Diwali is undoubtedly the brightest and the biggest among the festivals of Hindu religion. The word Diwali means a row of light and is derived from the two words ‘deep’ which means light and ‘avali’ which means a row. The celebration lasts for four days and each of the days has different tradition but the night of main festival coincides with darkest new moon night of Hindu calendar. Generally this festival comes in the month of October or November. During the festival, the whole country gets illuminated with light and dazzles with joy. Each and every day of the festival of light and illumination is marked by different tradition by different communities. But the celebration, enjoyment and goodness of all communities remain true and same.
This festival has a great significance in Hindu community and signifies victory of brightness over darkness. From the darkness to light, from unhappiness to happiness and eternal bliss and from ignorance to knowledge is indeed a deep and true message which this auspicious festival brings every year to Hindu culture and community. Diwali festival is most celebrated and awaited by all Hindus and gets inspired to believe in the supernatural power and is one of the oldest religious celebrations of the Hindu community. Other than India also, all Hindus residing in other parts of the world gets immense pleasure from the festival. According to Hindu mythology, this festival has different significance in North India and south India. In north India this festival is mainly celebrated in order to commemorate the return of Ayodhya King Lord Rama to his native kingdom from exile after long 14 years. In southern part of India, the Hindu community celebrates Diwali as a mark and remembrance of the assassination of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna. To some people, this festival is marked for the return of Pandavas from vanvas for twelve years and agyatavas for one year. Even many Hindus celebrate this occasion by worshiping goddess Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth. According to the Hindus, it is believed that on the night of Diwali, goddess Laxmi accepted Lord Vishnu as her husband and got married to him. Some other Hindu community believes that on the very day of the festival, Lord Vishnu came back to goddess Laxmi and hence worshipping Goddess Laxmi on that day will bring psychological, physical and materialistic well being in the upcoming times.
The Diwali festival is harbinger to hope and really inspires an individual to light candles and diyas rather than cursing darkness. This festival is not only about the outer illumination but also promotes awareness of inner feelings which is the core for each and every human being. The true essence of Hinduism is the spirituality and prophesizes the fact that a human being is not only a body and mind but goes beyond that- a powerful eternal source of energy known as soul. The festival depicts realization of this inner power which shows the path of righteousness and prosperity even during darkest and hardest times and an individual. The awakening of one’s true and pure soul gives universal compassion, immense peace of mind and higher knowledge. The illumination of houses with candles and diyas on Diwali festival along with the fireworks is an evidence of obeisance of health, peace of mind, happiness, wealth and prosperity. It is believed that the sounds of crackers are indications of happiness for the people on this earth. Also a scientific reason behind fire crackers are that the fumes created from the crackers kills various kinds of insects.
Another significance of this festival lies in the tradition of gambling. There is a belief according to Hindu mythology that on this day Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati played dice. Goddess Parvati also decreed that whoever gambles on the night of this festival would prosper throughout the year. The festival of Dhanteras is celebrated two days prior to the festival of lights and is directly associated with prosperity and wealth. On this special day, many Hindu merchants of northern parts of India open new business account books and pray to the almighty for success in business in future. Hindu people also worships Lord Kubera on Dhanteras as his blessings can really make one wealthy. People also visit jewellery shops to buy gold and silver jewelleries as a sign of good luck. Even utensils are also bought to venerate this occasion. In whatever manner Diwali festival is celebrated, the main significance is the victory of good and truth over evil and darkness.
