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Deepawali or Diwali is certainly the biggest of all Hindu festivals. It's the festival of lights (deep = light and avali = a row i.e., a row of lights) that's marked by four days of celebration, which literally illumines the country with its brilliance and dazzles all with its joy. Each of the four days in the festival of Diwali is separated by a different tradition, but what remains true and constant is the celebration of life, its enjoyment and goodness. The Origin of Diwali Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day. In Jainism, Deepawali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana. Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers. These Four Days Each day of Diwali has it's own tale, legend and myth to tell. The first day of the festival Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the second day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. It is on the third day of Deepawali — Kartika Shudda Padyami that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. The fourth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj) and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. The Significance of Lights & Firecrackers All the simple rituals of Diwali have a significance and a story to tell. The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of obeisance to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. According to one belief, the sound of fire-crackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the crackers kill a lot of insects and mosquitoes, found in plenty after the rains.
Govardhan, 2012.10.22 (PTI): For residents of Brajbhumi, the birth place of Lord Krishna, Diwali is a celebration of five festivals which attract pilgrims from different parts of the country. “Pilgrims from different parts of the country participate in these celebrations as a family,” Govardhan Peethadheshwar Krishna Das Kanchan Maharaj said. Legends have it that after Lord Krishna killed demon Arishtasura, the residents of Brajbhumi lit earthen lamps on the day of Diwali to celebrate his victory. Continuing with the belief, pilgrims reach the Govardhan hillock here and light earthen lamps on the bank of Manasi Ganga to mark the festival. “Though earthen lamps are also lit in every temple at Sri Krishna Janmasthan, a mass earthen lamp lighting program is organized on the day of Diwali,” Secretary of Sri Krishna Janmasthan Kapil Sharma said. Another festival that accompanies Diwali is Govardhan Puja, which has a special significance for the people here. “Lord Krishna protected Brijwasis by lifting hillock Govardhan on his little finger for saving them from the wrath of Lord Indra who had ordered clouds to drown Brijwasis since they had stopped paying obeisance to him,” said Swami Avashesh of an ashram in Vrindavan. “After this, Brajwasis offered variety of dishes and did a circumambulation of the Govardhan to pay obeisance. Since then, the custom of circumambulating Govardhan hillock is continuing,” he said. On the day of Govardhan Puja (next day after Diwali), pilgrims perform Govardhan parikrama and eat prasad at the Daan Ghati temple and other temples. On this auspicious day, devotees carry bhoga to Govardhan hill in a procession from the Gaudiya Math temple in Govardhan town. Another festival that is celebrated here is Yama Dvitiya which is observed on the second day after Diwali. On the occasion, brothers and sisters bathe together in the Yamuna at Vishram Ghat. “Pleased by the hospitality of his sister Yamuna on this day, the Lord of Death Yamaraj gave her the blessing that brothers and sisters bathing together in the Yamuna on this auspicious day will not be bothered by his messengers and they will go straightaway to heaven,” said the priest of the Daan Ghati temple, Mathura Prasad Kaushik. Dhan Teras and Narak Chaudas are the two other festivals celebrated in the run up to Diwali.
Vrindavan, 2014.10.22 (TOI): Giving the usual traditions a miss, several hundred Vrindavan widows on Tuesday began their three-day Diwali celebration on the banks of River Yamuna. Marching in a procession carrying lighted diyas (earthen lamps) in their hand, they went to the ghats of the river this evening to raise awareness about its pollution. The widows of Vrindavan, who have continued to defy the age-old customs by celebrating not only Diwali but in the past also celebrated Holi and Raksha Bandhan, besides taking part in Durga Puja in West Bengal. Besides lighting the colorful earthen lamps, they sang bhajans. All the seven ashrams in Vrindavan have been decorated tastefully with lights and earthen lamps for Diwali. Around a thousand widows, mostly from West Bengal, live in Vrindavan for decades. Widows in these ashrams are being looked after by NGO Sulabh International, which is taking care of their health and day-to-day requirements. “Sulabh will continue with its nationwide campaign for the welfare of widows,” founder Bindeshwar Pathak said. Pathak said he intended to draft a bill and hand it over to the Parliament to improve the plight of widows, who are abandoned by their families and urged all political parties to support the proposed bill drafted by him. This will be the first occasion, when the river, which has become notorious for its high pollution content, will be witnessing a change perhaps for the good. All the seven ashrams in Vrindavan will be decorated with lights and earthen diyas during the festival of light.
Mathura, 2014.10.20 (TOI): Ahead of the five-day Diwali festival beginning on Tuesday, security has been stepped up around temples in the city. Officials said the district was on alert following inputs from intelligence agencies about terrorist acts during the festival season when lakhs of pilgrims visit the the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan. The Sri Krishna Janam Bhoomi complex here has been placed under the watch of National Security Guard. Additional force has been deployed around Vrindavan’s Bankey Bihari temple as well. However, a senior official termed it “routine” affair for the police. “This is nothing unusual. When you have such big crowds, the government machinery has to be fully prepared and watchful.” Mathura pandits said Dhan Teras would be observed on Tuesday, followed by “Narak Chaturdashi or Roop Chaudas” on Wednesday, Diwali is on Thursday, Goverdhan puja and Annakoot on Friday followed by Yam Dwitiya on Saturday, when lakhs of brothers and sisters would take a holy dip in river Yamuna and offer prayers Yamraj. “This is peak festival time. The market places and temples in the Braj region draw lakhs of pilgrims from across the country. The month of Karttik, considered auspicious by devouts, has already attracted a large number of pilgrims for Yamuna snan or holy dip. Three Braj yatras (parikrama) are already underway with thousands of followers participating in them. The concern of district authorities towards security arrangements is understandable,” said Vrindavan’s activist Madhumangal Shukla. Traffic police both in Vrindavan and Mathura are on their toes as an unusually large number of private vehicles enter the area from Delhi and Haryana. “The Yamuna expressway has made it easier to commute to Vrindavan from Meerut, Ghaziabad and Noida. And with the parikrama season on, there is chaos everywhere,” said Jagannath Poddar of Vrindavan. The stretch from Mathura to Vrindavan is also packed with vehicles. Within the city, the Holi Gate crossing is perpetually jammed by traffic. “Due to encroachments by shopkeepers and pavement stalls, it is difficult to negotiate vehicles through narrow lanes,” said Ashok Bansal, a local resident.