Sunday, 4 October 2009

Celebrations of Diwali in Different parts of India


Tracing back to the history of ancient India, Diwali was celebrated as the main harvest festival. But later it is being celebrated following the Hindu treatise. As per the Hindu almanac or Panjaka, Diwali is celebrated on Amavasya, the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of ipasi, i.e. October or November every year. But the main Diwali festival is a five day long ritual commences with Dhanwantari Triodasi . Second day of Diwali is referred as Naraka Chaturdasi. Third day is Amavasya or the main Diwali. Worship of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, is performed as according to the Hindu mythology Lakshmi was incarnated on this day, the new moon day of the Kartik month. Fourth day is known as Bali Padyami. It is believed that Bali would come out on this day from Pathala Loka to rule Bhuloka as such a boon was given by Lord Vishnu. The fifth or last day of Diwali is known as Yama Dvitiya.
Let us now see the different ways in which this sparkling festival is celebrated in different parts of the country.
Andhra Pradesh: In North India, Diwali is usually celebrated during the evenings with fireworks and diyas. However, in Andhra Pradesh, the festivities start out at the crack of dawn and carry on well into the night. The state sure knows how to celebrate! Most people make the trip to the local temple along with their families to seek the blessings of their respective Gods. The night sky is soon lit up with a scintillating array of fireworks and crackers notch up the noise level by a few decibels. People decorate their homes much like the Hyderabadi royalty would have done all those centuries ago. There are no limits set when it comes to Diwali. Homes are lit up with hundreds of diyas and colorful Diwali Rangolis (link) adorn the doorway. For the Children it’s a lot like Christmas in western countries for they get new clothes to wear, delicious food to gorge on and for once nobody ticks them off for making too much noise. In Hyderabad, there is a unique tradition of bathing a buffalo on Diwali day. Another custom involves decorating homes with paper figures. Festivities cut across boundaries to move on from the small villages to the big towns, for almost a month before Deepawali. Sales of expensive silk saris, jewelry and ornaments, household goods go up. From the poor to the rich, everyone indulges in shopping for the biggest shopping spree of the year. Sweets, which are an integral part of any festival in Andhra Pradesh, are prepared in homes as well as bought from shops for exchange. This festival is full of messages depicting one or more aspects of human life, relationships or ancient traditions.
Assam: Diwali Celebrations in Assam usually involve, but are not limited to the lighting of the traditional diyas, followed by gorging on the delicious Diwali Mithais and of course performing the ritual Aarti. The whole family then celebrates with fireworks providing the entertainment and symbolizing the victory of good over evil, reminding people why this festival of lights (link) is celebrated. In Assam a lot of emphasis is laid on lights and particularly the symbolic message behind it. Thus all the houses are lit up with countless flickering lamps and electrical lights. Worshipping Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity and watching the fireworks is an essential part of the usual Diwali festivities. . Beautiful lamps are hung outside homes that are symbolic of the spiritual light dispelling evil and the darkness of ignorance. Doorways are decorated with torans or flower garlands with mango leaves and marigolds. Diwali Rangolis (link) are drawn with colored powders to welcome guests. Business establishments and families perform, chopda pujan or veneration of their business books. Everyone feasts and shops and starts new projects or ventures.
Bihar: The customs are that on Dhanteras most people buy new kitchen utensils and keep them at the place of worship. According to one theory, buying of utensils on Dhanteras is associated with the myth of Dhanvantari emerging from the ocean with a pot in his hand. People bathe in the holy river Ganges early in the morning and then observe a fast which is only broken at sunset with sweetmeats, puris and other succulent delicacies. The day before Diwali is known as Choti Diwali or Narak Chaturdasi. Choti means 'small', and thus Choti Diwali is celebrates just like Diwali only on a smaller scale with lesser lights and lesser fireworks, with everybody trying very hard to retrain their bouts of joyousness for the next day. On the morning of Choti Diwali, the women of the house ensure that the house has been cleaned absolutely thoroughly in anticipation of Diwali; they then make beautiful colorful motifs called Rangolis (link) at the entrance. In Hindu homes, one will find Poojas (prayers) being carried out for Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, or Lord Rama. People sing devotional songs in the honor of the deities and perform a ceremonial Aarti on Diwali day. Kheel, Batashe and Khilone and various sweetmeats are offered to the Gods. After the Pooja has been performed, people start decorating their houses with Diyas. They are placed in all the rooms of the house, and even in the courtyard and almost up to the street. It is believed that it helps illuminate the pathway for the Goddess Lakshmi, when she tries to visit people's homes. Thereafter people of Bihar indulge in the usual festivities of bursting crackers and exchanging sweets with their friends and relatives. The adivasis of Bihar worship kali on this day. Eating unripe coconut and taking a beetle is considered auspicious. In chota Nagpur, the men circumbulate their village with basket full of paddy and grass. A week after the festival of lights (link) is the festival Chhath. For one night and day, the people of Bihar literally live on the banks of the river Ganga when a ritual offering is made to the Sun God.
