Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu deity worshiped on the Hindu's biggest festival Diwali, symbolizes wealth, fortune, power, luxury, beauty, fertility, and auspiciousness as per the Hindu mythology. The deity is the key to material fulfillment and contentment. Every year thousands of worshipers pay homage to the deity on this auspicious day.
Shri is the sacred name of the goddess which carries an underlying current. It evokes grace, affluence, authority, abundance, holiness & is used often before starting an auspicious work, such as written on top of documents, spoken before addressing a god, teacher holy man to name a few. She embodies the ethereal beauty of nature. Also known as Bhoodevi, the earth-goddess, Laxmi is the nurturer who bestows power, pleasure and prosperity on her devotees.
The goddess, like Durga, has eight forms, known as Ashta Lakshmi, commonly worshiped by Hindus, each bestowing one form of wealth to her devotees. These are namely : Aadi Lakshmi, Santhana Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi, Dhana Lakshmi, Dhaanya Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshmi, Veera Lakshmi, Aiswarya Lakshmi. The swarna-hasta meaning golden-handed, is the better half of Lord Vishnu. She showers prosperity in every aspect, be it material or the moral and ethical values, the nobler aspects of life, the power of the mind and intellect.
Diwali is synonymous with “Laxmi Pujan”, since, she brings peace and prosperity to all. The Devi is worshiped on the night of diwali where traditional rituals are performed to honor the Goddess. After sunset, atleast five pieces of ghee diyas (lamps) are lit in front of the deities to usher in light. She is offered traditional sweets & it is followed by devotional songs in praise of the deity.
Diwali is a festival of Hindus, but especially of the Businessmen, On this day they do puja of Account books and start writing their new accounts. This is called as "Chopda Pujan" or "Sharda Pujan" or "Muharat Pujan" meaning puja of account books. Chopda pujan is a day for everyone not only to reconcile one's financial books but also the spiritual books. People should pray to God to forgive us for all the mistakes this past year and to give the wisdom and strength to not make them the next year.
The Chopda Pujan/ Sharda Pujan/Muharat is a ceremony when ledgers and new account books are opened by the mercantile community following a special prayer and worship before the idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi to earn their blessings. All the traditional Vedic rituals or Maha Puja is performed and all the devotees have a prosperous new year and there be peace throughout the world by performing Chopda Puja.
In Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharastra, Diwali represents the start of a new business year so all businesses close their accounts and present them to Lakshmi and Ganesh during the Chopda Pujan. Inside their account ledgers they write 'Subh' (auspiciousness) and 'Labh' (merit) to invoke the two deities. Thus,Diwali is the festival when the new business year begins it is said that Diwali is the "Time to shop or start new ventures".
The full moon day in Kartik, the first month of the Indian calendar brings in the festival of Dev Diwali. For the Jains, it is the day of 'Nirvana' of Lord Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara. To them it is the Deva Diwali when Lord Mahavira is worshiped, Agams (Jain holy books) are read and homes and temples are illuminated. Lamps are lit under the moonlight sky and a family feast celebrates this day.
Thousands of Jain pilgrims from all over India flock to the sacred Mount Girnar in Gujarat where special celebrations are held on this day. It is said that the first scriptural reference to Diwali is found in the Jain scripture Harivamsha Purana, by Acharya Jinasena. None of the principal Hindu scriptures mention the festival in particular. This has made some believe that , Diwali was originally a Jain festival and later adopted by Hindus as a festival of their own.
Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Thirthankaras, said to have attained Nirvana on this day at Pavapuri. Accoriding Jain legends the first disciple of Mahavira, Ganadhar Gautam Swami also attained complete knowledge on this very day, thus making Diwali a really special occasion for the Jains to celebrate.
The way Jains celebrate Diwali is different in many respect. There is a note of asceticism in what ever the Jains do and the celebration of Diwali is not an exception. The Jains celebrate Diwali during the month of Kartik for three days. During this period, devoted Jains observe fasting and chant the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contain the final pravachans of Lord Mahavira and meditate upon him.
Deepawali is one of the oldest rituals for Kashmiri Pundits. That can be find a mention of its celebrations in Nilmat Puran. It was then celebrated as Sukhsuptika which literally means sleep with happiness. The celebration would start from Ekadeshi and last on Amavasya. On Amavasya elders of family would keep a fast and worship goddess Laxmi after sunset. Earthen lamps were placed in temples, on the road crossings, cremation grounds, banks of rivers, streams and lakes hills houses, at the foot of trees, cow sheds, court yards and shops. People would wear new clothes and listen to music.
With the passage of time some of these things have become obsolete but the tradition is still there. Since we were not used to eating Sweets in Kashmir, we substituted sweets with sweet puris and offered the same to Lord Narayan (incarnation of Lord Vishnu). On the whole we do not celebrate Diwili with the same gusto as is done by our Hindu brethren outside Kashmir. This could be due to the fact that we are Lord Shiva worshipers. Diwali is primarily a worship of Lord Vishnu who is very popular in the plains of India.
