Sunday, November 7, 2010

Deepavali / Diwali

Deepavali/Diwali

A colorful festival that is celebrated by all Hindus worldwide is Deepavali, which is also known as the festival of lights. This festival usually falls around late October and November. This year it falls on Nov 7th.  One important practice that the Hindus follow during the festival is to light oil lamps in their homes on Deepavali morning. By lighting the oil lamps, the Hindus are thanking the gods for the happiness, knowledge, peace and wealth that they have received. The Hindus consider Deepavali as one of the most important festivals to celebrate.


The Legend

There is even an interesting legend behind this festival. The story goes that Narakasura, a demon, ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. Under his rule, the villagers suffered a lot of hardship as the demon tortured the people and kidnapped the women to be imprisoned in his palace. Seeing his wickedness, Lord Khrishna set out to destroy the demon and the day Narakasura died was celebrated as Deepavali, the triumph of good over evil!

It was Krishna who finally subdued Naraka and freed the prisoners. Diwali Festival in the south is celebrated in the Tamil month of aipasi (thula month) 'naraka chaturdasi' thithi, preceding amavasai. The preparations begin the day before, when the oven is cleaned, smeared with lime, four or five kumkum dots are applied, and then it is filled with water for the next day's oil bath. The house is washed and decorated with kolam (rangoli) patterns with kavi (red oxide). In the pooja room, betel leaves, betel nuts, plaintain fruits, flowers, sandal paste, kumkum, gingelly oil, turmeric powder, scented powder are kept. Crackers and new dresses are placed in a plate after smearing a little kumkum or sandal paste.


Preparations

Preparation for Deepavali starts usually at least two to three weeks before the festival. It is known that the Hindus will be busy cleaning their houses to prepare for the festival. Some would even renovate their houses to prepare it for Deepavali. Usually the family will shop for new clothes and for accessories to decorate their homes. Prior to the festival, Indian shops will be selling festive items like Deepavali greeting cards, carpets, Punjabi suits and flowers. The Hindus will frequent these shops when they are shopping for Deepavali.


Celebrations

The Hindus usually awake early in the morning of deepavali around 3am and the first ritual will be having an oil bath, which is an important feature of Deepavali.

The eldest family member applies sesame oil on the heads of all the family members. Then, it's off for a bath, beginning with the youngest in the family. They emerge with new clothes and a look of anticipation at the thought of bursting crackers, which symbolizes the killing of the demon king Narakasur.

Lehiyan: But before that comes Lehiyan, the bitter concoction, to cleanse the system of its festive over-eating! Then to the crackers.

Murukku: A puja is performed for the family deities in the morning. Breakfast consists of murukku , a sweet dish and, of course, idli or dosa .

Wish fulfilment: Some communities believe that when Narakasur was to be killed, Lord Krishna asked him his last wish. Narakasura replied that he wanted to enjoy the last day of his life in a grand manner and Diwali was celebrated. That was the beginning and the practice continued.

In The Evening: In the evening, lamps are lighted and crackers are burst. As most of the cracker manufacturing units are in Tamil Nadu, there is no dearth of fireworks here.

During Thalai Deepavali, the newly weds go to the bride's parental home for revelry. Taking blessings from the elders, they burst the first crackers of the day. Usually a vast range of crackers is bought, with costs running into thousands of rupees. The Diwali Celebrations include a visit to the temple, gifts of clothes and jewelry, gorging on sweets and receiving blessings of elders. The groom's parents, brothers and sisters come down to join in the celebrations.
 
Most of the ladies would be clad in silk saris. Hindus particularly dislike dressing in black on that day, as they consider black an inauspicious color for the festival. Hindus would also pay their respects to the elderly and most families would go to the temple after having breakfast. This is also an important practice for them. The reason why they would be going to the temples is to pray to get happiness and prosperity on Deepavali. The houses would be decorated with oil lamps and children will play with firecrackers to celebrate the festival..


Simple Lakshmi Pooja on the day of  diwali

Lakshmi was the daughter of the sage Bhrigu and took refuge in the ocean of milk when the gods were sent into exile. Lakshmi was reborn during the Churning of the Ocean. As soon as the gods saw Lakshmi, they all fell in love with her beauty. Shiva claimed Lakshmi as his wife, but since he had already taken the Moon, her hand was given to Vishnu, whom Lakshmi herself preferred.

Lakshmi is the goddess of light, beauty, good fortune and wealth. While Laxmi is generally worshiped to achieve success, she does not reside long with anyone who is lazy or desire her only as wealth.


Steps of Lakshmi Pooja

Spread a new cloth on a raised platform: Place a handful of grains in the center and, on this, place a kalash (pitcher) made of gold, silver, copper, or terracotta. Fill three-fourth of the kalash with water and place a betel nut, a flower, a coin, and some rice grains in it. Arrange five kinds of leaves or mango leaves in the kalash. Place a small dish on the kalash and fill it with rice grains. Draw a lotus with turmeric powder ( haldi ) over the rice grains and place the idol of goddess Lakshmi over it, along with coins.

Place the idol of Ganesha: In front of the kalash, on the right (South-West direction), place the idol of Ganesha. Also place ink and books related to your business or occupation on the platform. Light a lamp and begin the puja by offering haldi, kumkum, and flowers to the platform on which the kalash is placed. Then offer haldi, kumkum, and flowers to the water that is to be used for the puja. Invoke the river goddesses to be part of this water.

Invoke goddess: Lakshmi by reciting the Vedic mantras addressed to her. One can also recite the mantras mentioned in the Puranas or simply take some flowers in your hands, close your eyes, and think of goddess Lakshmi being showered with gold coins by two elephants standing on either side of Her and chant Her name. Then offer the flowers to the idol.

Place the idol of Lakshmi: Place the idol of Lakshmi in a plate and bathe it with water, panchamrit (a mixture of milk, curd, ghee or clarified butter, honey, and sugar) and then with water containing some gold ornament or a pearl. Wipe the idol clean and place it back on the kalash. Alternately, you can just sprinkle water and panchamrit on the idol with a flower.


Offerings:

Offer sandal paste, saffron paste, perfume ( itr ), haldi, kumkum, abeer, and gulal to the goddess. Offer a garland of cotton beads to the goddess. Offer flowers, especially the marigold flowers and leaves of Bel (wood apple tree). Light an incense stick and dhoop. Make an offering of sweets, coconut, fruits, and tambul. Make an offering of puffed rice and batasha. Pour some puffed rice, batasha, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds over the idol. Safe where you keep money and jewelry; Worship this safe as a symbol of Lord Kuber.


Aarti:

Finally perform the aarti for goddess Lakshmi. Always remember that She abhors loud noise. So the aarti should be accompanied only by a small bell. Do not clap hands, as is the practice when performing aarti for other gods. A peaceful and sublime atmosphere should prevail during the diwali day pujan. Do not light crackers while the puja is on or immediately after it. 

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