Festival of Diwali

Prof. (Dr.) R.D. Gupta

Our country is an abode of festivals. Diwali also known as Deepawali, or festival of lights and crackers, is one of the most important and well known festival, especially of Hindus.  This festival always comes off during the month of Kartik or Cutik according to Vikrami Era which coincides either with October or November in accordance with Christen Era.
The Diwali festival possesses a number of legends as far as its origin is concerned. According to one legend, the Diwali festival commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with his wife, the Goddess Sita and brother Lakshman from fourteen years exile. It is believed that after Lord Rama’s return, the people of Ayodhya expressed their joy by decorating houses and well coming them with grace. Oil lamps were illuminated, drums were beaten and flutes played in Ayodhya on this day. Thus, Diwali is celebrated in India as victory day since that day every year.
Another legend is that the Goddess of wealth, mother Lakshmi incarnated after the churning of ocean by the Gods and Devils/Demons. The day is therefore celebrated as birth day of the Goddess Lakshmi.
It is also a myth that Pandavas accepted their defeat at the game of dice before Kauravas for 12 years punishment. So the people who loved the Pandavas celebrate Diwali by illuminating earthen lamps.
It is well known that the king Vikramaditya was coronated on the auspicious day of Diwali. He later on began to start his own calendar known as Vikrami Sambhat, which is still being used in our country, particularly by the astrologers and north Indians.
In accordance with spiritual beliefs Maharishi Dayanand Sarswati founder of Araya Samaj and Mahavir (Jain religion) attained an eternal bliss of nirvana on the auspicious day of Diwali. The foundation stone of Sri Harminder Sahib ji (Golden Temple) has been laid down on auspicious day of Diwali during the year 1577 AD (Kerni, 2013).
Celebration of Diwali
Diwali is not only celebrated in India but it is also held in countries like Nepal, Srilanka, Myanmar (Burma), Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, Singapur, Fiji etc. Not only this, the Hindus dwelling in United States of America and United Kingdom also celebrate Diwali festival with great enthusiasm. They call this as the festival of lights. More and more Indians staying abroad feel the necessity to return to their mother land to celebrate Diwali and lot of NRIS  were seen even in Jammu city last year. Although most of the Hindus celebrate Diwali on one day only, yet some of them celebrate it as a five days festival with everyday signifying something different. Consecutive five days start from Dhan Tarodshi that marks the first day of Diwali celebration. On this day, new clothes are put on, houses are decorated beautifully with rangoli and new metallic utensils are purchased as they are considered good luck. The second day of Diwali is dedicated to the Goddess Mahakali on Chodash. The third day is what the people refer to the Diwali which falls on Amavasya. The day falling next to Diwali is of Goverdhan Purja (Anna koot) and Bali Pratipada. The final day of Diwali is known as Bhai Dooj or Tika.
Diwali is celebrated in different ways by various sections of the society. However, the worship of the Goddess Lakshmi is performed everywhere in the country. People also worship the Lord Ganesha. Infact, idoles selling in the bazaars consist both of the Goddess Lakshmi and the lord Ganesha and accordingly both are worshipped after purchasing them and bringing at homes by the people. There is a tradition in the society that all the jewellery and cash be kept before the idol of the Goddess Lakshmi in order to perform worship and attain the blessings of the Goddess. The light of the various rooms of the house remains on throughout the day of Diwali. Moreover, the doors of the different rooms remain open. It is attributed to the fact that the Goddess Lakshmi visit every house hold on Diwali night.
Like other North Indian states, the celebration of Diwali in Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir state is celebrated with great fervour. The lights are the main attractions of the Diwali festival. The young ones, especially of various villages after lighting the earthen lamps (diyas) place them before the feet of the elders on Diwali day. The elders bestow them the blessings for their welfare. As a matter of fact, the lighting of the earthen lamps denotes the illumination of knowledge and separation from ignorance. To give respect to Diwali, the Jammuites particularly Hindus get their houses whitewashed a few days earlier prior to celebrating Diwali festival. Not only this, the houses are well decorated with earthen lights, other lights and rangoli. Rangoli intricate designs rendered on the floors of living rooms and lobbies with brightly coloured flour (rice). Some of the elders also set afloat the diyas in the nearby rivers (Tiwi, Canal, Chenab and others), and fire works light up the night sky. All family members get together at night with special prayers to be made to the Goddess Lakshmi and lord Ganesha along with different kinds of snacks and sweets.
Use of Sweets
A festival without indulging in sweets is nothing, particularly Diwali, which gives a license to everyone to indulge in sweets of all kinds. Such sweets may consists of, from the traditional ladoos, burfi, gulab jaman, rasgula, amrities, jalebis to the modern fruit filled chocolates. Some of the Jammuites both ladies and gents say, “Diwali is the time when we can eat any amount of sweets; they just wait for the time throughout the year.” Some of the ladies always prepare sweets at home during Diwali to give them a kind of personal touch for their families and friends. They say, “This not only gives us an immense pleasure but also a kind of a feeling of achievement making everyone around us happy.” Since most of the sweets are prepared from sugar and desi ghee as such these are burdening for diabetic and heart patients. It is, therefore, suggested that owners of the sweet shops must prepare some sweets using sugar obtained from Stevie and olive oil for such patients.
Use of Fire-crackers
According to some of the Jammuites now a days, use of fireworks or crackers have become major part of Dilwali celebration with young and old alike. In spite of having anticrackers campaign, there is no dip in its popularity. When the rockets fly high and burst open into an umbrella of colourful ambers, people from the ground watch this spectacle with awe. Children light up a fire wheel which dances on the floor, just as a couple of noisy bombs go off back to the ground. Indeed, fireworks play a significant role in enhancing charm of Diwali among all the age groups, kids, youngsters and elders enjoy the play of crackers. Although there are some environmental issues associated with the use of fireworks yet there is no exaggeration in saying that crackers are an inherent part of Diwali, celebrations. However, some of the citizens of Jammu  discourage the use of fire crackers.
They say “The divinity and serenity of Diwali is created by the illumination of traditional diyas and different colourful lights. This creates a very positive aura in the whole atmosphere. But unfortunately this festival has been spoiled by bursting of fire crackers which are responsible for polluting whole of the environment. We all should try to make this festival more eco-friendly i.e, steps must be taken to minimise the use of firework, light earthen diyas and candles instead of lights to save electricity, wrap gifts in handmade paper, recycled paper-jute or cloth bags in place of polythene bags. There are some clubs in Jammu, which celebrate Diwali for sharing the joy with all. For instance, the French club of Jammu is known to have organised a series of programmes for the poor and needy and also take an initiative to celebrate Diwali with the orphans. The members of the club collect money for this event. Sweets and snacks are distributed among the children after crackers show. Thus, it can be concluded that let the Diwali be celebrated in such a manner that one may get more blessings and happiness.
(The author former associate Dean-cum-cum Chief Scientist KVK, SKUAST-J)