Many festivals came and gone. But for me the memories of last year’s Diwali is something to be cherished and remembered throughout my life. I enjoyed a lot with my family and friends. It was really special. One month prior to the special occasion, planning was going on what is to be done during the festival. I had several plans. First of all I thought to go out for a vacation during the holidays along with my family. But due to some issues we cannot move out for my native place, Kolkata. Finally we decided that we will take pleasure of the occasion from our home itself and then started proceedings accordingly. The most important part I noticed about decorating my house is that it needed new painting. The painting was old as painting was done long before. The first step was to select a good painter. I communicated many painters and asked them to visit my house and suggest about the colour. Most of the painters were busy as they had pre assigned work. I understood that it was high time for the in this festive season and hence it will be very difficult to get a painter who could paint my house within this short period of time. After looking for painter for few days, I lost all hope to get my house painted. Then I communicated one of my friends who had good connection with the decorators. He finally arranged a painter who agreed to do the work. Next day the painter visited my house and we had a long discussion regarding selection of colour. We decided to go with bright colour and the painter asked us to buy the paint from shop. According we purchased the paint and necessary accessories for painting in the very next day. It was a hard day as we needed to arrange all within one day. Next day the painter started his work and completed within five days. Finally the house as painted still a lot of work was to be done before Diwali. The next step was cleaning the entire house. Most of the materials we displaced during painting and had to be restored in their original position. All family members gave hand to put them to proper place and then started cleaning the house. There were many unimportant papers which needed to be sorted out. The maid also helped us cleaning the house. Within few days the house was also cleaned.
Next we planned to buy new clothes for all of us. Two of my close friends also planned to visit us during one of the days of the festival. So we planned to buy clothes for them also. Everyone was excited for buying new clothes. We went to a shopping mall named South City. We went here and there within the shopping mall in garment stores and have seen innumerable dresses. For my father a shirt and a formal pant was purchased from Shoppers Stop. The dress looked mice. But for me I could dress of my choice. After that we went to Pantaloons. From there I purchased jeans for me. But the shirt I liked most was not of my size. I asked the salesman to find the shirt of my size. He then searched a lot and finally he got one. I felt lucky at this. For my two friends also shirts were purchased from pantaloons. The next was to purchase sarees for my mother and my wife. There is a famous market place in Kolkata named Gariahat. I Gariahat there are innumerable shops for ladies garments. One of the renowned shops is Adi Dhakeswari Bastralaya. We went there and searched for sarees. The sales person showed many sarees. Out of them two south silk sarees were selected; one for my mother and one for my wife. After completing the shopping, we went together to a food court and had some food. We all were so tired that on that day we returned home and just slept. Few days passed and the preparation for Diwali was almost over.
The day before the special festival, we purchased candles and lights. We decorated the house with small different coloured LED lights. The first day one was the famous Dhanteras. Everyone got early from bed because of the excitement of Diwali festival. On this day I, along with my mother went to a nearby jewellery shop to purchase gold items. There was extravagant rust in the shop. Most of the people opt to buy gold or silver jewelleries on this auspicious day. Hence this day is one of the most profitable days for the jewellers. We have seen many necklace and bangles but did not find a good one to buy. At this, we decided to buy gold coins instead of gold jewelleries. Unlike jewelleries, it is easier to just go and pick up any gold coin from any shop and that to without spending much time on selecting the item. Shopping of jewelleries always require proper planning and budgeting. This year for preparation of Diwali festival, we already spent a lot of money in painting the house and decorating. Hence our budget for Diwali has already exceeded. Initially we planned to buy 10 gram gold coin, but the price was on the higher side. So we purchased 5 gram gold coin. Although there was heavy rush in the shop, the behaviour of the sales person was very nice which added to a little bit of comfort. After that we returned home. In the afternoon all of us made phone calls, sent sms and emails to our near and dear ones wishing them Happy Diwali and they too us the same. In the evening my mother gave me a list of items to be purchased from a nearby shop. So I went there to get them. When I returned from shop, I was surprised to see that my mother and my wife were going something in the kitchen. They were preparing for sweets. I just stayed there for some time trying to understand how they prepare sweets but could not understand anything. They together made four different types of sweets. After all the sweets were prepared, I went again asking for one to taste. My mother denied giving me one that time and replied that I will be given to me only after offering them at Puja in the evening. I had to wait for some more time to have a bite of delicious sweets. As the festival of Dhanteras is associated with wealth and goddess Laxmi, small footprints were drawn throughout the house starting from the main entry of the house with rice flour and vermilion powder. This ritual actually signifies the arrival of Goddess Laxmi into the house and in turn brings good luck. Puja was performed and fruits and the sweets which were prepared were offered to Goddess Laxmi. These fruits and sweets were later served a Prasad to us. My mother chanted devotional songs and it was very soothing to hear. Our neighbour also visited our house with some sweets which they might have prepared in their home itself. We also offered them sweets. Among the neighbour, one was a small child and we had a good time with the child. The lights and diyas were lit up and that made the house look very beautiful. Everyone was dressed in nice clothes and we started to take photographs. Some nice photographs were taken which we can preserve as memories throughout our life.