Jammu and Kashmir: Much like in the rest of the country, the Kashmiris clean their houses in anticipation of Diwali and then decorate them. Even a week before the festival, one can spot an assortment of lamps and diyas lighting up the shops and homes and people moving around with an air of joyousness. Many people get their homes whitewashed as it is considered auspicious to do so just before Diwali. It is also an occasion to buy new things- and people shop till they drop to take advantage of all the festive promotions. Diwali day starts with people waking up early in the morning and having the ritual bath. They then dress up in new clothes and families make their way to the temple. After performing the rituals, they buy a lot of sweets and dry fruits to distribute amongst friends, and relatives and the underprivileged as well. They also purchase earthen lamps, candles and electric accessories for illuminating their homes and business establishments. For Children, it is a time to make merry like no other times except maybe for Eid. They are already in buoyant spirits because of all the new clothes and sweets, and their enjoyments is only heightened when its time to burst some crackers or just generally enjoy the firecrackers. Many of them also receive cash or other gifts from their parents and other relatives. The Kashmiri Pundits have been celebrating this festival for ages now. It is one of their oldest rituals, and a mention of its celebration can be found in the Nilmat Puran. It was then called Sukhsuptika which literally means to sleep with happiness. The Diwali celebrations now start from Ekadeshi and last till Amavasya. On Amvasya, the older members of the family observe a ritual fast and perform the Lakshmi Pooja .Earthen lamps are placed in temples, on the road crossings, cremation grounds, banks of rivers, streams and lakes hill houses, at the foot of trees, cow sheds, court yards and shops. People wear new clothes and listen to music.
Punjab: Diwali is also the anniversary of Guru Hargobindji being released from the prison at Gwalior Fort in 1619 AD. On this day the entire Golden Temple is illuminated with traditional lamps of different colors. The reflection of the temple in the shimmering water of the holy pool is truly mesmerizing, something that you want to hold onto forever in your memory. Fire works display by the traditional professionals recreates the glory of the past. In villages cattle are adorned and worshiped by farmers as they are the main source of income for the peasants. Since Diwali marks the official start of winter, it is a happy time for the peasants as they get to sow their winter crops and pray to Goddess Lakshmi to give them a good harvest. The day after Diwali is celebrated as Tikka Day. On this day, sisters make an auspicious mark called Tika on their brother’s forehead and pray to the lord to protect him from all harm. In the Golden Temple of Amritsar, Diwali is celebrated with great éclat. Earthen lamps are lit all round the holy tank and their undulating reflections in the water look extremely fascinating. Sikhs started celebrating Diwali at Amritsar from the time of their Sixth Master, Guru Hargobind. When he rescued fifty-two rajas from imperial detention in the fort of Gwalior and reached Amritsar, the residents there welcomed him by illuminating the whole-city.
Orissa :The one unique ritual that makes Diwali in Orissa different from what it is in other parts of the country is the practice of calling upon the spirits of one's ancestors. Tall bamboo poles are erected in front of the houses. An earthen pot with small windows, called handi, is tied to this pole with the help of a rope. An earthen lamp is placed inside this and the pot is placed on the top of the pole by pulling the rope. Jute stems are burnt to light up the dark path that the spirits of the ancestors take back to heaven. In the evening, the members of the household gather together just after dusk. A Rangoli of a sailboat is made on the ground. The boat has seven chambers. Over the drawing of each different chamber several items are kept - cotton, mustard, salt, asparagus root, turmeric and a wild creeper. Over the central chamber are the offerings meant for prasad. Perched over the prasad is a jute stem with a cloth wick tied around the edge. It is lit at the beginning of the Puja. All members of the family hold a bundle of jute stems in their hands. Beside the Rangoli, a mortar and pestle and a plough are also kept and worshiped. In the olden days, animal sacrifice was performed in front of the goddess. Today, a gourd is cut to symbolically represent the animal sacrifice. After the Puja and offerings, the family celebrates Diwali festival by bursting crackers. When crackers were still a monopoly of the urban areas, folks in the rural areas lit jute sticks called kaunwaria which would burn for hours. Nowadays, crackers being available in every nook and corner, kaunwarias are lit only symbolically. In Orissa too, Diwali remains the festival of lights and sweets. Earthen lamps are lit everywhere and sweets are offered to friends and relatives.
