The Indian states are known for their unique idiosyncrasies presented through various traditional costumes, culture and lifestyle.
However, there are certain aspects that bind the country together, like the Diwali festival.
The Diwali festival has been celebrated for ages all over India and the culture of each Indian state has increased the sparkle of this festival of light.
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the festival takes the flavour of the region. Let’s explore the changing colours or rather the changing lights of Diwali festival in different regions of India.
Diwali festival is associated with the return of Lord Rama with his wife, Sita and brother, Lakshmana to his kingdom, Ayodhya. The Ayodhya city is a part of the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh. So the legend of Lord Rama is celebrated with great flourish in the Northern states by following the tradition of lighting up oil lamps and electric lights to recreate the welcome for Lord Rama.
Dussehra festival kickstarts the preparation for Diwali in the North as Lord Rama slayed the demon king Ravana on Dussehra day. Ramlila, a dramatic rendition of the legendary epic Ramayana, is performed on makeshift stages constructed at every street corner in the North of India, especially Delhi.
During Diwali the ghats of Varanasi are lit up with innumerable diyas and prayers are offered to the holy river of Ganges.
In Himachal, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi gambling by playing cards is very popular during Diwali. In Bihar it is considered auspicious to buy kitchen utensils on Dhanteras. The decked up city of Jaipur in Rajasthan is a sight to be taken in during Diwali festival. Punjab sows winter crops during Diwali period and the day after Diwali festival is celebrated as Tikka day when the sisters apply tilak on their brothers’ forehead to protect them from harm.
The Sikhs celebrate ‘Bandi Chhor Divas’, which coincides with the Diwali day. The sixth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind, was released from prison in Gwalior on this day. So Sikhs celebrate the return of their Guru during Diwali. Every year an enchanting display of lights and fireworks at the Sikh pilgrimage centre, the Golden Temple at Amritsar attracts thousands of Sikhs and other visitors who throng to get a visual of the magnificent display of Diwali brightness.
In most of the Northern states, the Diwali festival is the most important festive celebration and the revelry is carried out in a lavish way with elaborate dressing, sumptuous food, and people also spend exorbitantly on fire crackers.
West Bengal worships Goddess Kali, the destructor of evil, on the new moon night of Diwali while the rest of India worships Goddess Lakshmi. Plantain leaves are used to decorate the entry of the house. Bengalis perform Lakshmi puja after five days of Dussehra, instead of the Diwali day.
A Bengali family celebrating Diwali
The Hindus of the largest north-eastern state of Assam also celebrate Diwali festival with high spirits and fanfare.
In Odisha, one peculiar ritual is the calling of spirits of the forefathers, to lead them to Heaven during Diwali festival. The family members hold burning jute stems and chant prayers to light up the paths to the Heaven, for their ancestors’ souls. Doors and windows are also kept open throughout the evening to give a free path to Goddess Lakshmi who is believed to visit homes on Diwali night.
Diwali is a festival of wealth and prosperity, and it is a major celebration for the business communities. The state of Gujarat known for its entrepreneurial potential celebrates Diwali festival with highest regard. Goddess Lakshmi the deity of prosperity is worshipped on Dhanteras as well as Diwali day with hopes of getting her blessings for their ventures as well as homes. Diwali marks the beginning of a new financial year for the Gujarati businessmen and they perform Chopda pujan (worshipping new account book) along with Lakshmi puja. The fourth day is Govardhan puja that honours the act of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan Mountain to save his village people from the storm that was raised by the wrath of arrogant Lord Indra. This day is also the New Year day for the Guajaratis.
The Jains also celebrate Diwali festival with gusto and that day also marks the anniversary of attainment of Nirvana by Lord Mahavir for them.
In the state of Maharashtra, Diwali festival becomes unique through the celebration of Vasu-Baras, a celebration of cows, which are considered holy by the Hindus. On this day women pray to cows with calves. Dhanteras is celebrated as Dhantrayodashi in Maharashtra and its southern states. Other than celebrating dhan or wealth on this day, it is also a celebration of the creation of Dhanvantri, the physician of Gods. The third day is ‘Diwalicha Padwa’ which celebrates the togetherness of husband and wife. The final day is called Bhau Bij which honours the brother sister bond.
In Goa, effigies of Narakasura are burnt before dawn to celebrate Narakachaturdashi during Diwali.
In the South, Diwali is referred to as Deepavali and it begins with Dhanteras, known as Dantrayodashi, which is a modest beginning. The Southern Diwali actually starts in a big way on the day after, which is called Narakachaturdashi. It commemorates the killing of demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama.
On Narakachaturdashi, people wake up before sunrise and bathe after an aroma infused oil massage. The women make rangolis on doorsteps and families light earthen diyas and burst firecrackers before dawn to mark the beginning of a new day after destruction of evil.
The next day is celebrated as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padyami, which honours the return of the virtuous demon King Bali to Earth. Vishnu had pushed the powerful demon king Bali into the nether worlds as his men had started terrorising people around because of increased power. As Bali was an ardent worshipper of Vishnu he received a boon to visit Earth every year during Diwali, which is the Bali Pratipada day.
The Mysore Palace in Karnataka illuminated for Diwali
Lakshmi puja is also performed in most of the South Indian families. Compared to the North, Diwali festival celebration in the South is a low key affair especially in the state of Kerala, where Onam is the major celebration. It is mostly celebrated with diyas, rangolis, fine clothes and traditional food. Bursting firecrackers is in moderation compared to the North.
Although the reasons to celebrate or the rituals of celebration vary as we move from the North to the South, the Diwali festival unites the country through the spirit of celebration. Glamorous attires, beautifully decorated homes sparkling with rows of diyas, electric lighting and lanterns, welcoming rangolis on doorsteps, people feasting on family favourite delicacies of sweets and savouries, and children enjoying firecrackers with their families can be associated with Diwali festival, irrespective of the regional variations.
The following verse is from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous Christmas poem:
“Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.”
It shows that any festival across the globe is a hope for a new beginning without evil and despair, and it calls for sharing joy. So whether it is North, South, East or West, the Diwali festival resonates the call of spreading happiness and prosperity across India.
Image source: www.sikh24.com, www.indianartguru.com, cslra.in, bayvp.org, www.marathimati.net, www.apnisanskriti.com, exploremaharashtra.blogspot.com