I was not aware of the traditional way of celebrating this day, but this day we enjoyed a lot. In the afternoon we all walked out in the neighbourhood and nearby places and visited various Puja pandals. The idol of goddess Kali was well decorated. Almost all the pandals we visited were crowded. The pandals were also decorated with lights and illuminations. Every pandals we visited had unique and extravagant design and architecture. The architecture reveals the innovating thinking of the decorators, designers and the talent of the highly skilled labours. During our outing, we met many known persons and had a good time talking to them. There was exchange of Diwali greetings. Some of them also invited to visit their home. While returning we visited some of our friends and neighbours with sweets. Every house we visited insisted us to eat homemade sweets along with tea and homemade snacks. By the end we ate lots of sweets and snacks and so we decided to skip visiting any other house because of the fear of being forced to eat more sweets. When we were going back to home, we could see lights and candles glowing in the balconies of all houses. As my mother lit up the candles and diyas, I just peeped out of the window and guess what, I could see an awesome scenario. So I immediately ran on the rooftop to grab some photographs of this amazing view. These photographs I will treasure throughout my lifetime.
One the next day i.e. the third day of Diwali festival we all wore the new clothes. By the ongoing of the festival, both my mother and my wife got a bit tired and the sweets which was prepared were about to get finished. It was difficult to make sweets at home again. So I went to a reputed sweets shop and purchased different types of sweets. There in the shop itself I tasted two different types of sweets and both were very nice to eat. In the afternoon we visited the remaining neighbours which we could not visit in the previous days with the sweets I purchased. Lastly we visited one house who is not only our neighbour but also had close family relations. There we sat for more than 30 minutes and had good evening tea and snacks there. They insisted us to join them in their Diwali celebration. So we decided to stay with them for some more time. The two children of their house started exploding fire crackers and we just sat on the balcony and took pleasure of the view. They jumped and screamed each time they lit up a fire cracker. This scene reminded me of my childhood when I also used to jump and run away soon after lighting a cracker. I used to be quite afraid of the fire crackers when I was in my school days. Soon the peaceful place turned into mines field. The sounds of the crackers were so loud that only a war zone would sound like this. We had dinner at their place and returned back walking. It was like a heart warming walk passing through all the candles and diyas glowing all around. After a long day, I was exhausted and gradually as the hours passed, the fire crackers which were enjoyable became ridiculous with no hint of stopping.
After the high voltage Diwali celebration with lights and fire crackers, the next and last day of the festival is the Bhai Dhoj. We had to prepare ourselves for this occasion also. In spite of being tired, we all had to get up early as my cousin sister and my brother in law was to visit our home for this occasion. Near about 11 am, my sister came followed by my brother in law at 11:45 am. After that we started with the rituals. First my sister expressed her love for my by putting a tilak mark on my forehead and performed arati by showing the holy flame as a mark of protection from all evils. As gift, I gave her a wrist watch which she liked very much. The same rituals were also performed by my wife to express her love for her brother. When I was young, I did not know the actual meaning of Bhai Dhoj. I just celebrated as my mother used to tell that this day is special for brothers and sisters. So it was not so important for me at that time. Gradually I came to know about the significance and deep meaning of the occasion. I felt proud of having the opportunity to Bhai Dhoj from my sister who is so close to me. After all the rituals of Bhai Dhoj were over, we had lunch. My mother and wife, along with the help of our maid, prepared may delicious items. The lunch was awesome.
Then came the end to Diwali festival. This Diwali was really something to be remembered throughout. We all had special times with special ones. With a hope to celebrate the greatest Hindu festival even better next time, I am concluding my experience of this year’s festival.
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