Deepavali or Diwali is the festival of lights. These little lamps people lighten during the Deepavali celebration around their houses, signifies the purity of inner light or atma which is the manifestation of the Omni present God. Deepavali is the celebration of Victory of Good over the Evil. Deepavali signifies the light of God’s divine presence in the mind, dispelling the darkness of ignorance and bringing jnana or higher knowledge or self-awareness to the individual.
Deepavali is celebrated over a five day period which starts on the 13th lunar day of the Krishna Paksha of Aswin month in the Hindu calendar. It ends on Bhaubeej, celebrated on the second lunar day of Shukla Paksha of the Karthika month. Deepavali usually falls between mid-October and mid-November.
In many places in India Govatsa Dwadashi marks the begning of Diwali celebrations. Govu means cow. Vatsa means Child. Dwadashi means 12th day. It is observed on the 12th day of the waning phase of Moon on Krishna Paksha in Aswin month. In Gujarat it is popularly known as Guru Dwadashi and in Maharashtra as Vasubaras. There are many legends behind the celebration of Govatsa Dwadashi before Deepavali in Puranas.
A fast is observed on Govatsa Dwadashi day . The devotee takes bath early in the morning and wears clean clothes. Both the mind and the body has to remain clean and pure during the fast . The food is eaten only once in the day. The cow and the calf is given bath and adorned with flowers and sandlewood paste is applied on forehead. Cow is worshipped like God and fed well while chanting the Mantra.
Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanwantari Triodasi
Dhana – wealth Thriodasi – 13th day . This is the 13th day of waning phase of the Moon on Krishna Paksha in Aswin Month.
On the first day of deepavali, a lamp is lighted facing the south, outside the home. Prayers are offered to the God of Death’ Yama’ for eliminating early unnatural death ( apamrethyu ) . This day the bathing area is decorated and prayers are offered to Goddess Ganga and other river Goddesses to be present in the waters for next day’s Pavithra snana (holy bath).
Naraka – Signifies the day Narakasura was killed by Srikrishna . Chathurdashi – 14th day
This day Lord Krishna vanquished Narakasura and removed from bondage all his prisoners. This is the special day to pray Lord Krishna to remove all difficulties in life. This day devotees wake up early in the morning do namaskara to all elders and seek their blessings. Everybody takes oil bath on this day and this signifies removal of sins and poverty from one’s life. Small lamps are lighted around the House . People draw Rangolis out their homes. Victory of Sri Krishna is celebrated with fire crackers and feast and especially in South India this day is celebrated with festivities.
This is the 15th day of waning phase of the Moon on Krishna Paksha in Aswin Month.
This day marks the most important day of Diwali celebrations in North India. This is the day to do Lakshmi Puja. In the light lamps are lighted all around the house and prayers are offered to Sri Lakshmi along with Vishnu.
Prathama or Bali Pratipada and Govardhan Puja
1 Kartika or 1 Shukla Paksha Kartika . The first fortnight between New Moon Day and Full Moon Day is called Shukla Paksha, the period of the brightening moon (waxing moon). Kartika begins with the new moon in November and is the eighth month of the year except in Gujarat, where it marks the new year that falls on Diwali.
This day Lord Vishnu took avatar as Vamana and Blessed Maha Bali . it is celebrated as Bali-Pratipada or Bali Padyami. This is the day Ganga river took birth when Lord Trivikrama’s foot hit Brahmanda Talpa. There is one more significance for this day. On this day Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill to protect his people from the rain Indra brought on them.
In Gujarat It is celebrated as the first day of the Vikram Samvat calendar.
From Prathma to Utthana Dwadashi sacred plant Tulsi is worshipped.
How is Deepavali celebrated?
Deepavali is a festival of lights which also signifies inner light and purity. Needless to say preparations for Deepavali also includes keeping the house and surroundings neat and clean. Some get their house painted and decorated before Deepavali. Sri Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth enters the house only if it is cleaned , purified and decorated to celebrate her presence. Making rangoli designs are a part of decorating the house to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Rangoli designs are created on the door steps of houses during Deepavali . During Deepavali oil lamps are lit infront of the deities, and around the courtyard. Now days it is a practise to use candles or electrical lights for decoration. The modern day celebrations include celebrating with fire crackers and sending online greeting cards.