|Deepawali is popularly known as the festival of lights. For Hindus, Deepawali is the most important festival of the year. Deepawali means the row of earthen lamps. It’s celebrated by lighting the rows of earthen lamps in the house. The most popular story is that on this day Lord Rama came back to his kingdom after fourteen years of exile so his people welcomed him by lighting a lot of lamps. It is celebrated on the amavas (new moon) of the Kartik month of the Hindu calendar.|
The celebrations last for 5 days.
Day 1: Dhanteras
Dhanteras is the first day of celebration. This day is also referred to as Dhanwantari Triodasi or Dhantrayodashi. According to the Hindu Calendar, Dhanteras is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the month of Kartik. As per western calendar, Dhanteras usually falls in the month of October or November.
Dhan refers to wealth and teras means the thirteenth day. Therefore, Dhanteras is literally translated as the wealth on the thirteenth day. On this day, prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi, asking for her blessings in the form of the wealth.
Since Dhanteras is considered to be auspicious with regard to the wealth and prosperity, the purchase of a precious metal is said to bring good luck to the home. Women buy gold or silver ornaments on this day. If this is not possible, they at least buy a new utensil for the kitchen. Alpana or Rangoli designs are drawn on the pathways including the footprints of the Goddess to mark the arrival of Lakshmi.
The next day is called Choti Deepawali. On Choti Deepawali, two earthen lamps with ghee (clarified butter) are lit at dusk in front of the pooja in the memory of the forefathers. At least seven more earthen lamps with mustard oil are lit, one for each room of the house and rest for outside.
Next day is Deepawali. This is the main day of the festivities. In the morning, Hanuman pooja is performed. You need Churma (a hearty sweet made out of poode), two puris, a desi ghee lamp, incense sticks, dhoop, sindoor, a thali (a big plate), a small pitcher for water and a dry piece of cow dung.
Some Churma is put on the puris and puris are kept in the thali. Rest of the Churma is kept in a bowl on the side to be distributed as Prasad in the end. A thin paste is made out of Sindoor and water in the thali. A Hindu Swastika is made on the water pitcher with the Sindoor paste. The sacred thread Kalava is tied on the pitcher. Desi ghee lamp is lit, its flame touching the dry cow dung and kept in thali. This is called Agni Pooja (worshipping fire). All men lit incense stick and dhoop, do Hanuman tilak with the Sindoor paste, sprinkle some Sindoor paste on the puris, offer some ghee to the cow dung, offer Churma and water to Hanumanji and bow. Hanuman Chalisa, Sankat Mochan and Hanuman Aarti are sung. All men tilak themselves with the ash of the burnt cow dung and bow in front of the idol of Hanuman. Puris and Churma from the thali are offered to a cow. Rest of the Churma is eaten by the family members as Prasad. Pakka Khana (puri, kachori and curries) are prepared for lunch.
In the evening, Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped. A lot of things are needed for the pooja: Kheel (puffed wheat), batashe (sweet made of sugar only), sugar toys (toys made of sugar), regular sweets, flour dough, beetle leaf, silver coin, Hoyi paper (used in Hoyi Pooja) for the wall, kalava (the sacred pooja thread), idols of Lakshmi and Ganesh, a new utensil, new postcards, incense sticks, a big earthen lamp (saurati ka diya), red paper, Ganges water, tulsi (basil) leaves, a low stool (chauki), a pooja thali (a big plate), Roli, rose water, many small earthen lamps and flowers for decoration.
|Hoyi paper is stuck to the wall (if you celegrate Hoyi, you would have done it then, otherwise do it now). The chauki is placed in front of the Hoyi on the wall. It is covered with red paper or cloth as red is considered auspicious. The idols of Lakshmi and Ganesh are placed in the middle of the chauki. The beetle leaf is stuck on the Hoyi paper using the dough. Roli is kept in pooja thali and a thin paste is made with the help of the water. A Hindu Swastika is made on the Hoyi paper with the roli paste. Shubh Labh (good profit) and shri mahalakshmiji sada sahay is also written on the Hoyi paper. Silver coin in washed in a new vessel using the Ganga water and then it’s stuck on the beetle leaf using the dough. Then a batasha is stuck on the coin using the dough. In the new vessel, 5 batashe, some kheel, tulsi and rose water is mixed to make charnamrita.|
Then the lamps are lit and incense sticks are burnt. Kheel and batashe are offered to the idols, roli paste is sprinkled on the idols and then water is sprinkled. Lakshmi Aarti is sung. Some roli paste is sprinkled on the postcards too. Postcards can be mailed to friends or relatives. Five handful kheel, batashe and sweet toys are separated out for the fore fathers and given to the poor.
Everybody bows in front of the idols, drink a spoonful of charnamrita and eats kheel, batashe and sweets. At night before sleeping, an empty earthen lamp is kept on top of the burning lamp so that it gets burnt, to be used as kajal later at night.
