are so deeply rooted in us that they  often seem to be indestructible since one  what is killed is replaced at once by another, and so  on) possessed a special magical power which allowed him to create  new demons from his own blood. Whenever  the Goddess Kali wounded him, each drop of blood that  spilled to the ground sprouted another demon full of strength and ferocity. But in the end the Mother outwitted him. She picked up Raktabija and lifted him high into   the air to avoid spilling his blood on the ground, and then, gnashing him between her teeth, she drank his blood and swallowed  the demon Rakta bija whole. Thus the  Earth was  protected from evil by the Mother Goddess Kali  is celebrated.

Deepavali is celebrated to welcome the return of Sri Ram to Ayodhya after having spent 14 years in Exile. . Sri Ram’s coronation  took place  on this day after his victorious return to Ayodhya from Lanka vanquishing Ravana. welcoming Sri Ram  by   the lighting  of lamps. On Deepavali day Lord Vishnu in his Vamana (Dwarf ) incarnation sent the Emperor Bali to the Nether world after he got the promise of three feet of ground from Bali. This is to put down the Ahamkara (Egoism ) of Bali.

The Sun appears on Mesha Sankranti .(The Sun entering the Aeries sign of the Zodiac )The Sun  sets in the   Polar region on Tula Sankranti day (when the Sun enters Libra) In  the movement between these two signs there is an interval of Six months . After the Sun gets in Libra the dark half -year starts As we can see through this collection of facts, tradition, and custom, Deepavali is a time of great joy and prosperity, a  time  when the darkness of ignorance is lighted by the bright light  of knowledge and Truth.

In conclusion, Deepavali  festival bears out the profound spiritual truth, the whole array of lamps are lit by the light from one lamp .That one lamp symbolizes the Supreme Effulgent Lord  (Eko  Vishnu) the other symbolize the light in individual selves (Pruthak bhutah) .  The One willed to become Many is exemplified by the lighting of the lamps by the flame of one.


TRS Iyengar

Born on Makara Uthiradam star, native of Mukkur and brought up in Ladavaram village near Arcot and now well settled in Mumbai for over five decades. Presently, at 70, trying to run this website without any commercial expectations or profit motive, just for the sake of our future generations to understand about Sanatana Dharma & Srivaishnavam sampradayam.Within my limited knowledge that I put it here, what I learnt from the world.

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