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Diwali 1 - A Festival of 5 Festivals!

This began as a casual conversation with a friend on why, in Chennai, Diwali is celebrated a day before the rest of India celebrates it. And as I was looking for answers I was astonished how little I knew about my favorite festival! There are many facets to this festival of light & as many reasons behind the significance of Diwali. And the more I found, more there was to know. So, this is my effort to understand Diwali and the legends behind it that makes it so much more beautiful.

Traditionally, Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated for
five days. Yeah! So Diwali actually is not just one night of fire crackers and lots of sweets and visiting friends and relatives - for more sweets.
Each day is special and has unique connotations, ceremonies and legends associated with it.

1st Day: Dhanteras
The very first day of Diwali celebrations is Dhantrayodashi. The auspicious day of Dhanteras, as it is popularly known, ushers in Diwali festivities. Dhan = wealth and teras is 13. 13 th day of the Karthik month of Hindu calendar. Dhanteras is the festival of Wealth.

One interesting legend behind Dhanteras is centered on the sixteen-year-old son of King Hima. As per his horoscope he was fated to breathe his last on the fourth day of his marriage owing to snakebite. On the appointed day his young wife illuminated the entire palace with numerous lamps and placed all her gold and silver coins and jewellery in a heap at the entrance of their bedroom. She did not allow her husband to sleep & regaling him by singing songs and telling stories. All through the night she sang songs and told stories.

At the stroke of midnight, God of death Yama devta, slithered in the Palace as a serpent. The lights of the lamps, and the dazzle of the coins and ornaments blinded the snake. Frustrated, he waited the entire night, on top of the heap listening to the sweet sounding songs before leaving peacefully the next morning. Thus, the wife succeeded in saving the life of her husband. This is why the Dhanteras festival is also referred to as “Yamadeepdaan". The lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yama, the god of Death & to protect our loved ones from untimely death.

According to
another legend, when the gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrit or nectar, it was Lord Dhanavantri (the God of Ayurveda, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) who emerged carrying the pot of the elixir on the day of Dhanteras and thus (after much fanfare) all the God‘s became immortal after drinking from the pot. And so, Dhanteras is also celebrated to honor Lord Dhanavantri, the divine Doctor.

There were 14 ratnas or jewels that came out of Samudra-Manthan (churning of the ocean of milk). One of them was Goddess Lakshmi. She is honored on this day by doing Lakshmi puja.

Dhanteras is an auspicious occasion to purchase precious metals like gold, platinum and silver. Women purchase Dhan like some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils as a sign of good luck. For children, this is the day to purchase all those fire-crackers, they started making list of weeks back! This day is also considered auspicious for setting up new businesses, commencing new projects, housewarming, fixing wedding dates etc. Diyas & Rangoli’s adorn the house, starting from this day.

To be continued...

2 Hitch Hikers:

aparnata said...

hmmmm :)

Goli said...

This is very nice blog, I really liked it. Recently I was reading this book called, "Gods, Demons and epics of India" by RK Narayana. And I really liked it. It also has lot of this stories.

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