Rajasthan: Diwali festival gives people a chance to decorate their homes, buy new clothes, visit relatives and friends and take time off from their daily routine to gather together and enjoy the festivities. Rajasthan is also renowned all over the world for its gastronomical delights, and this is apparent during the Diwali season. Women of the neighborhood gather and prepare sweets like Mawa Kachori, Til Ke Laddo, Gonth ke Laddu, Piste ke Launj, Moti Pak, Pheeni, Sohan Papdi, Besan Barfi, Jalebi, Shakarpara- to name just a few. If not for anything else, one ought to visit Rajasthan during Diwali just to taste all that wonderful food. The rituals performed are almost the same as in the rest of the country. The Lakshmi Pooja is performed in the evening before the festivities begin. People invoke the Goddess's blessings for a prosperous year ahead. Thereafter a diya is left burning on the altar for the rest of the night to guide the Goddess when she visits. Then of course, it's time to light up the sky with the brightest firecrackers and indulge in a lot of laughter with friends and family. It is at times like these that the natives forget their problems and their tough life for a couple of hours. The celebrations in the 'Pink City' Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, are truly unique as the whole city is decorated like a very expensive movie set. The city sparkles almost like a dream and nothing is more reminiscent of the great Mughal era than Diwali in Jaipur. The city seems to come alive during the festival and truly gives a new meaning to celebration.
Himachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful states in India. Simla is renowned all over the world for its quaint charm, friendly people and excellent weather. In Himachal Pradesh, Diwali is celebrated with great vigor and gusto. The mud walls of the houses are cleaned and painted over with white clay and cow-dung. In the courtyards a red or black square is painted with colored clay. This is decorated with pictures of animals and birds. The walls are decorated with flower garlands. People believe that Lakshmi who is the goddess of wealth visit all the houses this day and settles down in the house which is clean and pretty. People from the hills have a reputation of being superstitious and this can be observed during Diwali as well as they carry out all the rituals religiously. Different sectors have their own unique way of celebrating Diwali. Many people recall the tale of the brave Lord Rama who defeated the evil demon king Ravana and saved the world from a lot of grief because of that valiant act. Mothers recount this tale to their children as Diwali draws near. Diwali is celebrated in the memory of Lord Rama who came back to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. Diwali Rituals in Himachal Pradesh As the sun sets, clay lamps are lit and placed on a plank outside the house in memory of the dearly departed ancestors. It is to reaffirm the bond of these people who share their joys in life as well as in death. It is considered auspicious to visit the cremation site of the family members who are no more. Thereafter, Mithai is distributed to one and all as the children seek the blessings of their elderly in true Indian style by touching their feet. There is a unique ritual in Himachal Pradesh to sacrifice a goat on Diwali day. Another unique custom is that the paint little vessels (Auloo) with clay and decorate it with drawings in red paint. They pray to these and exchange these with their best friends. It is believed that exchanging these pots not only strengthens their relationship but also ensures a prosperous year ahead. Many women preserve these auloos for years and years as they are considered most auspicious. On the day of Diwali, soaked rice is powdered and designs are made out of it. At nighttime, the young girls worship this design with grass and camphor. At some places, a figure of Lakshmi made with sandalwood is placed in a copper plate and a mandav of sugarcane is made over it. Goddess Lakshmi is specially worshiped on this day. Himachal Pradesh is decidedly distinct in the way it celebrates this festival of lights. It is believed that the people from the hills have merged their pagan beliefs to the regular celebrations and the result is a different experience of the festival than anywhere else in the country.
