Diwali is one of the most important Hindu festivals in India — but the colorful customs and meanings associated with it can vary dramatically depending on whether you reside in the countryside or the city.
The word ‘Diwali’ is most popularly used in North India and South India it is mostly used as ‘Deepavali.’ The meaning of both the word is the same. The Deepavali celebration is a four-day festival in South India and commences on Aswayuja Bahula Chaturdasi. The first day of the festival is known as Naraka Chaturdasi and it commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over demon Naraka. This day is celebrated as Deepavali in South India and it usually falls on a day before the Diwali in North India.
It is celebrated as Deepavali (deepa + aavaLi → light + abundance in Kannada) in Karnataka. It is celebrated on the Eve and next day of Amavasya (No moon day) as Naraka Chaturdashi (before no-moon day) resembling Satyabhama’s victory over Narakasura and as Bali Padyami the first day of Kaarthika Maasa; inviting the greatest emperor of times Maha Bali Chakravarthi to each and everybody’s homes. The entire house is cleaned and new clothes are purchased for the entire family which is followed by lighting of oil lamps around the house and bursting firecrackers. The tradition in Kannada families is that all members gather together for the three days celebration.
First day they’ll start with bursting crackers, followed by Lakshmi Mahaapooje on Amavaasye (no-moon day) and then on third day decorating the whole house and especially entrance with flowers and floor decoration to invite bali to their homes; a special fort-entrance kind of thing is made on the entrances of every home which is made out of cow-dung(gOmaya) and Sandalwood(Siri-Chandana) which both have a high divine reverence in Kannada tradition. Also fire-camps are kindled on both Naraka Chaturdashi and Bali Padyami days of Deepavali; where in respective community people’s gathering is significant and huge firework bursting ceremony happens. Later the whole Karthika Maasa (till next no-moon day) is celebrated by praying kunti idol in every house; this signifies that kunti; the mother of great Pandavas has come to mother’s (tavaru mane in Kannada) home for Karthika Maasa.
In villages on the third day Bali Padyami also known for gOvpooje (reverence to cows) all the cattle in the home are decorated gorgeously and are prayed for good will of next coming year. also go melas happen the same day. The celebration of Diwali is marked by the lighting of innumerable lamps in every courtyard and the bursting of crackers. Sweet meals, new clothes and spirit is 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 go to sleep late)
People wake up before sunrise prepare blood by mixing Kumkum in oil and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.
The preparations begin the day before, when the oven is cleaned, smeared with lime, four or five kumkum dots are applied, and then it is filled with water for the next day’s oil bath. The house is washed and decorated with rangoli patterns with kavi (red oxide). In the pooja room, betel leaves, betel nuts, plaintain fruits, flowers, sandal paste, kumkum, gingelly oil, turmeric powder, scented powder are kept. Crackers and new dresses are placed in a plate after smearing a little kumkum or sandal paste.
On the Diwali day, Lakshmi puja is held in North India. In South India too Lakshmi puja is held on the same day. The myth is the same – Goddess Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagara (Ocean of Milk), when devas and asuras where churning for ‘amrit’.
On the streets of densely populated conurbations like Mumbai, Diwali — popularly known as the Festival of Lights — is often a raucous affair, marked by a cacophony of firecrackers on the streets and a flourish of ceremonial gambling in the home. The wealthier urban dwellers splurge on gold, jewelry, clothes and expensive gifts such as electronics, which they buy for themselves and their loved ones.
Diwali means bankruptcy in Kannada so this part of people traditionally prefer ‘Deepavali’ over ‘Diwali’. For people in Udupi and Mangalore and Karnataka in General, Deepavali is celebrated over 4 days, starting with the eve of Naraka Chathurdashi which is also called ” Neeru thombo habba”. A festival where in all the water tanks are cleaned & filled with water in preparation for the next day’s ablutions and worshiped.
There are some Deepavali rituals common across most of the subcontinent. In both city and countryside, small clay oil lamps (or diyas) are placed at the thresholds of homes, shops and offices throughout the five-day affair to celebrate the legend of the return of the Hindu god, Lord Rama, to his kingdom after 14 years in exile. According to mythology his people lit diyas to welcome his return.
Hindus in cities and villages also believe that during Diwali the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, will visit their homes if they are lit, clean and beautifully decorated.
