Diwali in India is “festival of lights” and is celebrated all over the world with great piety and enthusiasm. Why do we celebrate Diwali? You think Diwali is celebrated just for Lord Ram’s return? You’ll probably be amazed to learn that there are not one, but several reasons why we hold Diwali celebrations every year.
From the Rama’s return to Ayodhya to Guru Hargobind’s release from Mughal captivity, here are 7 more mythical and historical reasons why Diwali is a great time to celebrate.
Lord Ram defeated Ravana and returned to a well-lit Ayodhya to celebrate his victory.
According to the epic ‘Ramayana’, it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Ram, Ma Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps and illuminated it like never before.
Goddess Lakshmi was born after the Samudra Manthan and she chose to be with Lord Vishnu.
The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi incarnated on the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month during the churning of the ocean (samudra-manthan), hence the association of Diwali with Lakshmi.
End/beginning of the harvest season
Diwali is as much a festival of farmers as it is a festival of merchants. The kharif harvest season draws to a close around this time of the year and the celebrations traditionally involve a simple ritual of making delicacies out of poha or puffed rice taken from the freshly-harvested crop. In Gujarat too, the time marks the beginning of a new harvest season and traders also close all financial accounts and clear debts for the year to begin afresh.
The Pandavas finally returned from a 12-year Vanvas to Hastinapur and the citizens celebrated their return.
The great Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’ reveals that it was ‘Kartik Amavashya’ (the new moon day of the Kartik month) when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice (gambling). The five Pandava brothers, their mother and their wife Draupadi were honest, kind, gentle and caring in their ways and were loved by all their subjects. To celebrate the joyous occassion of their return to Hastinapura and to welcome back the Pandavas, the common people illuminated their state by lighting bright earthen lamps everywhere. And the tradition is maintained to this day.
Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura and released the 16,000 women he held captive.
In some parts of the country, Diwali is celebrated a day before as Naraka Chaturdashi. It is to commemorate the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon Narakasura. The demon king had 16,000 women in captivity. But Lord Krishna’s victory over him, that falls on the day of Naraka Chaturdashi, set them free. The celebrations are said to have gone on for more than a day.
Mahavira attained Moksha
Even though Jains abstain from fireworks because they believe it harms other living beings, the community does celebrate Diwali in its own quiet way to commemorate Mahavira’s attainment of Moksha or eternal bliss. But it wasn’t just Mahavira’s big day; his disciple of Ganadhara Gautam Swami also reached a state of Kevalgyana on the day, making Diwali all the more important to the small but prosperous Jain community.
People in certain eastern parts of the country honour Goddess Kali, instead of Lakshmi.
In some parts of the country, instead of Goddess Lakshmi, there are other Goddesses & deities that people pay their respects to. In areas like West Bengal, Assam and Odisha people perform Kali Puja to honour Goddess Kali. She is said to be the Goddess of creation, time, destruction and power. Kali Puja and Diwali fall on the same date.
Guru Hargobind returned from Mughal captivity on this day, leading to the creation of Bandi Chhor Divas.
Even though Diwali is a Hindu festival, it is celebrated on a large scale in Punjab, a predominantly Sikh state. Amritsar’s Golden Temple, the most important shrine of the Sikhs is lit up and shines brighter than ever during Diwali. The release of sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind from Mughal custody along with 52 other kings (around 1611) who were held for upholding their personal religious beliefs is the reason for these celebrations. But even before that, some 34 years before this historic release, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid in 1577.
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