Maharastra: In a traditional Maharashtrian household, Diwali celebrations commence with 'Vasu-baras' that comes on tithi 'Ashwin krushna dwadashi'. Vasu-Baras is a celebration in honor of the Holy cow which is revered by Hindus all over the country and is considered a mother figure of sorts. Married women worship and perform a puja of a cow who is expecting a calf. This symbolizes the gratitude of the women towards the cow for providing for their children. Narak Chaturdashi While Dhanteras is celebrated in Maharshtra much like it is elsewhere in the country, the celebrations for Choti Diwali do differ considerably. Chhoti Diwali is popularly known as Narak-Chaturdashi in Maharashtra: On this day people celebrate Lord Krishna’s victory over the evil demon king, Narakasur. They wake up early in the morning and massage their bodies with scented oil. And as a custom they use 'utane' or 'utanah' for bath instead of soap. This special bath is referred to as 'abhyang-snan'. It may be noted that 'Utane' is not the same as uptan. Utane is made of several things having ayurvedic properties like 'chandan' (sandalwood), 'kapoor' (camphor), manjistha, rose, orange skin and haldi (turmeric). Lakshmi Puja Lakshmi-pujan is celebrated on the Diwali evening. It is believed that the Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity visits every house that evening. So prayers are held in order to invoke her blessings for a prosperous New Year. A variety of mouth-watering delicacies such as chivda, chakali, shankar-pale, anarse, kadaboli, karanji, shev, chirote etc are prepared to mark the festival. Throughout Diwali, Marathi people hang 'Akash-kandil' / 'Akash-dive' and light up 'panti's outside their houses. Tradition of marking the entrance to a house with colorful 'Rangoli's is also followed in Maharashtra as in rest or India. Diwali Cha Padva Many people also celebrate the third day of Diwali as ‘Diwalicha Padva’. This is a celebration of togetherness as a husband and wife and the love shared by them. To mark the occasion the wife performs an 'aukshan' (aarti) of her husband and the husband in turn presents a special gift to his wife. Tulsi-Vivah In Maharashtra, end of Diwali celebrations marks the beginning of Tulsi-Vivah. Under this people organize marriage of sacred tulsi (a basil plant) in their house. In Maharashtra the tradition is that people start organizing the marriage ceremonies of their sons/daughters only once Tulsi-vivah starts. Celebration of Diwali in Maharashtra ends with Dev-Diwali .
Uttar Pradesh: The state wears a vibrant color throughout the Diwali festival, and almost seems to come alive with enthusiasm. The Kartik purnima festival celebrated in Varanasi is a true visual delight. Varanasi has long been hailed as the land of festivals and the fact that it is thronged with Hindu sages gives the city a surreal atmosphere. Religious ceremonies take on a lofty importance in this state that reveres its Gods. The full moon night after Diwali falling in November - December is the sacred day for all the people. The ghats of Varanasi come alive with thousands of brightly lit earthen lamps. The lamps then are gently left on the River. Visitors throng in large numbers to watch this spectacular event.
Gujarat: The real zest for the Diwali festival can be witnessed in the Diwali markets in Gujarat, which come to life almost a month before the festival is to commence. Shoppers make a beeline for the stores selling jewelry, clothes, sweets and Diwali gifts. Shopping becomes almost like a family affair with the whole family dividing up the tasks amongst themselves. It is a pure joy to shop in these colorful Diwali markets. Diwali celebrations in Gujarat commence the night before Diwali. The Gujaratis create designs, usually depicting nature or the Gods, from natural color powders. These are called Diwali Rangolis (link) and are generally found at the entrance of the house or in the courtyard. These motifs are designed in order to welcome Goddess Lakshmi to their homes and are a source of pride for the creators who often compete amongst themselves to see who has the best Rangolis in their house. Small footprints made with rice flour and vermilion powder are also drawn all over the house. The Diwali day attire usually consists of the Jhabba (kurta) and dhotis for the men, while the women dress in Saris. However in the urban cities of Gujarat, most people do not wear the traditional attire instead choosing to opt for western clothes or the fancier Indian variety. It is considered auspicious to visit the temple on this day. The day is spent preparing food and sweets. Shops are open, but business comes to a halt on Dhanteras, two days before Diwali, and doesn't resume until Labh Pancham, the fifth day of the New Year. For traders and businessmen, this is the time for a vacation. Diwali evening is celebrated by lighting up streets and markets, and bursting crackers.
West Bengal: Like everywhere else in the country, Diwali is a time for great feasting and rejoicing and it is no different here in West Bengal. Bengalis have a reputation for decorating their houses and no one can argue with it when Diwali nears. They light up their houses with the most ornate of diyas using hundreds of them at a time. Bengalis are also immensely fond of Diwali Rangolis. Two or even four plantain leaves decorate the entry to the house or property, with a row of diyas at the doorstep. The entire family gathers around for Lakshmi Puja in the evening. The Diwali festival goes on for three days but on Amavasya, the final day for celebrations and the day to worship Goddess Kali, the lights and gaiety are considerably reduced. The first two festival days are important, with feasting, drinking, gambling, family gatherings, lights and fire crackers occupying time from dusk to dawn. In West Bengal, the pious festive air and not the material goods, mainly marks the occasion. No new clothes, no new utensils, no new gold. In fact nothing new at all on Diwali day, as all the shops are shut tight except those selling sweets and firecrackers. Gifts are limited to sweets and dry fruits.