Windows and doors are left open to let the goddess in and homes are cleaned from top to bottom.
Brightly-colored rangolis are drawn using fingers on the ground at the entrances to homes and offices. These geometric designs are usually symbols of nature and their purpose is to welcome guests and to encourage Lakshmi inside.
Gambling card games are often played in both villages and cities, as it is generally considered auspicious to gamble during Diwali.
This springs from a legend that a Hindu deity played a dice game with his consort on the fourth day of Diwali and she won. Some Hindus believe Lakshmi can be invoked through gambling.
“People don’t mind losing — it’s part of the ambiance and people are having fun. Everyone dresses up, everyone is on holiday, everyone is inviting each other to their homes, there is a lot of warmth.”Across the country Indian sweets — known as mithai — are exchanged and people have large family gatherings in their homes.
New year, new accounts
Diwali also marks the start of the new Hindu financial year and many businessmen, traders and shopkeepers, open new accounts books. Businessmen in certain states, particularly Gujarat, worship their accounts books.
There are various other rituals celebrated in towns and villages on each of the five days. For example, on the last day of Diwali in many parts of India, a sister cooks for her brother and he bestows gifts on her in celebration of the love between siblings.
Lighting up the night
Typically fire crackers are set off from dusk, often throughout the night. The noise is believed to herald the defeat of evil and catch the attention of the gods.
But amid the festive fervour, how green is your Diwali going to be. A festival celebrated with humble diyas and home made sweets has changed to noisy crackers, splurging and decorating houses with electric illuminations. It not only puts an added burden on the environment, but also puts health at stake for a lot of people. Though, the festive spirit should not soften any bit, we should also make sure we keep the proceedings safe, sound and Eco-friendly.
Child labor has been prevalent in India since the time of inception of industries. Most of the child labor is employed in hazardous industries like fireworks, match-box, stone quarry, gems cutting and polishing, bangle making and glass industry, brick kilns, etc. In Sivakasi, the biggest cracker industry in India, forced child labor is a depressing reality. Instead of enjoying their childhood and getting educated, these children are living a life of bondage and slavery.
It is probably hard to imagine Diwali without the noise and glitter of crackers. Every year, millions of people purchase so many crackers. With the increase in demand of fireworks, not only in number but also in variety, there is an increase in the number of children forced into making them. Every firework you burn has been made by those tiny hands whose future has been dragged into doom.
They pollute our environment. Any serious mishap with fireworks can cost you your life! Millions of children are forced to work for making them. Many of these children die due to one or the other mishap or some health hazard due to working with poisonous chemicals.
Suppose every Indian spends Rs. 1 on fireworks, as India has population of approximately 1.24 billion people, this means that Rs. 1.24 billion are wasted on fireworks alone, every year!
What use are you putting your hard earned money to? Imagine what good you can do with that amount of money. A number of educational facilities and hospitals can be build, poverty can be dealt with and so much more!
Next time you light fire to a cracker remember there is a poor child whose education you could have funded with that money or at least you could have saved their childhood from those dingy, dark, claustrophobic rooms where they are work tirelessly to fulfill your demands.
Few tips on how to make this Deepavali Eco-friendly, and still make it a delightful festival.
Festivals are best celebrated with your closed ones around you. So think of getting your relatives, friends and neighbours at one place and having the festivities going on. This will not only reduce the cost of celebration and amount of pollution as compared to individual celebrations, it will also brings more excitement, closeness and bonding among everyone.
Crack it thoughtfully
Fire crackers leave the city hazy, noisy and littered with paper remains the next morning. Instead of the traditional crackers, opt for Eco-friendly products that are made from recycled papers and the noise produced is within the decibel limits set by the Central Pollution Control Board.
While the electric illumination looks stunning, there is no comparison to the age old diyas. The additional advantage of these diyas are that they are bio-degradable, cost effective and still look traditional and very beautiful. Plus, you can also contribute in saving on electricity consumption that normally reaches sky high during each Diwali.
Splurge more, but on emotions
While it’s a great time for shopping, buy things that are required for the festival. Splurging on unnecessary items will only elevate the budget. Buy less of plastic and use-and-throw decoration items. Instead, try to shop for recyclable material. Also, while cleaning the house before Diwali, restrain from dumping things, instead give the discarded things to the underprivileged people.