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Festivals - DIWALI:
 
 

DIWALI MARKS ONE OF THE BIGGEST AND GRANDEST celebrations in India. Diwali is also known as the 'festival of light'. On this day, Lord Ram (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the Treta Yug) returned to his capital Ayodhya after the exile of fourteen years thrust upon him by his stepmother Kaikeyi in jealousy, because Ram would become the king and not her own son Bharat. Thousands of years have passed, and yet so ideal is the kingdom of Ram (Ram Rajya) thatit is remembered to this day.Diwali comes exactly 20 days after Dussehra on Amavas (new moon), during the dark fortnight of Kartik some time in October or November. The exact date is taken from the Hindu calendar and since that calculation is different from the European calendar, we cannot give the exact date according to the Western system.

 

As we have already mentioned (under Dussehra) the evil-doer Ravan has been eliminated - along with most of his rakshasas - by Lord Ram and his brother Lakshman, and their army of monkeys.Sita has been retuned to her husband Ram, and they now make their way to Ayodhya in triumph and glory. Kaokeyi, meanwhile, has done enough penance for the misery caused to the family and the kingdom. Bharat had refused to sit on the throne, and has kept vigil as a regent, and had told Ram that if he did not return on the last day of the fourteen years' exile, he would immolate himself. Consequently, to commemorate the return of Ram, Sita and Lakshman to Ayodhya people celebrate Diwali with the bursting of crackers and by lighting up their houses with earthen diyas or other lamps in the grandest style, year after year

     
 

The thirteeth day of the dark fortnight, i.e., two days before Diwali is known as Dhan Teras. On this day a new utensil is bought for the house. The house has to be cleaned, washed and whitewashed. On this day, the children are taken out to buy crackers, candles, earthen diyas and a hatri (a small house-like structure made of mud, where a small idol of Lakshmiji sits in the middle). A pair of earthen Lakshmiji and Ganeshji are a must for Diwali pujan. (Ganeshji is to be worshipped in all pujas before any other god or goddess.)

     
 

Lakshmiji, the goddess of wealth, is supposed to visit everyone during Diwali; therefore she must also be fussed over. Earthen katories known as kulris and chaugaras, lots of kheel (puffed rice), toys made out of candy (known as khand ke khilone), batashas, etc., are required for the puja. The markets are extremely well decorated and full of items which one can buy for the home. Special foods like papri and deevlas are made at home. The day prior to Diwali is Known as Chhoti Diwali.On that day Hanuman (Pavanputra or son of the god of Wind), the great bhakt (worshipper) of Lord Ram, had come flying to Ayodhya to inform the family and the kingdom that Ram,Sita and Lakshman, were coming back the following day so that arrangements to welcome them could be made (of course in a great hurry). Today, we have more time at our disposal and so we start the celebrations much earlier. On Chhoti Diwali, mithai is displayed by gaily decorated and well-lit shops, and they do very brisk business. Many business houses and individuals distribute mithai to their associates, families and friends. A lot of visiting is done on this day. The business community begins its new year from this day.

     
 

One word of caution - one must remain within a budget. Almost everything bought during Diwali time is of little use later on, except utensils, and a few other durables, so please do the buying by your own standards and not the neighbours'! One should remember that 21 or 51 diyas are bought (although candles are much in use these days). This is just to keep the old tradition alive, and maintain a continuity from time immemorial right up to this very day.

 
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