Deepavali – Festival of Lights
November 11 - 13, 2023
The Festival of Lights, also known as Deepavali or Diwali, is a very auspicious festival celebrated with great enthusiasm, joy, and devotion throughout India and all over the world. During this beautiful festival, people who follow the Hindu dharma invite Mother Lakshmi into their homes by lighting small lamps all around the home, receiving guests, giving gifts of new clothes, and performing Lakshmi Puja.
In another fun Deepavali tradition, children love to light sparklers and firecrackers outside their homes. In cities all across India, one can see entire families out in the streets, laughing and enjoying the fun as children spin with sparklers and set off a multitude of popping firecrackers. This innocent laughter and joy itself signifies the presence of Mother Lakshmi.
The thirteenth day of the month of Aswayuja, or “Aswayuja Trayodasi,” is called Sri Dhana Lakshmi Trayodasi. “Dhana” means wealth, and when people worship Mother Lakshmi on this day, every kind of poverty is burned. Such devotees will gain the great blessings of Sri Dhana Lakshmi to obtain the wealth they need, with the most important treasure being spiritual realization.
Deepavali or Diwali is the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It’s the festival of lights (deep = light and awali = a row i.e., a row of lights) that’s marked by five days of celebration and joy. Each of the five days in the festival of Deepavali is separated by a different tradition, but what remains true and constant is the celebration of life, its enjoyment and goodness.
The Origin of Deepavali
Historically, the origin of Deepavali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Deepawali. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day. In Jainism, Deepavali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana. Deepavali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers.
This year Deepavali falls on the following days:
Regional Names of the Days of Deepavali
Day 1 – Saturday, November 11 :
Day 2 – Sunday, November 12 :
Day 3 – Monday, November 13 :
Deepavali New moon
Special Guidelines for Deepawali Sadhana
- Wake up before sunrise and take a shower or have a bath, making sure to wash the hair.
- Perform any kind of Lakshmi puja, chanting Samputita Sri Suktam. It is very good to offer milk, fruit salad, or sugar pieces to a Sri Chakra or image of Lakshmi while chanting Samputita Sri Suktam. For naivedyam, sweet pongal, milk sweets or other sweets are very auspicious.
- In the evening at 6 pm or if you are able to at the Deepavali time at midnight to 1:30 am, you can do Lakshmi puja again, chanting Samputita Sri Suktam and offering fruits, milk, and sweets.
- Finally, offer harati with eight ghee lamps; this is Sri Ashta Lakshmi Harati because eight lights are being offered for the eight main forms of Mother Lakshmi.
- During these three days of Deepavali, avoid all six inner enemies–anger, lust, ignorance, greed, jealousy, arrogance and pride. It is also very good to maintain silence as much as possible and avoid unnecessary talking.
In Samputita Sri Suktam, the Rig Vediya Maha Lakshmi Mantra is repeated 16 times. In this mantra, which begins “Om Srim Hrim Srim,” the powerful “Srim” bijakshara is repeated four times. Amma has said that the Srim bijakshara attracts solar energy to the body to make one’s mind and heart as bright as the sun. This sacred sound attracts the light of Lakshmi Devi, which then surrounds us and prevents negativity from entering our hearts or minds. On the mystical level, this sound helps to activate the divine kundalini energy and invokes the supreme light of highest spiritual consciousness. In the symbolic mythology of ancient India, Sri Dhana Lakshmi emerged from the infinite ocean of milk when the gods and demons churned this ocean. This story signifies the churning of consciousness that happens when we practice sadhana, and promises us that if we practice with determination, Mother Lakshmi will emerge from the ocean of consciousness and fill our minds with the auspicious wealth of spiritual enlightenment. Spiritually, Deepavali corresponds to the time when Sri Dhana Lakshmi appeared from the milky ocean to bless all the gods, so this is a very, very auspicious time for worshipping Sri Dhana Lakshmi.
Each day of Deepavali has its own tale, legend and myth to tell.
Dhanteras marks the first day of the five-day-long Deepavali Festival. Dhanteras falls on the auspicious thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Kartik (October/November). In the word Dhanteras, “Dhan” stands for wealth. On Dhanteras Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped to provide prosperity and well being. Hence Dhan Teras holds a lot more significance for the business community. .A very interesting story about Dhanteras says that once the sixteen year old son of King Hima was doomed to die by a snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage as per his horoscope. On that particular fourth day of his marriage his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid all her gold ornaments, gold and silver coins in a large heap at the entrance of her husband’s room and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. She then went on telling stories and singing songs. When Yama, the god of Death arrived there in the guise of a Serpent his eyes got blinded by that dazzle of those brilliant lights and he could not enter the Prince’s chamber. So, he climbed on top of the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat there the whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he quietly went away. Thus, the young wife saved her husband from the clutches of death. Since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of “Yamadeepdaan” and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yam, the god of Death.
According to the myth Dhanteras is also celebrated in honor of Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods. He is believed to have emerged with a pot of amrita during the samudra manthan .The buying of utensils, according to one theory, relates to the myth of Dhanvantari emerging from the ocean with a pot in his hand. Since he is also the physician of the gods, cleanliness and hygiene are essential to this festival.
The second day of the Deepavali festival, Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Naraka’s mother Bhudevi declared that his death should not be a day of mourning but an occasion to celebrate and rejoice. This day is also known as “Bali Pratipada”. The word “Pratiprada” literally means “below the opponent’s foot”. According to the myth Bali was an immensely powerful king. When the Lord felt that King Bali was becoming too powerful, Vishnu, disguised as a sage of diminutive proportions, appeared in his court. Bali offered to fulfill any of the sage’s wishes. The sage asked for all the land he could cover in three paces. King Bali agreed immediately. Vishu then assumed a gigantic form and claimed the world (Mrityuloka), and the heavens (Swargloka) in two paces. To keep his foot down the third time, he asked for King Bali’s head. Bali agreed. Thus, the reign of Bali was overthrown.
This day is celebrated in South India by some different rituals. People wake up before sunrise prepare a paste by mixing Kumkum in oil, symbolizing blood and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads.
In Maharashtra also, traditional early baths with oil and “Uptan” (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders are a `must’. Afterward steamed vermicelli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served.
Amavasya, the third day of Deepavali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. It is on the third day of Deepavali – Kartika Shudda Padyami that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu.
The fourth day, Gudi Padwa is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month. Gudi Padwa is celebrated as the New Year day by Maharashtrians and Gujaratis. This festival marks the beginning of the spring season. .This festival symbolizes love and devotion between the wife and husband. On this day newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals and given presents. In North India Govardhan-Puja is also performed on this day. This festival is in commemoration of the lifting of Mount Govardhan by Lord Krishna. People of Gokul used to worship Indra regularly. But in one particular year the young Krishna stopped them. In anger Lord Indra sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. However, Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan Mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella.
Annakut – This day is also observed as Annakut – meaning mountain of food. In temples specially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given milk bath, dressed in shining attire with ornaments. After the prayers and traditional worship varieties of delicious sweets are ceremoniously raised in the form of a mountain before the deities as “Bhog” and then the devotees approach the mountain of food and take prasadam.
The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj). 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. That is why this day of Bhai Duj is also known by the name of “Yama Dvitiya”
Another story behind the origin of Bhai Duj says that when Mahavir, the founder of Jainism, attained nirvana, his brother King Nandivardhan was distressed because he missed him and was comforted by his sister Sudarshana. Since then, women have been revered during Bhai Duj.