5 auspicious days marking Diwali, The Festival of Lights
Diwali or Deepavali, the 5 day Festival of Lights is one of the most significant festivals in Indian culture. The actual day of Diwali is traditionally celebrated on the festival’s third day, which this year falls on Wednesday 7th November, 2018. It sees millions attend firework displays, prayers and celebratory events across the world every autumn. The festival is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains; bringing family and friends together for a five-day celebration and tradition of Diwali Gifts.
The 5 day festival honours the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and hope over despair. This ancient festival is a time for love and friendship and is enjoyed the world over and marks the beginning of their New Year (Day 4).
To celebrate, houses are decorated with candles and colourful lights and huge firework displays are held while families feast and share gifts. Shopping and exchanging gifts are a big part of the Diwali celebrations. The significance of giving gifts is simple: To show love and honour to those you hold dear.
In ancient times, when Indian households depended solely on farming for their livelihood, people offered Diwali gifts of their farm produce for the day. Sweets and decorations were made at home and given as a token of love and good wishes.
Though the heart and soul of the Festival have not changed, the way gifts are given have. Especially for those who are separated by distance. It can be difficult to know what Diwali gifts to send when many miles or even an ocean separates us from loved ones. Lasting traditions survive the test of time when they are held dear while finding ways to adapt to our ever changing lives and cultures.
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Read on to find out about the five days of Diwali and the legends behind them.
#Day 1 – Dhanteras (Day of fortune)
The first day of Diwali is called Dhan Teras (Dhanvantari Triodas). An ancient legend which ascribes the occasion to an interesting story about the 16-year-old son of
King Hima, whose horoscope predicted his death by a snake-bite on the fourth day
of his marriage. On that particular day, his newly-wed wife did not allow him to sleep. With a plan to save her husband, she laid out all her ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a heap at the entrance of the sleeping chamber and lit lamps all over the place. Then she started narrating stories and singing songs to keep her husband from falling asleep.
The next day, when Yamraja, the God of Death, arrived at the prince’s doorstep in the guise of a Serpent, his eyes were dazzled and blinded by the brilliance of the lamps and the jewellery. Yamraja could not enter the Prince’s chamber, so he climbed on top of the heap of gold coins and sat there the entire night listening to the stories and songs. In the morning, he silently went away. Thus, the young prince was saved from the clutches of death by the cleverness of his new bride and the day is celebrated as Dhanteras, ever since.
Money is ceremonially purified by washing it in milk, to symbolise the renewal of good intentions and the motivation to use it to benefit family and the greater good. It is also a time for sharing wealth with those one considers deserving and to replace feelings of greed with generosity. This spiritual reinvigoration makes it an auspicious day for buying gold and silver, often jewellery, so this day is also a major shopping day!
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#Day 2 – Naraka Chaturdasi (Day of knowledge)
This day is also known as Narak Chaturdasi and Kali Chaudas. The legend behind the day is associated with the demon king Narakasur who was a ruler of Pragjyotishpur, a province to the South of Nepal. Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur on this day, freeing the world from fear and also releasing the imprisoned ladies from Narakasur’s harem.
As the ladies chastity could be called into question, Lord Krishna married them all. The story shows that God wishes to take care of his people and offer them protection.
#Day 3 – Diwali (Day of Light)
On this day, Lord Rama rescued his wife from the demon Ravana after an epic battle. When he returned home, his people lit up his path home so he could return in the dark. Today, candles are lit to show the triumph of good over evil and homecoming. For many it is customary to light candles and lamps in their windows to welcome Lakshmi into their home.
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#Day 4 – Annakut (New Year Day) or Govardhan Pooja and Vishwakarma Day
Annakut and Govardhan Pooja is celebrated on day 4. Govardhan is a small hillock situated at ‘Braj’, near Mathura. As the legend goes, on this day, Lord Krishna lifted the hill to shelter villagers from a flood caused by the vengeful Indra, King of Heaven. The same as Indra, Hindus learn to be humble in the face of the divine.
The day is also dedicated to the Hindu God, Lord Vishwakarma, who, as per mythology, created the weapons used in mythological times. Lord Vishwakarma is considered to be the best worker, the symbol of quality and excellence in craftsmanship. His creations also include the mythical town of Dwarka, the capital of Lord Krishna. The day is also celebrated as Lord Vishwakarma’s birthday in many parts of India.
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#Day 5 – Bhai Duj (Day of love between siblings)
It is a day dedicated to sisters. One of the most famous legends around Bhai Dooj narrates the story of Yamraja and Yamuna. Yamraja visited his sister Yamuna on this day. Pleased by her love and affection, Yamraja gav
e his sister a Vardhan (boon) that whosoever visits her on this day, shall be liberated from all sins. Since then, the custom of celebrating Bhai Dooj started..
This was traditionally one of the few days when brothers could visit their married sisters’ homes, to ensure they were being well cared for. Brothers commonly give their sisters gifts on Bhai Duj. Much of the traditional gift-giving during Diwali is from men to women. This is to show them respect and offer them protection.
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