Monday, 31 October 2016

25 Facts that you may not know about Diwali!!

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Among the Hindu festivals of India, Deepawali or Diwali is the most popular one and is celebrated every year in Autumn  with religious fervor, fanfare and joy. It is also a major festival in the neighboring country of Nepal.   

 Diwali dates back to ancient times and is mentioned in Sanskrit texts such as the Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana (second half of 1st millennium AD)  as a festival in the Hindu calendar month of Karthika.  Skanda Purana  made a mention of  Diyas (lamps) that  symbolize the sun, the cosmic source  of light and energy essential for all  life. It seasonally transits  in the Hindu calendar month of Karthic.

The festival of Diwali has spiritual connotations and is symbolic of  the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over gloom and distress. Millions of people, regardless of caste and regions,  light the oil lamps in various parts of their house, welcoming positive energy and banishing despair.
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In Katha Upanishad (1st millennium BC), the Nachiketa story is about right versus wrong, real wealth versus transient wealth, knowledge versus ignorance and in some parts, Diwali is associated with the legend of Yama and Nachiketa on Kartika Amavasya. In many places it marks the killing of demon  Naragasura by lord Krishna.
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Some interesting facts:

01. Deepavali (Diwali) is associated with  Ammavasya,  Chaturdashi,. Dwadashi, Pradhamai  Trayodashi and Chaturdashi, depending on the states and regions.
Diwali celebration, Webneel
02. Lord Vishnu  married Lakshmi (appeared from the cosmic ocean of milk - Samundra Manthan  after churning) on the day of Diwali. Hence it has close association with Vishnu and Lakshmi.

03. Savithri saved the life of  her husband Sathyavan from the claws of death by winning over Yama, the demigod of death. 

04. Great philosopher Adi Sankara of Kaladi, Kerala established Gnanapeetham on this day. They later became Mutts.
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05.  King Mahabali was crowned on this day. Lord Vishnu in the guise of Vamana (dwarf) vanquished Mahabali, who was allowed to visit the earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel darkness and pessimism.

06. Lord Buddha attained Nirvana Biksha on this day.

07. In some states  like Himachal Pradesh, Govardhana puja is done in honor of Sri. Krishna on this day.

08. The Mogul Emperor Akbar declared Deepavali as official Government holiday for his Hindu subjects and allowed them to fire crackers.

09. It marks the  return of Lord Rama, his consort Sita and his brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya from 14 year after Rama's victory over Lanka king Ravana. The people of Ayodhya illuminated  the town with oil lights or Diyas , heralding  the triumph of good over the evil.

10. For some communities,  it marks the return of Pancha Pandava (Mahabharata) after 12 years of Vanvasa and one year of "Agyatavas". Five brothers had to spend their last year of exile incognito.

11. Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu and goddess of wealth is worshiped, particularly by the business people of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Diwali celebration, Jaipur. Festivals of India 2016
12. Lord Ganesha is worshiped on this day because he is known to remove obstacles in our paths / undertakings.

13. Goddess Saraswati is venerated as she is the embodiment of knowledge.
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14. On the day of Diwali, particularly business people worship Gubera, who is symbolic of wealth, book-keeping and wealth management.

15. In states like Odisha and West Bengal, Hindus worship the goddess Kali instead of Lakshmi, and call the festival Kali Puja. Lord Sankara (Shiva), on this day, pacified and subdued goddess Kali who was in rage (in Ugraha form).


16. Sikhs celebrate by lighting the lamps at the golden temple to mark the arrival of   Guru Har Gobind who  was freed along with some Hindu rulers imprisoned at  the Gwalior Fort by the Mogul emperor Jahangir (1699). It is called the Bandi Chhor Divas

17. For the Jains, on this day Mahaveer attained Nirvana at Pavapuri on 15 October 527 BCE, on Kartik Krishna Amavasya.

18. The day of Deepavali is dedicated to our forefathers - pithroos. It is believed that they visit their descendants on this day.

19. Deepavali is also the birth day of Dhabvantri - the god of health.

20. In Tamil Nadu, on this day, people get up in the early morning and take oil bath - massaging the body with gingelly oil  (Nallenai in Tamil). Taking oil bath is a must. Newly married couple celebrate what is called Talai Deepavali (first Deepavali after wedding) at the bride's house and receive gifts.

21. The items given below represent certain purpose and meaning.

Oil (gingelly oil) - Lakshmi (Prosperity); Bathing powder (Sekkakai) - goddess Sararwati (removing ignorance); Sandal paste - Boomi Devi (goddess of earth; better agricultural prospects) ; Kumkumam - goddess Gowri; Sweet water - Amrit; Lakiyam (herbal medicinal paste) -  Dhanvantri, god of health (better health); Salt - Fortune, Mahalakshmi (goddess of wealth). Firing crackers - bringing in light and dispelling darkness; Partaking of sweets - experiencing positive energy and joy.

22. Hindus  shun non-vegetarian food on this day and it is marked by  a visit to the near-by temples.

23. In Nepal, Singapore, Fuji, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Myanmar, Guyana  and Sri Lanka Deepavali is declared a national holiday.

24. In the Indonesian island of Bali, the large Balinese Hindu communities  celebrate Deepavali.

25. The great king Vikramaditya, on this day, ascended the throne. In 1577, the foundation stone for the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid . Guru Amar Das (third Sikh Guru) institutionalized Diwali as  the day of receiving blessings from Gurus. 

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali

Dasa Bhuthti (Tamil Magazine, October 2016), Deepavali edition.