On Kartika Amavasya all except the sick and the children keep fast in Kashmir. In the evening Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth is worshiped. Lamps are placed in temples, on crossings of roads, cremation grounds, banks of rivers, streams and lakes, hills, houses, at the foot of trees, cow-sheds, courtyards and shops. Shops are decorated tastefully. Feast is arranged in the evening in which friends relatives, Brahmins and servants participate. On the next day people with new clothes on, gamble and listen to vocal and instrumental music.
In the olden days of South India, Deepavali was once called as 'Kaumudi Mahostavam'. In those times the kings used to supervise the festivities of Diwali during the nights. The rituals and customs of those days are still followed such as black gram leaves are eaten even today. Lamps are distributed. Late in the night, women bring out their household weapons like dustpans, mops, etc, to drive away 'Jyesthadevi', the Goddess of penury.
It is believed that on Amavasya (no moon day), Goddess Lakshmi is present in sesame oil, and Gangadevi is present in all wells, lakes, and ponds. Sesame oil is used for taking bath. Plants like Uttarani, Anapa and Prapunnatamu are circled around the head before taking bath. Yama is worshiped facing South. It is believed that this helps in combating untimely death and in giving peace to the departed souls. In the evening, lamps are lightened almost everywhere in the town including the temples, hills, graveyards, etc.
For Gujaratis Diwali is known as Badhausar. It is their belief that on this day Goddess Lakshmi descends from the heaven to the earth to live in a clean and tidy house. This a general belief of having clean house. Flowers of different hues and colors decorate the households. Girls of the all household go around in groups to each and they are traditionally dressed in the full bright colors that they are known for. The girls offer Mera, a prayer in front of each household and invoke God to bless each member of the family.
Rangoli is a floral design and use of flower is custom on the day of Badhausar. On the next day all the girls of the village prepare the sweets and personally take the sweets from house to house and deliver it with good wishes. They also carry earthen lamps (diyas) through the village in the evening on the second day making the entire atmosphere picturesque devotional fun enduring.
Balindra Pooja is observed in the morning of the thirteenth day of the dark half of Ashwija. First the puja is offered to water. Next morning at moon rise, a pooja offering oil to Krishna is performed. On the New Moon day, Pooja is offered to the image of Bali, which is artistically drawn on the ground in front of the gopuram. This is a popular puja done in the household of most of the South Indian states including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
On the next day puja is offered to the cows after they are washed, decorated and fed with special sweets etc. Then, the cows are taken in a procession. A Balindra is molded out of cow dung in a square shape. Shavanthi flowers are stuck on to it. This is worshiped as Balindra. A large number of wick lamps are lighted on this occasion.
In the evening there is an elaborate aarati of Varalakshmi, Mangal Gowri and Swarna Gowri. The objects needed for the aarati which are placed on a thaal (plate)are akshata, (rice grains) haldi, paan and chuna (lime paste) Alternatively, it can also be performed by lighting camphor on a silver plate or with a silver ghee lamp. The day marks the beginning of one month of lighting of the Kartika deepa at the door or threshold. The entire house is lit up and decorated with lamps of til oil and crackers are burst.
Kaarthigai Deepam is a festival of lights, celebrated in the Tamil month of Kaarthigai. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the Kaarthigai month which coincides with Krithikai star. It is also considered as the extension of the Deepavali festival. In some houses, they double the number of lamps every day from the day of Deepavali and this way, they end up with a number of lamps on the day of Kaarthigai Deepam.
It is celebrated in a special manner in Thiruvannamalai. Lord Shiva asks Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu to find out the exact location of his head and his feet. Since Lord Shiva takes a gigantic form, they are not able to find out anywhere. Then Lord Shiva takes the form of a jyothi (light of fire) on the hill of Thiruvannamali. Therefore, this festival is also known as Annamalai Deepam. Here, a special torch is lighted on the zenith of the hill and it is believed that Lord Shiva's jothi will be visible on this day.
Lord Muruga took the form of six babies in a lake called "Saravana Poigai". On this day, all his six forms were united by Parvathi(his mother) and this way, he had six faces. Special poojas are performed to Lord Muruga.
On this day, people clean the houses. In the evening, they draw kolams (rangoli) in the front of the house and also place some lamps on it. The lamps(Agal) are placed in the pooja and lighted. Then the Deeparathana is done in which the lamps are moved to different places in the house. The lamps glow all over the streets on this day. The lamps are arranged near the doors and windows and also in the balconies. In this way, people of Tamil Nadu celebrate Kaarthigai Deepam for three days.
