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Diwali Celebrations Across India


by Radhika Patil



First day: Yamadeepdaan
Second day: Mahanisha
Fifth day: Bhai Dooj

The celebration of Diwali in Assam is very similar to celebrations across Maharasthra and involves diyas, mithai, singing of aartis and then celebrating the festival with firecrackers. Beautiful lamps symbolic of the spiritual light that dispels evil and the darkness of ignorance are hung outside homes. The doorways are decorated with torans of flowers like marigolds and mango leaves. Rangolis are also drawn with coloured powders.



First day: Dhanatrayodashi
Second day: Chhoti Diwali
Third day: Lakshmi Poojan
Fourth day: Govardhan Pooja
Fifth day: Godhan, Chitragupt Pooja (Dawat Pooja), Godhan, Bhai Dooj

In Bihar, the celebration of Diwali starts two days before the actual Diwali as Dhanatrayodashi, a day that is celebrated in honour of Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods. He is believed to have emerged with a pot of amrit during the samudra manthan. On this day, new kitchen utensils are bought and kept at the place of worship. The buying of utensils, according to one theory, relates to the myth of Dhanvantari emerging from the ocean with a pot in his hand. People bathe early in the morning and observe a fast, which is broken only after sunset with sweetmeats, puri and other delicacies.

The day before Diwali is celebrated as Chhoti Diwali. On this day fewer lights are lit and fewer crackers are burst as compared to the Diwali day. The morning after Chhoti Diwali, women make beautiful rangolis in their doorways and courtyards. Tiny footprints, to signify the footprints of Lakshmi, are made out of rice paste. Songs in honour of the deities are sung and aartis are performed. The gods are offered kheer, batashe and khilone and various sweetmeats. After the pooja, diyas are placed in and around the house: on the doorway and near the Tulsi plant. Only after this are crackers burst and people meet friends to xchange wishes and sweets.


First day: Dhanteras
Second day: Chhoti Diwali, Roop Chaturdashi
Third day: Lakshmi Pooja. Bandi Chhor Diwas
Fourth day: Govardhan Pooja, Annakoot
Fifth day: Bhai Dooj

In Delhi, Diwali festivities start at Dusshera. From then on for the next 20 days people set out on a frantic spree of shopping, spring-cleaning, whitewashing and redecorating. The shops and market places embark on a frenzy of sales and promotional offers. Market places are festooned with streamers. Melas and fairs crop up everywhere. Many people buy new clothes to wear on Diwali day. Traditionally a kitchen utensil of some kind is purchased.

Houses are decorated and on Diwali day a Lakshmi pooja is organised in the evening. Often, the women of the house perform an aarti to their husbands, garland them and put a tikka while praying for their long lives. In some houses, there is a ritual of immersing a silver coin in a tumbler of milk. The milk is then sprinkled lightly in the rooms of the house. The prasad is kept in front of the idol throughout the night.



Second day: Narkachaturdashi

Diwali is actually just a oneday festival in Goa, though Bhaubeej and New Year are also celebrated here. On the second day of the festivities huge effigies of Narakasura, the demon, are made with papier mache, wastepaper, crackers and hay and burnt at dawn.

According to legend Narakasura was a demon who terrorised the people. He used to come down to the villages and capture citizens. Lord Krishna killed him and freed people from his terrorism. With his killing, people were in a celebratory mood. They lit up their houses with 'pontis' and hung 'akash divas' above their houses.

After burning the Narakasura, the men folk bathe with oil and 'utnem'. These celebrations are like those in Maharashtra. The family then visits a temple and returns to a feast of 'foav' sweets.



First day: Dhanteras
Second day: Kali Chaudas
Third day: Chopda Pooja
Fourth day: Bestavars
Fifth day: Bhaibeej

In Gujarat, Diwali is associated mostly with the worship of Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth. The pooja lasts for five days starting with Dhanteras. The fourth day or the day of Govardhan Pooja is also the Gujarati New Year. Lakshmi is believed to visit the homes that are well lit. So families decorate their houses with lights and flowers.

Gujaratis start celebrations on the night before Diwali by creating designs - usually depicting nature or the gods - from natural powdered colours in verandas. These rangolis are supposed to welcome Goddess Lakshmi to the house. Small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermillion powder all over the entrance of the homes.



First day: Dhanteras
Second day: Chhoti Diwali
Third day: Lakshmi Pooja
Fourth day: Govardhan Pooja
Fifth day: Bhai Dooj

In the courtyards of homes a red or black square is painted with coloured clay. This is decorated with pictures of animals and birds. The walls are decorated with flower garlands. After sunset, clay lamps are lit on a plank in the memory of departed ancestors. These are then placed within the houses. Women paint little vessels (auloo) with clay and decorate them with drawings in red paint.

On the day of Diwali, soaked rice is powdered and designs are made out of that. At night time, young girls worship this design with grass and camphor. At some places, a figure of Lakshmi made with sandalwood is placed in a copper plate and a mandap of sugarcane is made over it. Goddess Lakshmi is specially worshipped on this day.



