The Diwali festival is one of the most awaited festivals in India. It is also celebrated in other parts of India like Kashmir, Bangladesh and Pakistan. During the festival, known as Laxmi Puja, people decorate their homes, shops, gates, flower vases, doors, walls and other prominent public places with colors and ornaments to display their joy and happiness. The vibrant colors and dazzling ornaments are the main features of this exciting festival.
Diwali is also called Dassu in Hindi and is the Indian translation of the Christian Christmas. The Diwali festival has its origin in the Hindu religion and was celebrated about six centuries back. The first day of the Indian diwali festival was on the new moon night which was about 28 days after Ganesh Chaturthi or the autumnal festival. The people had celebrated Ganesh’s birth anniversary and so began the celebration of Durga Puja.
Initially, the diwali festival was only a small affair for the Hindu community but gradually it grew in popularity among other segments of Indians, particularly among the Jain and Buddhists in India. As times changed, the Jainism also adapted a new formula of celebrating Durga Puja, which is now also celebrated with much more vigor and enthusiasm all across India. So, in recent times the entire world has witnessed a remarkable spread of Durga Puja throughout the world. A large number of people, especially the young ones, have turned up for this diwali festival and enjoy the beautiful colors and festivity. Many prominent religions like Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Hinduism, observe Durga Puja as a special festival, separate from all the others. In other words, this particular festival is exclusively held and observed by the Jains.
The diwali festival has two phases, the first day which is the ‘Purnima’ or the main ceremony, and the second day which is known as the ‘Magh Mela’. On the first day of Purnima, followers of Durga Puja rush to the holy temple of Vrindavan where the puja is performed in the presence of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. The gifts and sweets that are offered to the deities attract the deities and they come to the temple to bless and thank the people. This attracts many other followers of the diwali festival and they rush to the nearby shrines of Amarnath Yatra and stay for a few days with the Jains there.
Another popular Indian diwali festival that is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm is the Diwali Lights Display. This festival has a very interesting history. It was believed that the goddess of lights, Ananta (or Durga) had fallen from heaven and was walking the earth at that very moment. Her lovers, who were waiting for her, had constructed a ghat in the night to carry her away. The next morning, the lights of these lovers burned down and the ghat was hence called Diwali Diya or Dwaya Diyas.
Diwali being an important Hindu festival celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm, the tradition of Diwali Lights Display has been carried forward from one generation to another. Now, it is a part of another major Indian festival, the Baisakhi or Durga Puja. In fact, apart from Vrindavan, Durga Puja is the most visited festival in the entire North India, apart from Sankranti and Holi.
Baisakhi also known as Dusshera is a special festival of colors and rituals that is celebrated between the Rishikars, the upper castes of the Hindu society and the Jains. The main focus of this Diwali festival is to offer sweets (mukhi), garlands, lanterns and other gifts to the lord of the family and friends. Among the different offerings made at the Baisakhi festival, the most interesting is the lighting of thousands of candles on the forehead of the Gods or Goddess of wealth (Sikhs). Even today, the custom is carried out by candle-light. Many people find it a fascinating and moving experience to witness the Diwali flame.
In the olden days, when the royalty of Hindu society used to stay away from the mazaar (selling goods); they used to burn diyas or candles on their altars. The diyas burnt as a symbol of their love, respect and prayers to their beloved gods. This custom gradually evolved into the modern practice of using diyas for the lighting of candles on the Baisakhi day. Diyas and candles are used extensively during Diwali and are considered an indispensable part of the entire Diwali festival.