Ever wondered about how or when one of the most popular festivals of India, Diwali, started? Was there some event that took place that resulted in the planned celebration of the festival year after year or is the festival simply a part of Hinduism? No one really knows how or when Diwali started but there surely are several interesting stories related to its origin. Let us find out some of these stories and celebrate the festival in keeping with its intended purpose in our lives.
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The core message behind the celebration of India’s most popular festival, Diwali, is the victory of light over darkness or of good over evil. This is why homes are lit up brightly during the celebration of the festival. Another spiritual message that Hindus receive from the festival is to focus on their inner light and achieve self-realization which is the ultimate aim of Hinduism. Every historical legend or mythological story associated with the history of the festival highlights the victory of good over evil. Some of the historical legends associated with the festival of Diwali are:
Sri Rama’s Homecoming to Ayodhya: Ramayana (and Mahabharata) are the most revered and popular epics of India. Sri Rama is subjected to fourteen years of exile from his kingdom in Ayodhya which he completes humbly as a mark of respect towards his father. When Sri Rama returns to Ayodhya along with his brother, Lakshmana and wife, Sita, everyone is rejoiced and a mood of celebration envelops the place. Everyone lights rows of diyas outside their homes and welcome the threesome with love and joy. This night of celebration became popular as Diwali. This is the most accepted story related to the history of Diwali.
Four Days of Diwali: Though most people in India (especially North India) celebrate the festival for only a day or two (as ‘Badi Diwali’ and ‘Chhoti Diwali’), the festival is celebrated for four days in several parts as well. These four days start with ‘Aswayuja Bahula Chaturdasi’. The second day is an ‘Amavasya’ and it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, blesses the worthy with prosperity on this day. She was incarnated on this day through samudra-manthan and that is why people worship Goddess Lakshmi and seek her blessings during Diwali time. The third day is celebrated as ‘Kartika Shudda Padyami and it is believed that Bali received a boon from Lord Vishnu according to which he stepped out of hell to rule earth on this day. The fourth day is celebrated as ‘Yama Dvitiya’ and sisters invite brothers to their homes for celebrations of this day.
Irrespective of how or when the festival of Deepavali started in India, it is now an ingrained part of the culture of our land. As Indians, we feel proud of the wonderful festival which teaches us the values of goodness and positive thinking. No matter where we may live, we can celebrate the festival with friends and acquaintances by
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Diwali, as we know it today, is more of a social observance, where the greatest emphasis is paid to visiting friends and family, and partaking celebrations with great enthusiasm. However, what is of greatest significance in the celebrations of Diwali is the history and the legends that surround it. They help give true meaning to the festival and teach us how it is really to be enjoyed.
It is not just Diwali which enjoys great history and significance. There is a history and meaning to every celebration, covering each of the five days of Diwali. Whether in the celebration of Bhai Duj, Dhanteras or even the Govardhan Puja, it must be remembered that there is some meaning, history and purpose to each.
Diwali has the unique distinction of being a festival that has relevance in several ages of Hindu history. Most epics allude to stories which, over the years, have translated into legends that give Diwali its significance and true import.
Rama Returns to Ayodhya
The most popular legend commemorates the victory of Lord Rama (an incarnate of Lord Vishnu) over Ravana, the ruler of Lanka. On rescuing his wife Sita from the clutches of Ravana, Lord Rama returned home to Ayodhya after an exile of fourteen years on the day we know today as Diwali. Symbolic of the victory of good over evil, this implores us to let the good in our heart get the better of immorality. Today’s Diwali is all about lighting diyas and lamps around the house as an auspicious omen welcoming Lord Rama to our homes and hearts.
Krishna Conquers Narakasur
Diwali is also celebrated as the day that the demon Narakasur was destroyed by Lord Krishna. A menace who constantly troubled the womenfolk, Narakasur finally repented and implored Krishna that his death should be cause for happiness among the people. True to his word, Lord Krishna ensured that Diwali and happiness became synonymous. It is customary for families to wake up in the morning, bathe and light some crackers in the joy of Narakasur’s defeat, and in the renewed faith that God will come to rescue man should He be called with true faith.
Krishna and Indra
Although most people only know Diwali to be a festival for extravagance and fun, this is also a time of humility and thanksgiving. Diwali puja is also meant to offer thanks for the endless gifts of nature. The residents of Gokul managed to earn the wrath of Lord Indra when they, on the insistence of Krishna , stopped praying to Him and to Mount Govardhan instead. What followed were raging storms that threatened to submerge the entire region. Krishna then gave all inhabitants shelter under the mountain which he lifted with his little finger, and held overhead for seven long days till Indra’s wrath had been spent.
Bali and Vamana
A king called Bali was once humbled by Vamana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Bali was gaining disrepute for his arrogance. On assuming gigantic proportions, the midget Vamana took three strides of the earth, the last one on the head of King Bali to subjugate him completely. For the goodness which the king possessed in abundance, the Lord blessed him with the boon that he could return to his kingdom and celebrate with his subjects once a year, on the occasion of Diwali. This is yet another reason why this festival is characterised by cheer and goodwill.
Sikh and Jain faiths
Apart from a staunch Hindu following, Diwali has a bearing on the Jains and Sikhs as well. The Sikh community celebrates on this day the homecoming of their sixth guru, Hargobind who was held captive in Gwalior. Followers of Jainism observe this day as one of reverence, as this is the day Lord Mahavira attained salvation or kevala gyana. The legends are only simple, appealing ways to imbibe the goodness and the true spirit of Diwali. Without exemplifying the values this festival symbolizes, the essence of Diwali is lost.
The colours and dazzle of Diwali has spread way beyond Indian to include those who reside abroad as well. In attempts at being able to savour the sweetness of Diwali, and also as a means of inducting children into the festival and its importance, families are looking at ways to make Diwali more appealing and relevant to their children. With an understanding of the legends and by sharing it with their children, everyone now has a chance to celebrate Diwali uninhibitedly, more so by sending Diwali Gifts Online