All of us are bound to know a lot about Diwali since we have been celebrating it with much enthusiasm for pretty much all our lives. The lights, candles, card parties, dressing up, gifting, and much much more makes all of us go through a series of emotions every time. Every year around this time, when the winter is about to set in and there is a peculiar smell in the air, all of us can’t contain our excitement about Diwali. But, it behoves me to tell you that I am sure you don’t know why it is celebrated. Not in this detail, for sure. So hold on to your seats, while the following facts blow your mind away!
Diwali – The Mahabharata Reason
Did you know that Diwali is also celebrated to commemorate the return of the Pandavas.? After 12 years of exile into forests (Vanvas), and an additional year to spend in incognito (Agyatavas), they are known to have returned. So, the Pandavas lost a game of dice in the hands of Kauravas (Basically, gambling), with the bet that the loser will be condemned to 12 years of banishment, and a 13th year incognito in the forests. If the cover of the loser is blown in the 13th year, then the whole 13 year exile cycle will start all over again.
As per the Epic tale of Mahabharata, Shakuni (Kauravas uncle) presumed that it would be impossible for some warriors like the Pandavas to go in incognito, and it was his strategy to discover them during this while and try to keep them in the forest forever. But, apparently, they pulled it off. So, after their years of banishment, it is said that they returned back to Hastinapur during the Diwali period, and people who love or follow the Pandavas celebrate this day by lighting diyas.
Diwali, with Goddess Lakshmi
Sort of an obvious connection as she is worshipped the most during Diwali. But did you know why? So Goddess Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and also the wife of Lord Vishnu. She has the most awesome birth story, to be honest. There was a battle between Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons), which involved the churning of the cosmic ocean of milk. She was born from this churning. It is said that she was born during the daytime of Diwali.
At night, it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi chose Lord Vishnu as her husband, and they got married. Which is why they are worshipped during Diwali. Another story is that Vishnu had come back to save Lakshmi and take her home (Vaikuntha), so people religiously believe that if they worship Lakshmi during this time, they will receive the benefits from her mood, and be blessed with a material, mental, as well as physical well-being throughout the year.
Lakshmi is also called the Divine Shakti that gives energy to 5 elements:
- Happiness (Lord Vishnu)
- Wealth (Lord Kubera)
- Learning (Lord Saraswati)
- Opulence and Comfort (Lord Indra), and
- Gajendra – Vishnu’s carrier of wealth.
She represents the synergy of these elements and it is believed that she ensures that each is present in the right quantity.
Diwali and Lord Krishna (Naraka Chaturdashi)
Yeah. He had his part to play as well. It is said that on the day before Diwali (Choti Diwali), Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakasura who was the son of Bhumidevi (the Goddess of Earth). He had this boon that he can only be killed by his own mother, and nobody else, but his mother had died when he was young. That means he was immortal. Or you would think so. He was very arrogant and evil and had troubled Lord Indra (who ruled Swargalok) with his atrocities.
Narakasura used to trouble common villagers of Vrindavan and had held about 16 thousand women captive. Lord Indra, troubled by him, went to Lord Vishnu for help. Narakasura wanted to take over Swargalok, and had taken over huge kingdoms on Earth already. So, Lord Vishnu promised Indra that he would take care of this with his soon-to-come avatar (Lord Krishna). But how will he? Naraka is immortal.
Now the twist in the story is that Lord Krishna’s wife – Sathyabhama was actually a reincarnation of Bhumidevi (WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!), and Krishna knew this. He took his wife for the battle against Narakasura. And once Krishna got injured during this battle, Sathyabhama took over and ended up killing Narakasura. Before dying, the demon requested Lord Krishna and Satyabhama for a boon. He asked if people could celebrate his death anniversary, and therefore people light up their houses, light up earthen lamps, distribute sweets and more every year. This day is called the Naraka Chaturdashi.
Kali Pooja On Diwali
In the states of Bengal and Orissa, the people worship Kali instead of Lakshmi. Maa Kali is Goddess Durga’s ferocious form and is the most powerful goddess. She is said to have been born from Goddess Durga’s brow during one of her battles. According to Legend, Kali went on a killing spree when she got carried away and started destroying everything that came in front of her. And she had to be stopped.
To do the same, Lord Shiva comes in the story. He threw himself under her feet, knowing that she will stop. Kali was so shocked and surprised with herself that she bit her tongue in astonishment. This ended her homicidal rampage. Therefore, on Diwali, they celebrate Kali Pooja. It is said that this will help diminish negative tendencies (like ego) that might hinder one’s spiritual progress as well as material prosperity. They pray to her so that she helps in destroying all evil. This is why they have the Kali Pooja during Diwali.
Diwali and Sikhism
For Sikhs, Diwali is more popularly known as ‘Bandi Chhor Divas‘. So, Guru Har Gobind is known to have been held captive by the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, at the Gwalior fort. It is said that on this day in the year 1619, Guru Har Gobind freed himself and other 52 Hindu kings from the captivity, and came to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This is the reason that Sikhs light up the Golden Temple every year, along with other festivities.
It is also believed that the third Guru – Guru Amar Das institutionalised Diwali as ‘Red-Letter Day’, and on this day all the Sikhs would come together to take the Guru’s blessings. Somewhere around the year 1577, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was also laid on Diwali. So there are so many reasons for them to celebrate Diwali.
Diwali and Jainism
Have you heard of Mahavira? He was the last Tirthankar of his era. It is believed that during the Kartik Amavasya, somewhere around 527 BCE, Mahavira attained Moksha (Nirvana). This is the reason that Jains celebrate Diwali – to remember Mahavira. On the morning of Diwali, Nirvan Ladoo is offered in all Jain temples across the world, after the pray to Lord Mahavira.
Diwali, with King Vikramaditya
A long long time back, somewhere around 56 BC, a Hindu King – Vikramaditya was crowned and declared King around Diwali. He was known for his big heart, wisdom and bravery. He is said to have been a great King, and his coronation gave Diwali a historical importance. Citizens of his kingdom celebrated with earthen lamps and celebrated grandly, and the custom is still prevailing.
Arya Samaj’s Significance
Back in the 19th century, a movement was started called ‘Arya Samaj’ which was founded by a Hindu Religious Leader by the name of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati. He was poisoned by his cook, and he took his last breath on Diwali and attained salvation. Therefore, this day holds a great significance for Arya Samaj as well.
Diwali – The Meaning
All of us already know the Ramayana angle, where Lord Ram, along with Lakshman and Sita returns to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, and also post defeating Ravana. The citizens of Ayodhya welcomed their king back by lighting earthen lamps, which signifies the win of good over evil. Diwali, the word, is derived from the Sanskrit word – Deepawali, which is a combination of two words:
|Deep = Lights| + |Awali = Series, Line, or Row|.
So by the actual definition, Deepawali means ‘A series of Lights’. Eventually, Deepawali became Diwali.
All of this was news to me. I had absolutely no clue that we celebrate the same day for so many reasons. It can get a little surprising, but this is what festivals in India are like, isn’t it? We have so many different reasons to celebrate Diwali. No wonder it is such a grand festival. And I love every bit of it (Excluding the firecrackers, of course).
I hope you guys all the prosperity, wealth, luck and happiness this year.