Diwali: Victory of light over darkness
Victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair, that’s what Diwali symbolizes.
Extended over a period of three days, the festival preparations start much before but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika.
Both in town and in villages, people clean, paint and decorate their homes before Diwali. On Choti Diwali, people lit up their houses with Diyas, the first step in celebrating the festival of lights.
Odisha’s unique tradition of invoking forefathers
In Odisha and in many parts of the country on Diwali preparations start for shraddhas of pitru purusha (forefathers) and number of delicacies such as khichi, dalma, ghanta, ou(elephant apple) khata, kheer, varieties of pitha etc are prepared and served before God and then a plate is served for the forefathers in the backyard after Vedic rituals being done invoking forefathers.
Come evening people dress up in new or clean clothes, decorate the floor of the house with rangoli in the entrance, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja of Goddess Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Then comes the time for performing the shraddhas and thereafter the slogan of “ Bada Badua Ho, Andhar aasa Aluara jao” (Come in darkness leave our place in light) is uttered with the burning of a special stick known as ‘kaunria kathi’. Thereafter people share fruits and sweets and then the fireworks follow.
Common to all Indians
Like in other north western states, in Odisha also the festival starts with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on the second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhai-duj dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day.
Significant for many faiths
For Hindus it is Diwali, for Jains it is a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, and the Sikhs celebrate this as Bandi Chhor Divas.
Derived from the Sanskrit fusion Deepabali signifies “series of lights”. During the celebration lights shine on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities.
Religious significance in Hinduism
Many believe Diwali is the celebration of the return of the Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana from exile, as depicted in the ancient Hindu epic called the Ramayana. To some, Diwali marks the return of Pandavas after 12 years of Vanvas and one year of agyatavas in the other ancient Hindu epic called the Mahabharata. Many other Hindus believe Diwali is linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and wife of deity Vishnu.
People offer prayers not only to Goddess Laxmi but also invoke Goddess Kali, Sri Ganesh, Maa Saraswati and Kubera also. Most important is for the business community both Lord Ganesh(symbolizing ethical beginning and removal of obstacles) and Goddess Laxmi (symbolizing prosperity) are worshipped in their establishments with new khata(cash books) for Diwali.
But Odisha’s neighbouring state West Bengal celebrates Diwali by Worshipping Goddess Kali and the festival is more popularly known as Kali Puja. In India’s Braj and north central regions, Lord Krishna is worshipped.