Saturday, November 04, 2006
after dhanteras on the first day of this festival,comes choti divali(small divali).or naraka chaturdashi as it is called in the south.this day is celebrated to commemorate the killing of king narakasura who ruled in the northeastern region of bharathavarsha and who oppressed thousands of inhabitants.lord krishna killed the asura(demon) in a battle and freed the people from the tyranny of naraka.fewer lights are lit and less of cracker bursting than the main divali day.pooja to goddess laksmi and also to lord rama is done on this day.tiny footprints mark the main rangolis made on this day.on this day in bihar,fireballs made of bamboo and other firewood and oils are burnt and carried around the house with the belief that it would chase away the evil spirits and make sure of a prosperous forthcoming year. in maharashtra lamps are lit and placed facing south.it is the mythological direction where yama resides.
the third day of the festival is the day when lakshmi pooja is performed in a big scale.also ganesa,sarswati,kali,durga and kubera are worshipped.though it is the night of amavasya and there is darkness around,the streets are full of lights.inumerable diyas are lit by the people to guide goddess laksmi to their homes.she is lord vishnu's consort.whenever lord vishnu takes an avatar on earth he is accompanied by an avatar of lakshmi. according to hindu mythology.afterall vishnu requires wealth(shri) to protect and maintain the universe! lakshmi means lakshya or goal or aim and she brings good luck.she is always depicted with four hands wearing red and gold clothes and seated on a lotus.often there are two or four elephants associated with the goddess spraying water out of golden vessels.it signifies that only with efforts can one attain riches.as the epitome of grace and beauty she is venerated and worshipped particularly during navarathri and deepavali.in north india,it is customary to gamble on deepavali night.mother parvati is supposed to have played dice with lord shiva on this day.also lord krishna gave up his mortal form on this day.and jains celebrate this day because bhagavan mahavira attained nirvana on this day. he was the last of the 24 tirthankaras of the jains.also,the sixth guru hargobind singh was released from captivity by emperor jehangir who had jailed him at gwalior for many years.the guru returned to amritsar on divali day. he was given a warm and colourful welcome at the golden temple by his followers.
on this day the farmers pray that wealth and prosperity may be showered on them.good harvest and prosperity go together.in villages,divali is also regarded as a harvest festival,marking the end of the kharif season and it is thanksgiving time for the farmers to goddess lakshmi for blessing them with a good crop.the sowing of winter crops(rabi) start around this time.
the fourth day is celebrated as bali padayami.on this day lord vishnu took the avatara of a dwarf(vamana),tricked mahabali who was giving a lot of grief to the other gods and crushed him under his feet.he was pushed to the nether world.mahabali's grandson prahalada,a devotee of lord vishnu, requested the lord for pardon.lord vishnu made mahabali the king of the nether world.mahabali was transformed and lived many years to rule the kingdom given by lord vishnu.
newly married daughters and their husbands are invited to the girl's home for a special feast.called 'thalai deepawali' in tamil nadu, it coincides with the main deepawali day.brothers call on their married sisters and bring them over to their home for this very important day.goddess lakshmi is seen as devi annapurna who blesses the food on deepavali day. a recuperative medicine called 'lehiyam' also called 'marundu' in tamil for simplcity is prepared on this day.using jaggery from sugarcane.and other ingredients are ajwain,jeera,black pepper,dry ginger and ghee.
on the last day of the divali festival, sisters perform pooja for the safety and welfare of their brothers.they make a paste of saffron and rice and place a tikka on their brother's forehead to ward off evil.in maharashtra, women prepare poha on this day and offer it to goddess lakshmi.according to legend,yamaraj's sister put an auspicious mark on his forehead when he called on her on this day. the brothers in return give their sisters gifts as their token of love.
all the five days are days and nights of great rejoicing and bonhomie.brothers forget their quarrels and makeup.and so do other family members and friends who develop some misunderstandings use this as an opportunity to patch up and reunite.depending on the region and ancestral practices there is an overlap of functions performed on these five days.the fact however remains that goddess lakshmi is the focus.she is worshipped so that she may bestow dhanam,dhanyam,bahuputralabham and deerghamayu:. riches,grains,progeny and long life.
it is not all over yet as chhat puja and puja for animals are performed though they are not part of the divali festival.i will cover this in my next posting.