Tamil Nadu: Diwali is celebrated in the month of Aipasi (thula month) 'Narak Chaturdashi' thithi, preceding amavasai. The Diwali preparations begin in full force the day before when the oven (chula) is thoroughly cleaned, smeared with lime and decorated with four or five dots of red kumkum paste. It is then filled with water for the next day’s oil bath as per the custom followed in much of the country. The house is washed and colorful Diwali Rangolis are made at the entrance to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi. In the Puja room, betel leaves, betel nuts, plaintain fruits, flowers, sandal paste, kumkum, gingelly oil, turmeric powder, and scented powder are kept ready for the Puja. Crackers and new dresses are placed in a plate after smearing a little kumkum or sandal paste. The Diwali day begins with everyone in the family taking an oil bath before sunrise, a custom arising from a belief that having an oil bath in the morning on the day of Diwali is equivalent to taking bath in the Ganges. Before the bath, elders in the house apply gingelly oil on the heads of the younger members. For those hailing from Tanjore, the custom is to first take a small quantity of deepavali lehiyam (medicinal, ayurvedic paste) after the oil bath and then breakfast. Often sweets are eaten after wearing new clothes. In almost all houses, items like ukkarai, velli appam, idly, chutney, sambhar, omapudi, boondhi are prepared. For lunch, jangri, pathir peni, or one variety of the poli are made. Crackers are usually burst only after the bath. Meanwhile, kuthu vilakus (oil lamp) are lit in the Pooja room. Mats or wooden planks are placed facing east. After naivedhya (offering to the Gods) of the items, a plaintain fruit is given to each member of the family followed by betel leaves and betel nuts. Those who have to perform 'pithru tharpanam' will have a second bath perform the tharpanam and don't eat rice at night. Though, Tamil Nadu celebrates Diwali in a decidedly distinct manner, many familiarities are observed, like the sweets, crackers, new clothes and the joyous spirit of this wonderful Festival of lights.
Madhya Pradesh: During the Diwali Festival, its almost as if all of Madhya Pradesh has been illuminated with bright, radiant lights. The streets are decorated in a colorful manner and people prepare their favorite dishes along with the usual variety of Mithais. On the night of Dhanteras, the shops remain open throughout the night. In particular demand are the Balushais, khasta or crumbly doughnuts. On Diwali day, houses all over Madhya Pradesh glow with the twinkle of innumerable diyas, candles and electric lights. The night is illuminated with the flaming lights of fireworks, creating kaleidoscopic designs against the black canvas of the sky. For the Hindu business communities, Diwali Festival marks the beginning of the New Year. During Diwali, many folk dances are performed in this region. The Baiga and Gond tribes perform their traditional dances to celebrate the Diwali Festival.
Kerala:Due to the fact that it has a dominant Catholic population, Kerala is the only state in India where Diwali is not a major festival. Traditionally, Diwali celebrations in Kerala are pretty much a low-key affair as there aren’t too many Business or merchant families living here. In fact the natives of Kerala rarely celebrate Diwali.
However, there are places in Kerala which are dominated by prominent Tamil, Gujarati or North Indian communities. In such areas, Diwali is celebrated with much pomp and pageantry, not to mention nostalgia. People of these communities organize grand feasts and put up a colorful display for the benefit of their Kerala neighbors. Many visit temples and then get together with friends and relatives to enjoy the fireworks on Diwali day. However, it is not to say that people of Kerala are not interested in Diwali at all. As India grows economically strong, people of all races are learning to integrate each other’s customs, and it is common to see Diwali being celebrated with immense joyousness in many town and cities of Kerala.
Karnataka: The lighting of innumerable diyas (oil lamps) in every courtyard and the bursting of crackers mark the celebration of Diwali. Sweetmeats, new clothes and spirit are there as in other festivals. The time for rejoicing is mainly early morning and late night. These hours of darkness bordering the waking hours are preferred as lights and crackers are the highlights of the festivities and these need darkness to have their illuminating effect. Hence people rise early and sleep late.

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