After Lakshmi Pooja, everybody goes out and lights the fire crackers.
The next day of Badi Deepawali, Annakut is made for lunch. Annakut is nothing but a vegetable made out of a lot of raw vegetables, as many as you can find. The vegetable is eaten with roti, rice and dal.
The next day is called Bhai Dooj. On Bhai Dooj, the sisters do Tilak to their brothers with roli and rice and pray for their long lives. They offer Nariyal and sweets to their brothers. Brothers in turn give them some gift. And this concludes all the Deepawali festivities.
On Deepawali we clean our houses thoroughly, light the lamps, meet our friends, distribute sweets, start new ledgers and pray for the wealth. At the spiritual level all these things actually mean something very different. Cleaning of houses signifies cleaning our thoughts and belief systems of any negativity we have. Lighting the lamps signifies lighting the internal lamp, meaning reminding ourselves that we are nothing but a soul (point of light) in a body. When we become soul conscious, we think beyond the materialistic bodily things, which solves most of our problems. Meeting people and distributing sweets signifies blessing other souls and spreading happiness. Starting new ledger means closing our old karmic accounts and starting the new ones by forgiving all those who did something wrong to us and starting with a clean account. Praying to Lakshmi for wealth means praying for the wealth of knowledge.
If we really think about it, Deepawali is much more than a festival of lights. So let’s try to inculcate some of these things in our lives and change it for the better.
|Dushehara is one of the most important festivals celebrated in India. Dushehara is derived from the Sanskrit words Dasha and Hara, meaning remover of the bad fate. This day is celebrated as the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana. Dushehara is also known as Vijay Dashmi, which means victory on the tenth day. In Bengal this day marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demons.|
Dushehara is celebrated on the tenth day of the Hindu autumn lunar month of Ashvin, which falls in September or October of the Western calendar. The first nine days are celebrated as Sharad Navratri meaning nine nights that culminate on the tenth day as Dushehara.
|How is it celebrated
Following items are needed for the Dushehara pooja: Rice kheer, lauki raita, two rotis, water chetnuts, radish, sugarcane, cow dung, sweets, a notebook, a small bowl of steamed rice, a handful of wheat grains, barley saplings, an earthen lamp, kalava and incense sticks. On the first day of Sharad Navratri, barley seeds are sown and watered every day except on the eighth day. By Dushehara the seeds grow in 6 inch saplings.
|Ten small balls of cow dung are made. One can even use the dry balls by making them in advance and drying them in sun for a few days.|
|On Dushehara, all the preparations are done after taking bath and without eating anything. The cow dung balls are kept in two columns about one foot apart parallel to east-west direction.Some seasonal vegetables like water chestnuts, radish and sugarcane are kept in the middle of these two rows. In a big plate barley saplings are kept along with roli, dry rice, work instruments and sweets. Kheer is poured in 10 small bowls and kept next to the cow dung balls. In a separate plate two rotis, steamed rice and lauki raita are kept to be given away. A small bowl of water is also kept on the side.|
|Incense sticks are lit along with earthen lamp. Kalava is tied on everybody’s wrist. Head of the family writes down the date and with whom they are celebrating Dushehara. They also write down the prices of some common day to day items in the notebook, whatever is applicable to them. Then the barley saplings are kept on the notebook and roli mixed with water is sprinkled on the notebook and the cow dung balls.|
|Sisters do Tilak to their brothers with roli and rice. They also put barley saplings on one of the ears of their brothers. Then everyone eats the kheer and the sweets.|
|In the evening the effigy of demon king Ravana is burnt in public places, which signifies burning the ten vices.|
Dushehara is the victory of the soul over 10 vices – kaam (any kind of desire), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (attachment), ahankara (ego), irshaya (jealousy), dwesh (revenge), chal (lying), hath (stubbornness) and aalasya (laziness). In the beginning of the Dwapar Yug, when the state of the souls was declining, authors wrote the stories of Lord Rama winning over demon king Ravana, where Ravana had ten heads. Ravana means the 10 vices, each head symbolizing one vice. Sita means the soul, captivated by Ravana (vices). Rama means God or the Supreme Soul, who kills Ravana (vices) and frees Sita (the soul) by hurting the naval of Ravana (the body consciousness). So Dushehara tells us to worship the Supreme Soul and become soul conscious to win over our vices and to free up the soul.
|Dushehara is also the celebration of the onset of the new season. In olden times, most of the people used to be farmers so sowing the barley seeds and seeing the strength of the saplings was the test of the quality of seeds for the coming season. Traders noted down the prices of the day to day items to see the market trends year over year. Other workers worshiped their instruments because those instruments were the source of the bread and butter for their family.|
|Knowing all this, it is up to the individuals to decide exactly how they want to follow these customs in today’s context.|