Diwali is the Hindu 'festival of lights' that commemorates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya in India after defeating the Demon Ravana, as described in the Hindu Holy book Ramayana. It celebrates the spiritual triumph of light over dark and good over evil. It is marked by Dussehra - where an effigy of the Demon Ravana is burnt and celebrated with fireworks. Diwali begins 20 days after this.
The first day of Diwali festival is ‘Dhanteras’ when Lord Dhanwantari is believed to have come out of the ocean with Ayurveda, the science of medicine, for the benefit of humankind. A huge amount of buying of new and expensive items takes place on this day.
The second day of Diwali is celebrated as ‘Naraka Chaturdasi’ when the demon Narakasura was killed by Lord Krishna to rid fear from the world. On this day, people stay at home and clean to remove negative energies and purify the air by burning incense and candles, so that Diwali can be celebrated with vigour and devotion the next day. Rangoli colours and patterns are drawn to bring good luck to the house.
The third day, known as ‘Lakshmi Puja’, is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune, prosperity and beauty, along with Lord Ganesha, the God of auspicious beginnings. Diyas (clay lamps) are lit in every corner of the home to welcome prosperity. Hindus will visit the Mandir for prayers, meet the community, wear their best clothes, share food with friends and relatives and exchange presents. Fireworks are lit at night to celebrate Diwali and to ward off evil.
The fourth day ‘Govardhan Puja’ or ‘Annakut’ is celebrated as the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra. People celebrate by making food of cereals such as wheat, rice, curry of gram flour and leafy vegetables to offer to Lord Krishna. Gujarati celebrate this day as their New Year as per their calendar.
The last day of the five day Diwali festival ends with ‘Bhai Dooj’, where sisters invite their brothers for a lavish meal and perform a ‘tilak’ (marking the forehead with a red dot) ceremony. Sisters pray for their brothers’ long and happy life while the brothers give gifts to their sisters.
This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, many events have been cancelled and families may be forced to celebrate online or with their household. In these troubled times we need to remind ourselves of the significance and spiritual meaning of Diwali and have awareness of the inner self to overcome anxiety during this time of uncertainty. Overcome the ego, ignorance, impurities, delusion, desires and attachments in order to lead a happy life.
A happy Diwali to you all.