Deepavali is especially special if it is "Thalai Deepavali"- the first one after the wedding. Newly weds are pampered by family members and showered with gifts. The newly-wed are invited for the first Deepavali and are provided 'Seer,' a part of the dowry, as per the custom. During the first year after marriage, the girls are also given 'Thalai Karthikai' as a gift. The celebrations include a visit to the temple, gifts of clothes and jewelery, gorging on sweets and receiving blessings of elders. The groom's parents, brothers and sisters come down to join in the celebrations.
Among the usual Diwali customs and rituals, is the extra special, once-in-a-life event: The first Diwali after marriage. In Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Thalai Deepavali. During Thalai Deepavali, the newly weds go to the bride's parental home for revelry. The day starts very early, around 3.30 - 4 in the morning, with the ritual of the early morning oil bath. The music of Nadaswaram and Mrudangam floats on the fresh morning air. After the bath the bride and groom accept their new clothes, kept at the feet of God and also the Lehiyam (a form of medicine). Taking blessings from the elders, they burst the first crackers of the day. Usually a vast range of crackers is bought, with costs running into thousands of rupees.
Sharda pujan is performed on the third day of Diwali and it is also the last day of Hindu year. On this day devotees light diyas and decorate the house with brightly colored lights. To ensure success, traders worship their new account books; non-traders also do pujan of their saving books. The businessmen balanced their previous years accounts. This pujan is known as Sharda poojan and is generally performed by the eldest member of the family. Hindus, especially students offer pujan to books during Sharda pujan as Sharda is the other name of Ma Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Goddess Sharda is symbolic of conquest over one's self.
A Rangoli, an intricate artistic design using bright colored powders, is created at the entrance of homes. This is to welcome people who visit or come to home. Various sweets are offered to the Lord and served as Prashad. During Sharda Pujan, vedic rituals are also held to welcome the Hindu new year. Since it is the last day of the year people resolve all personal conflicts forgiving and forgetting misdeeds of the past year and start the New Year afresh. After Sharda pujan, firecrackers and fireworks are lit at night.
Bandi Chhor Diwas
Not only Hindus, but Sikhs also celebrate Diwali as Bandi Chhor Diwas, an important festival. More for historical reasons than religious, has acquired a very special significance in the Sikh tradition. It is said that the foundation stone for the Golden Temple was laid during the time of Diwali in 1577. The occasion of Bandi Chhor Diwas prompt the followers of Sikhism to celebrate the day with joy and happiness.
Diwali played an important role in the life of Sri Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs. When Jehangir, the Mughal emperor, arrested Guru Hargobind and put him in a prison in Gwalior, gloom descended upon Sikhs. But later Jehangir relented and let the Guru go. Accompanied by his followers and to the joy of many Sikhs, the Guru returned to Amritsar and made an appearance before his followers. Thus, this day is very significant for people following Sikh religion. This festival can be best described in these words:
Hey Waheguru! "Raaj Na Chaahayu, Mukti Na Chaahyu Man Preet Charan Kamlaare"
Oh Wonderful Lord! I neither desire for empire and material realm nor liberation or mukti, my soul longs for the love of your lotus feet.
Celebrating Diwali and Lightening a Deeva in true sense is acquiring divine knowledge and being selfless, tolerant, humble, kind and sweet spoken. That leads one to become one with Waheguru (god).
Pray to God on this beautiful occasion of Diwali to give us light, to give us understanding, so that we may know what pleaseth thee, and may all (all whole mankind) prosper by the Grace.
Waheguru ji Ka Khalsa, (Hail God's Khalsa)
Waheguru ji ki Fateh. (Victory be to God)
The Festival of Diwali among Sindhis is known as Diyari. While the most of the customs for the celebration of Diayri are similar to othwers, Sindhis have also developed over a period of time, some special functions such as they wash Gold/ Silver coins in unboiled milk and water. During Laksmi pooja, sweet in form of Chikki made of jaggery and peanuts is aoffered. After the Laksmmi aarti, Sindhis follow the custom of picking one coin from the lot and gently hitting the teeth with it. During this ritual, following phrase is spoken "Laksmi aayi, Danat vaai" meaing Goddess Laksmi has arrived and poverty has gone away. This also has a message that after all you cannot eat the wealth. They keep their house open throughout night to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.
On the day of Diyari, Sindhis do not indulge in cleansing exercise and the broomstick and vaccum cleaner are not used. To make up perhaps, decorations begin well in advance and the entire household is cleared, cleaned and washed. However on the festival day of Lakshmi pooja the broomstick is not put to use. Many Sindhi households also have three matkas in which sweets, dry fruits etc., are kept symbolizing the need to save. Sai Bhaji ( a delicious dish of spinach and Gram Dal ) with rice, sweet with jaggery is a must in the Sindhi household on Diyari.