Diwali across India: Of festivities, tradition and tales

The five-day Diwali celebrations this year is all set to start on November 12 through November 16 this year. And while the pandemic restrictions are in place, there is nothing to stop you from celebrating the festival at home. After all, Diwali is all about the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. Diwali is said to be the time when the Pandavas returned home after their exile. A day before Dhanteras, Govatsa Dwadashi is celebrated in many parts of Maharashtra when cows and calves are worshipped and offered wheat-based products. Devotees who perform this however abstain from eating wheat and milk-based foods on this date. This day is also called Nandini Vrat. Here is your guide to the five-day festivities and traditions from across the country.

Day 1: Dhanteras | Dhanatrayodashi

On this day Lord Dhanvantari, the god of medicine and incarnation of Lord Vishnu is worshipped. Legend has it that this is the day Goddess Lakshmi was born and as a mark of respect a special Lakshmi Puja happens in the evening. Buying gold, silver and other metals on this day signifies that one will remain wealthy through the year. In Gujarat Lakshmi, Kubera, the Hindu God of riches and Ganesha Pooja is done on this day.

Day 2: Naraka Chaturdasi | Chhoti Diwali

This is believed to be the day when Lord Krishna slayed the demon Narakasura and rescued 16000 captive princesses. Goa celebrates by burning his effigy. This is the day when people usually have an oil bath using sesame oil (called Abhyang Snaan) and wear new clothes. This day is also called Roop Chaturdashi and Roop Chaudas.

Day 3: Amavasya | Lakshmi Puja

An important new moon day and the darkest day of the month is when Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped in the evening. Goddess Kali is worshiped on this day in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam. It is believed that the darkness of the night can be banished with lights and hence homes are lit up with small earthen diyas. The puja is done in the evening as people believe that on this day, the Goddess will come home and bless them with wealth and fortune. This is also the day when people celebrate the return of Lord Rama and Sita from Lanka after defeating Ravana.

Day 4: Bali Padyami | Govardhan Puja

Govardhan Puja is celebrated in North India to commemorate the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the god of rain. This is the day when Gujarat celebrates the start of a new year. Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu celebrate this day as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padyami or the day Lord Vishnu killed the demon king Bali. This is the day when a scrumptious meal with many sweets and savouries are prepared. Crackers are usually burst in the evening as well.

Day 5: Bhai Dhuj

The fifth day is Bhai Dhuj and is about celebrating siblings and their relationship. Brothers and sisters celebrate their bond on this day when brothers visit their sister’s home and give them gifts. In a sense it is a revival of the vows made on Raksha Bandhan and is typically celebrated in North India.

Unusual traditions

  • Burning effigies in Goa to celebrate the victory of Lord Krishna over Narakasura on the eve of Diwali.

  • Andhra Pradesh celebrates with the recitation of Harikatha as a form of prayer to Lord Vishnu.

  • Building mud forts as replicas of forts that were once ruled by Shivaji in Maharashtra.

  • Tamil Nadu has a tradition of cleaning a vessel and also making herbal medicine marundhu.

  • ‘Gharondas' or mud houses are built inside homes in Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

  • Buddhi Diwali is celebrated in Himachal Pradesh after a month.

  • In Orissa kaunria is a special ritual for Diwali.

  • West Bengal celebrates Diwali as Kali Puja.

  • Karnataka celebrates Bali Padyami with stories of King Bali and forts made from cow dung.

  • Punjab celebrates Bandi Chhor Diwas on Diwali and the golden temple is lit with thousands of earthen lamps.

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