First day: Dhanatrayosashi
Third day: Sukhsuptika

During Diwali the whole city of Jammu brightens up. Some people paint their homes while others buy new things - a new car, furniture, clothes or utensils. Diwali is one of the oldest rituals for Kashmiri Pundits. We find a mention of its celebrations even in the Nilmat Puran. It was then celebrated as Sukhsuptika which literally means 'sleep with happiness'. The celebration would start from Ekadeshi (new moon) and last till Amavasya (no moon). On Amavasya elders of the family worship Goddess Lakshmi after sunset. Earthen lamps are placed in temples and on road crossings, cremation grounds, banks of rivers, streams, lakes, hills, houses, under trees, cow sheds, courtyards and shops.



First day: Dhanatrayodashi
Second day: Narak Chaturdashi
Third day: Lakshmi Pooja
Fourth day: Diwali Cha Padva
Fifth day: Bhau Beej

In a typical Maharashtrian family Diwali celebrations start with 'Vasu-baras'. This is a celebration held in honour of cows which are regarded as mother figures by Hindus. Following the rituals of the day married women perform a pooja of those cows that have borne calves. The tradition symbolises a woman's gratitude towards the cow for serving her and her children. On the day of Dhanatrayodashi a pooja called the Yama Deep Dan is held where mothers and wives make one diya each for all the male members in the family out of kneaded flour. These are lit and offered to Lord Yama in the evening.

On the second day people celebrate Narakasura's death by getting up early and massaging their bodies with scented oil. As a custom they use 'utane' to bathe instead of soap. This special bath is referred to as 'abhyang-snan'. Utane is made of several ingredients which possess ayurvedic properties like chandan (sandalwood), camphor, manjistha, rose, orange skin and haldi (turmeric)

In Maharashtra one can also see mud forts built in courtyards. These are built in honour of Shivaji Bhonsle. The last day of Diwali festival is celebrated as Bhau Beej. The end of Diwali celebrations is celebrated with Tulsi-Vivah. On this day people organise a marriage of the sacred plant tulsi (a basil plant) in their homes.



First day: Dhanteras/Yamadeepdaan
Second day: Mahanisha / Kali Pooja
Third day: Lakshmi Pooja
Fourth day: Govardhan Pooja/ Annakoot
Fifth day: Bhatri Ditya/ Bhai Dooj

One ritual sets celebrations in Orissa apart from the rest of the country. It is a ritual that calls upon the spirits of the family's forefathers. Jute stems are burnt to light up the dark path that the spirits of the ancestors take back to heaven. All the members of the household gather together just after dusk. A rangoli of a sailboat is made on the ground. The boat has seven chambers. Over the drawing of each different chamber several items are kept - cotton, mustard, salt, asparagus root, turmeric and a wild creeper. Over the central chamber are the offerings meant for prasad. Perched over the prasad is a jute stem with a cloth wick tied around the edge. It is lit at the beginning of the pooja. All members of the family hold a bundle of jute stems in their hands. Lighting their respective bundles from the flame on the rangoli, they raise them skywards chanting.

Beside the rangoli, a mortar and pestle and a plough are also kept and worshipped. After the pooja and offerings, the family celebrates Diwali by bursting crackers.



First day: Yamadeepdaan
Second day: Roop Chaturdashi
Third day: Bandi Chhor
Fifth day: Bhai Dooj

The preparations of Diwali begin well in advance. People start decorating their homes, preparing sweets and thousands of lamps are lit to create a world of fantasy. Each house entrance is made colourful with lovely traditional motifs of rangoli to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

In villages cattle are adorned and worshipped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. Winter crops are sown and the day following Diwali is celebrated as Tikka. On this day, sisters place an auspicious mark with saffron paste and rice on their brothers' forehead. This is a gesture to ward off all harms from their brothers.

Bandi Chhor is the anniversary of Guru Hargobind Ji being released from the prison at Gwalior Fort. In Amritsar, Diwali celebrations are a grand affair with the Golden Temple illuminated with traditional lamps of different colours.



First day: Dhanteras/Dhantheran
Second day: Roop Chaturdashi
Third day: Deva Divali
Fourth day: Muharat Poojan
Fifth day: Yamadwitheya

During the festival season people decorate their homes, buy new clothes, visit relatives and friends and take time off. Special sweets like mawa ki kachori, til ke laddoo, gonth ke laddoo, piste ke launj, moti pak, pheeni, sohan papdi, besan barfi, jalebi and shakarpara are cooked.



First day: Dhanatrayodashi
Second day: Chhoti Diwali
Third day: Lakshmi Poojan
Fourth day: Govardhan Poojan
Fifth day: Bhai Phota

The beautiful Kartik Purnima festival or Dev Deepawali celebrated in Varanasi is a visual delight. The ghats of Varanasi come alive with thousands of brightly lit earthen lamps. These lamps are then left to float down the Ganga river.



First day: Dhanteras
Second day: Mahanisha
Third day: Lakshmi Poojan
Fifth day: Bhai Phota

On the no moon day (Amavasya) coinciding with Diwali, goddess Kali is worshipped. In West Bengal, it is not Lakshmi pooja but Kali pooja which makes the festival unique. The houses are decorated and two or four plantain leaves are placed at the entrance and a row of diyas at the doorstep. The Diwali festival stretches over three days. But the festive celebrations start during Kali Pooja (navratri).

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