Deepavali is one of the most popular and glamorous festivals celebrated from ancient times as a day of rejoicing. Deepavali literally meaning a row of lamps, is a festival to symbolize the victory of good over evil. It falls on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight in the Tamil month of Aipasi (October — November).
National Festival in India
In India, Deepavali is celebrated by Hindus of all sects and all linguistic groups and is truly a national festival. In Sri Lanka, Deepavali is celebrated for one day, whereas in India it is observed for four days. It is notable that in India the celebrations differ from one region to another.
In India the front doors of the houses are illuminated to resemble the kingdom of haven. Doorways are hung with “thoranam” made of mango leaves and marigolds. Rangolis are drawn with different coloured powders to welcome guests. The traditional motifs are often linked with auspicious symbols of good luck. Because of the flickering lamps, the festival has acquired the name Deepavali.
Early Morning Holy Bath
The auspicious ceremony starts with people getting up early in the morning and taking a head bath. As much water used for bathing in the early hours before sunrise is equal to the merit obtained by bathing in the holy river ganges which is always charged with the properties of very valuable herbs. Purity and serenity are the hallmark of this occasion. As such people wear new cloth after bathing and engaging in religious worship.
Thereafter, special poojas to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth takes place with offerings including coins, preferably silver coins, believing that the giver will be endowed with wealth and prosperity. To mark the occasion special poojas are held in Hindu temples and other places of religious worship.
Auspicious Day to Start Business
Deepavali is considered auspicious for shopping, house warming and for starting business. Among the business community of Gujrat, Rajestan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra, Deepavali is the festival when business begins. All business establishments and families perform Muharat Pooja or veneration of their account books. The holy letter of Sri is written in a triangular pattern on the books and kept before the picture of Goddess Lakshmi, with the belief that business will prosper. In North India, Deepavali marks the beginning of a new year reckoned according to Vickrema era.
"Deepavali means many things to many people. To the children it is delicious food, sweets, new clothes and crackers."
This is an occasion for the people to visit their relations and friends and exchange sweet meats and other gifts, giving an opportunity to strengthen the hand of relationship.
Deepavali means many things to many people. To the children it is delicious food, sweets, new clothes and crackers. To the women it means sarees and jewels. A significant feature of the festival is that newly married people celebrate it on a grand scale and they are presented with new rich clothes and other gifts. To the up-country Indian community Deepavali is an important event and they too celebrate it on a grand scale. They amuse themselves by engaging in various games. Many cultural events also take place during this festival. It is notable that in Sri Lanka, there is a little variation in the celebration of Deepavali unlike in India. It is the absence of the feast of lamps or illumination from which the name of Deepavali was derived. In fact this form of lighting takes place on the full moon day of the Tamil month of Karthikai (October/November) called Vilakidu or Karthika Deepam. At sunset, all houses, shops and other places of religious importance are well lit up with tiny wick lamps.
The influence of fire worship
Another supposition is that Deepavali is a refined form of fire-worship. Fire-worship has an old history among Indo-Aryans. It was a very important element of the early Indo-Aryan religion. In later Hinduism the sacrificial fire is a major constituent of most rituals. Agni becomes identified with God Shiva. It is noteworthy to recollect that man in early stages worshipped nature such as the sun, fire, trees, etc. As such it is construed that fire worship in later stages was transformed into a refined form called Deepavali, which is actually a feast of lamps.
Relating to Deepavali
For example in North India particularly in Uttara Pradesh, Punjab, Hariyana, Bihar and surrounding areas, Deepavali is the day when Rama’s coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya. By the order of royal families of Ayodhya and Mithilai, the Kingdom of which Sita was princess, the cities were lit up with rows of lamps to welcome home the divine King Rama and his queen Sita after fourteen years of exile. Whereas in Sri Lanka and South India, the festival associated with the commemoration of the death of Narakasura the demon king who ruled the district of Osram. To put an end to his wicked rule Lord Shiva incarnated as Krishna along with the His consort Satyabhama defeated and crushed Narakasura. The king repented for his sins and before he died, begged Lord Krishna that the day of his death be celebrated by the people annually. Lord Krishna showed mercy and granted this boon.
In short the festival of lights or Deepavali symbolizes the victory of man over evil and the re-establishment of righteousness and peace that brings joy and happiness. The Hindu festivals have an in-depth spiritual meaning and form an integral part of the social fabric. In conclusion it is appropriate to quote from Dr. Radhakrishnan, an erudite Eastern philosopher and former Indian President, who said that devoid of religion or culture life is barren and it fills up the gap in a society bent on materialism.