The festival of Diwali
Diwali or Deepawali is one of the most celebrated and important festivals of Hindus. This festival is celebrated across india on the day of Amavasya (no moon). Series of festivals are celebrated during diwali. The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival is called the Naraka Chaturdasi. Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day of Diwali is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya, and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. This is also known as Bhai Dooj.
Each day has its own tale, legend and myth to tell. The first day of the festival Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the second day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees.
Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. It is on the third day of Deepawali — Kartika Shudda Padyami that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. The fourth day is referred to as Yama Dwitiya (also called Bhai Dooj) and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and is the last major celebration before winter. Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.
Legends behind worship of Goddess Lakshmi
There are two legends that associate the worship of Lakshmi on this day. According to the first legend, on this day, Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagar, the Ocean of Milk, during the great churning of the oceans, which is also known as Samudra manthan.
The second legend (more popular in western India) relates to the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu, the incarnation he assumed to neutralise the king Bali. On this day, Vishnu came back to his abode the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her benevolent mood, and are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being.
Story from Ramayana behind the Diwali festival
Ram, the king of Ayodhya, was living in exile for fourteen years. This was because Manthara, a royal maid, plotted against him. Ram was accompanied by his brother, Laxman during the exile. Demon king Ravana took her away to lanka. Ravana was the king of lanka.
Ram defeated Ravana on the day of dusshera. He was helped by his friends, Sugriva and Hanuman. Hanuman was the true disciple of Lord Ram and he served Ram, Laxman and Sita with full devotion. Hanuman saved Laxman’s life during the battle between Ram and Ravana. After defeating Ravana, Vibheeshana was made the king of lanka.
After that, they returned to Ayodhya in the chariot named Pushpak Vimana. This chariot was owned by Ravana. It took them to reach twenty days to Ayodhya, and this day was observed by people of Ayodhya as Diwali. In this day diyas are lit, people wear new clothes. This day falls exactly after twenty days of Dusshera. Diwali represents the victory of good over evil, light over darkness. This day is observed on Amavyasya. This night is enveloped by darkness. But this darkness is dispelled by the Diyas and other lighting which we light to steer away the darkness.
In world mythology, many fascinating stories are available, but Mahabharat and The Ramayana are the epics from Indian mythology, can be included anywhere. Such is the diversity and range of these epics. The Ramayana is written by the sage valmiki, who was a thief. Tulsidas has also written Ramcharitramans in recent times, which is written in a different language than The Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki.
Further Reading: The Navratri Festival