Diwali, which is often referred to as the ‘Festival of Lights’ is almost upon us. Candles will alight, prayers will be sent and a feast will be thrown.
Diwali originated as a harvest festival. Many harvest festivals occur in autumn, as the weather begins to turn cold. Why would people celebrate the end of the harvest season, and why would they do so with a “festival of lights”? People celebrate the end of a harvest for two major reasons, both tied to agriculture. In ancient agricultural societies, the end of the season traditionally meant less need for the backbreaking work of harvesting crops. If the harvest was successful, the end of the season also meant the community had abundant food for the winter. Less work, more food—those are both good reasons to celebrate!
A festival of lights is perfectly timed as autumn turns to winter. Days start getting shorter and nights start getting longer as the winter solstice approaches.
It is an old tradition that gambling at the time of the Hindu New Year is good luck and brings prosperity to the forthcoming year.
In business terms, Diwali signals a new term for businesses as they open new accounting books and farmers end the harvest season with Diwali signaling the onset of winter.
Diwali takes its name from “diyas” which is a symbolic act of removing the darkness and awakening the light. This is where the term ‘Festival of lights’ comes from as shops, restaurants and homes all decorate their properties with earthenware oil lamps. It is thought lamps are lit to help aid Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth as she finds her way into their homes. The festival has underlying celebratory meanings including light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil.
Ganesh is seen as the God of good beginnings and the fabled remover of obstacles. Therefore, during Diwali, he is placed side by side with Lakshmi. Ganesh is then worshipped first, signaling the removal of any obstacles which may interfere with the wealth and prosperity from Lakshmi.
The 5 days of Diwali include:
The first day of Diwali: Dhanteras
The first day of Diwali is called Dhanvantari Triodasi or Dhanwantari Triodasi also called Dhan Theras. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic for mankind. This day marks the beginning of deepawali celebrations.
The second day of Diwali: Choti Diwali
The second day of dipawali is called Narak Chaturdasi. On this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and made the world free from fear.
The third day of Diwali: Lakshmi Puja on Diwali
This is the day when worship unto Mother Lakshmi is performed for wealth and prosperity, the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
The fourth day of Diwali: Padwa & Govardhan Puja
On this day, Govardhan Pooja is performed. Many thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna caused the people of Vraja to perform Govardhan Pooja.
The fifth day of Diwali: Bhai Duj
The fifth day of the Diwali is called Bhai teeka. It is a day dedicated to sisters. Many moons ago, in the Vedic era, Yama (Yamraj, the Lord of death) visited his sister Yamuna on this day. He gave his sister a Vardhan (a boon) that whosoever visits her on this day shall be liberated from all sins. They will achieve Moksha or final emancipation. From then on, brothers visit their sisters on this day to enquire of their welfare. This day marks the end of the five days of deepavali celebrations.