Delhi and most of North India is still hung over from the Diwali revelries. The end of four-day partying, drinking and other festivities does leave a vacuum, on top of it the trauma of returning to work. The depressing fog caused by post Diwali pollution and crop burning doesn’t make things any easier.
Diwali or Deepavali or the Festival of Light is the most important festival in India, celebrated across the country with much pomp and show. According to Hindu mythology, Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the homecoming of Lord Rama after vanquishing Ravana. To celebrate the victory of Rama over Ravana and welcome their king back home along with Lakshmana and Sita, people of Ayodhya lit up the city with earthen lamps, diyas.
As per another popular belief, Lord Krishna killed the Demon Narakasura, the evil king of Pragjyotishapura, near present-day Assam and released 16000 girls captivated by Narakasura. In Karnataka Diwali is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi, triumph of good over evil, observing Lord Krishna’s victory over Narakasura. Interestingly, both Rama and Krishna are incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Across north India, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshipped on the night of Diwali. Houses are cleaned and lit up. Though artificial lights are more popular nowadays, people still light diyas. New clothes, feasts, card parties, rangoli, flower decoration, crackers are important part of Diwali celebrations. However, there are lot of variations even here. For Marwaris it’s not just Lakshmi and Ganesha, they worship gold and silver coins on the night of Diwali. “Every Dhanteras we buy coins and add to our existing collection that are kept in the puja room or asana along with the deities. We worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha, and these coins on Diwali night,” says my Marwari friend Poonam. Largely a trader community, Marwari’s observe Bahi Khata Visarjan on Diwali (closing the old ledger and opening a new one). Thus, Diwali marks the beginning of a new financial year for this community. Marwaris also light up diyas with different oils on each day. “On Dhanteras we light up diyas with ghee, on Choti Diwali sarso ke tel ke diya and on the day of Diwali we light up diyas with teel tel.” says Poonam.
For us Bengalis, Diwali is about Kali Pujo. We worship the fearsome incarnation of Durga on the dark Diwali night. We do follow the tradition of decorating the house with diyas and lighting crackers. After moving to Delhi, I started buying clay idols of Lakshmi and Ganesh and decorating the house with flowers on Diwali. Assimilating whatever appeals to us, brings about a feeling of positivity, that’s the beauty of our traditions!
In Rajasthan, Diwali is a five day affair that starts with Dhanteras and ends with Bhai Dooj. Diwali in the cities of Rajasthan is an unforgettable experience. I was in Jaisalmer this Diwali, the golden city lit up with diyas was a sight to see. Diwali in Jaipur is a grand affair.
The appeal of Diwali goes beyond religion. It’s a festival which has different cultural connotations, yet the spirit of festivity and optimism is something that is celebrated across the country, amongst different communities, a festival that is eagerly awaited each year!!