Diwali is a five-day festival. Generally, its called the festival of lights. Diwali aims at vanquishing ignorance that subdues humanity and the darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. The first day is called the Dhanteras or Dhantryaodashi. On this day Dhanvantari, god of Ayurveda who imparted the knowledge of Ayurveda for the betterment of humankind and to help get rid of the suffering of diseases, is worshiped. However, in modern times this day is an auspicious day to make new purchases, especially in gold and silver. Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped during the evening.
The second day is celebrated as Narak Chaturdashi. This day marks the defeat of demon Narkasur by Lord Krishna. It is said that Narkasur had hoped that his death might bring joy to others. Thus, this story is a reminder that good can still come out of evil. Narak Chaturdashi also goes by the name Choti Diwali, and on this day homes are decorated with flowers, rangolis are created and a diya is kept in each room.
Diwali is celebrated on the third day. Diwali marks the coming of home of Lord Ram with his wife after defeating Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Rows of diyas were lit in the city of Ayodhya. On this day the doorways of homes are decorated with mango leaves and marigold, rangolis are drawn, diyas and candles are lit in and around the house, people exchange sweets, new clothes are worn and some also light fireworks.
On the fourth day, Govardhan Puja is performed. The legend goes that Lord Indra being upset with inhabitants of Gokul tried to drown the entire town. Lord Krishna saved the people by lifting the Govardhan Mountain and providing the people of Gokul shelter. On this day people also thank gods for the food that they get as well as for the agriculturalists.
The fifth day is celebrated as Bhai Dooj which is associated with the story of Lord Yam and his sister Yami. Similar to Rakshabandhan this festival celebrates the strong bond between a sister and brother.On this day sisters put a vermillion and rice teeka on their brother’s forehead, followed by aarti and partaking of sweets. All this is usually followed by a meal. The brother promises to protect his sister from unwanted situations and the sister prays for his longevity.
DIWALI IN INDIA
Around the globe, Diwali is considered as a Hindu festival but in India, it is also celebrated by the Jains, Sikhs and Newar Buddhists. Rituals and stories related to Diwali in these religions may differ. But they all symbolize the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance.
Diwali is also referred to as Bandhi Chorr Divas among the Sikhs and marks the release of the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Singh, from Gwalior Fort along with 52 Hindu princes by Emperor Jahangir in 1619. This is also the occasion when the foundation of the Golden Temple was laid down in 1577.
For the Jains, this day is important because this was the day when Lord Mahavira, the last Jain Tirthankar, attained Nirvana. The Mahavira attained Nirvana in front of many gods, who enlightened him expelled any darkness from his light. These also the occasion when Mahavira’s chief disciple attained complete knowledge. The Jains celebrate the day after Diwali as New Year’s Day to signify turning on a new leaf in one’s life just like Mahavira’s chief disciple.
Buddhists celebrate Diwali to mark the conversion of emperor Ashoka to Buddhism on this day. It is also known as Ashoka Vijayadashami among the Buddhists and they celebrate it by praying, chanting mantras and decorating the monasteries.
A FIRECRACKER FREE DIWALI
The first image of Diwali that comes to our minds is of impressive fireworks. This tradition of fireworks during Diwali is not very old, as early it was only dedicated to lighting lamps or diyas and worshipping Goddess Lakshmi. However, it has become such a vital part that it is impossible to think of a Diwali without firecrackers.
In recent times, there has been a growing awareness among people about the harmful effects of firecrackers. Firecrackers are a major source of air and noise pollution. Many burn injuries are reported every year in India during Diwali. About 65% of these injuries are caused by anar. Dog owners also complain that firecrackers cause dogs to become agitated and fearful as well as provoking continuous barking. Firecracker can also cause damage to property. Besides all these firecrackers also cause a lot of land pollution and encourages child labor.
Be it Diwali, Bandhi Chorr Divas, the Jain New Year or Ashoka Vijaydashami, all these points to the importance of knowledge, self-inquiry, self-improvement, and knowing and seeking the right path. Like any other festival, it also brings the entire family together. However, among all the celebrations we should not forget the consequences of our decisions onto others. Thus, I urge everyone to opt for an eco-friendly Diwali. This can be done by lighting diyas and candles.