Diwali is an Indian festival observed by the entire country, not only by the Hindus but the other religions as well. People gather and celebrate by lighting earthen lamps, give Diwali gifts, play Diwali games and gather as one community, strengthening the sense of togetherness with a festive feeling. Diwali festival has its rich history and legend behind its celebration. Get to know the history of Diwali festival as you read on.
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History of Diwali Festival
Like any other Indian festival, Diwali Festival is also grounded on mythology and peppered with stories of Hindu gods and goddesses.
Diwali, a Five-Day Festival
Diwali is a celebration that occurs not just on one day but spans five different days between the months of September to November. The different days represent meanings and different gods, goddesses, and events are honored and remembered.
- First Day: Dhanteras
The Diwali festival begins with Dhanteras. The legend tells that Dhanvantari emerged from the ocean on the day of Dhanteras, amidst the raging ocean, carrying a pot of amitra that is meant to ensure the well-being of mankind. It is also on this day that goddess Lakshmi arrives. Footprints of Lakshmi are drawn with rice flour and vermillion powder to signify her coming.
- Second Day: Narak Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali
The second day of the festival is based on the legend Narakasur, the demon king, who crushed Lord Indra in a war. As part of the spoils of the war, he took away the earrings of the goddessAditi, who ruled Suraloka and is related to Lord Krishna’s wife, Satyabhama. Narakasurtook with him 16,000 women for his harem. In revenge for Narakasur’s impudence, Lord Krishna killed him, freed the imprisoned women and returned the goddess Aditi’s earring.
- Third Day: Shri Ram of Ayodhyaa
Lord Shri Ram is the prince of Ayodhya Nagri along with his wife, Sita. As the legend goes, Sita was kidnapped by King Ravan of Lanka who was acting under the orders of Lord Shri Ram’s father, King Dashratha. To save his wife, Lord Shri Ram successfully invaded Lanka and killed King Ravan, returning to Ayodhyaa fourteen years later, together with Sita and his younger brother Lakshamana.
The Diwali tradition of lighting diyas is performed by people of Ayodhyaa to welcome the return of Lord Shri Ram and Sita. In the legends, Shri Ram represents the good and Ravan the evil. This day of the festival marked by lighting of diyas, is celebrated to symbolize the triumph of good against evil. The light from the diyas symbolizes the good driving away the darkness that is symbolized as the evil.
- Fourth Day: Godvardhan Puja
Godvardhan Puja is celebrated in honor of Lord Krishna. According to the legend, Lord Indra was worshipped by people of Gokul as they believed that it was he who provides rain to the land. When Lord Krishna told the people that it was Mount Godvardhan who waste real provider of rain, the people turned to worship it instead. In Lord Indra’s anger, he caused heavy rains to fall. Lord Krishna came to the people’s rescue. After praying to Mount Godvardhan, he lifted it up with his little finger, providing people with shelter from the heavy rains. Thereafter he was also known by the named Giridhari or Govardhandhari.
- Fifth Day: Bhai Dooj
The fifth day of Diwali is a day set by tradition for brothers to visit their sisters and give gifts. In turn, sisters serve dishes and sweets to their brothers. This tradition came from the legend of Lord Yamraj, the god of death. On this day, it was said that he visited his sister Yamuna. After greeting him by performing aarti, Yamuna cooked and served many dishes for her brother. When LordYamraj finished it, he blessed Yamuna and declared that he, too, would be blessed with health and wealth if brothers visit their sisters on this day.
Meaning of Diwali in Other Religions
- Diwali for the Sikhs
For the Sikhs, Diwali is the celebration of the return of Guru Har Govindji, from imprisonment in Gwalior city. Lighting of lamps in the Shri Harmandhir Sahibor the “Golden Temple” is performed in honor of his return.
- Diwali for the Jains
Meanwhile for the Jain community, Diwali is observed as the day when the founder of Jainism, Bhagvaan Mahaveer achieved “nirvana”. For them, Diwali is a festival celebrated in honor of Bhagvaan Mahaveer.