Image Credit : Times of India
India is known for colorful festivals. However, not all are celebrated with the same vigor as Diwali, also known as festival of lights. The holiday that extends across many cultures and beliefs is celebrated for five days and is most eagerly awaited of all Indian celebrations.
The festival starts with the celebration of Dhanteras, the name derived from the words “wealth” (Dhan ) and thirteenth ( teras), the day of the lunar month it falls on. On this day, devotees pay homage to Lakhsmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. In addition to conducting elaborate prayers, they also go shopping on this day and buy gold.
The second day of the festival is known as Kali Chaudas or Narak Chaturdashi. For non-believers, it is just a day to prepare for Diwali, which falls the day after. However, many celebrate it by “cleansing” their homes of demons and bad spirits by performing some traditional rituals.
It’s the third day that people look forward to the most since it is finally Diwali. People begin the day with a visit to their local place of worships. Following the prayers, friends and families visit each other and exchange gifts and sweets.
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Once the sun sets, families light up their houses with Diya’s (Small oil lamps) before settling down for a scrumptious feast. Then begin the fun firework display. However, unlike in other parts of the world, this does not mean watching a show arranged by experts. In India, everybody gets to create his/her own fireworks show. While kids stick to safe sparklers, teens and adults spend their energy burning bigger and louder fireworks. The colorful celebration continues late into the night.
There are numerous myths associated with the origin Diwali. Among the most popular is that the day was first celebrated to welcome back King Rama of Ayodhya, his wife Sita and brother Laksmana from a 14-year-long exile imposed by the king’s mother.
Another old folk tale points it to a goddess named Kali. According to the fable, the god was so unhappy with the deterioration of the human society, that she made it her mission to smear out every living creature on earth. It was only when her husband, Lord Shiva interrupted, that she came to her sanities and stopped the needless slayings. Though the tales related with the festival’s source may differ, they all have one shared subject – celebrating the triumph of good over evil.
For a subgroups of Hindus, Diwali also marks the end of the calendar year. The calendar is 57 years ahead of the internationally accepted Gregorian calendar because it is calculated using the shorter lunar cycles. The fifth and final day of the festival honors the bond between brothers and sisters.
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