The Five Days of Diwali
Of all the festivals and fasts observed by Hindus the world over, Deepavali is the most popular and considered most sacred. It is celebrated over five days with much more enthusiasm than any other event on our Hindu calendar.
Deepavali is more than a religious occasion, the celebrations of this five-day festival effects all facets of our lives. It has become a cultural events and an important social date in the year for all Hindus.
Entrances of all Hindu homes are decorated with rangoli and deepaks are lit to welcome Ma Lakshmi and seek blessings from the mighty Lord Vishnu for peace and tranquility in the New Year.
Most businesses also complete their financial year at this time and make a new start after Deepavali. Families and colleagues also share sweets and exchange gifts. Everyone dresses in their best attire for the auspicious Deepavali.
As the remover of obstacles, Sri Ganesh is worshipped along side Ma Lakshmi and Sri Vishnu, to bring good fortune into our lives at this time.
The five days of Deepavali are:
Day 1 - Dhanteras
Named after Lord Dhanwantari, it is 13th day (or Treodasi) of the Krishna Paksh of the Kartik maas.
This is the day Lord Dhanwantari emerged from the ocean with the science of Ayurveda. Devotees should bath in holy oils on this day and pray to Ma Lakshmi after sunset - possibly under a tulsi plant (holy basil) or in her absence offerings can be made under any holy tree like bael, peepal, neem. Offerings of sweet Prasad and seasonal fruits are also made.
On this day, some devotees also worship Vishnu and Lakshmi Ma sunkh (conch shell), symbolic of the divine treasures to have come out of the churning of the ocean (Samudra-Manthan).
Sri Yam devta should also be worshipped this day by the lighting of a deepak.
Day 2 - Sri Hanuman Jayanti/Narak Chaturdasi
This day is known as Narak Chaturdasi, i.e. 14th day of the month of Kartik. On this day, Sri Krishna killed demon king, Narakasur and freed the world from fear of the asura.
Deepaks and offerings to Ma Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu should also be made on this day.
Sri Hanuman's birthday is celebrated twice a year - the first in Chaitra Purnima and the second on this day because of differences in the Lord's birthday during different kalps (yughs).
This is also the day Lord Hanuman came to Ayodhya to inform the then ruler Bharat of the impending return of Sri Ram on Deepavali day after 14 years in exile.
Day 3 - Deepavali Day
Of all the days in the year for worshipping Ma Lakshmi, this is by far the most divine. Sweets of various sorts and other favourite offerings of this supreme Goddess is made on this day at 6pm.
Strict devotees observe nirajal fasts while ekadasi-type fasts (i.e. fruits & milk) is generally desirable for this day.
Deepavali is the Amavaysa night of Kartik, ie the darkest night of the year.
Of all the reasons behind lighting deepaks on this day, the most common is to mark the return of Sri Ram, his devoted wife Sita-ji, his younger brother Lakshman along with other ardent devotees of the Lord like Sri Hanuman-ji to Ayodhya in Northern India.
Day 4 - Goverdhan Puja
This is the day, over 5000 years ago, Lord Krishna performed puja for Lord Goverdhan in Vindravan in return for his protection of the people of Gokul during the heavy floods and catastrophies inflicted by Lord Indra.
According to Sri Vishnu Puran, people of Vindravan or Vrajwasi stopped their yearly ritual of worshipping to Lord Indra and started praying to Lord Goverdhan instead on this year.
Ever since Dwapar yugh, Hindu devotees pray to Sri Krishna and Sri Goverdhan on this day.
Also this day marks the start of Vikram-Samvat year after coronation of King Vikramaditya. Thus the start of a new Hindu year.
Day 5 - Bhaiya Dooj
As the name suggests, this day is the second day of the Shukla Paksh (bright side) of the month of Kartik. This is the day Lord Yama (God of Death) visited his sister, Yamuna-ji (Yami) in Vindravan during the vedic era. Lord Yama also gave a boon to her sister that devotees who visit her on this day will find moksha after death. They will be freed from all sins.
Brothers also visit sisters who place tilak on their brothers on this day. They exhange gifts and tales, and find out about their well being.
This is brothers' day, similar to sisters' day during Raksha Bandhan.
It is common for devotees to light earthen deepaks(diyas) using ghee or oil throughout the five days of Deepavali at their places of worship at home, as well as at the entrances of their dwellings. Some devotees even continue lighting deepaks until Kartik Purnima .
Click here for Laxmi Devi Puja list .
Cick here for Ma Lakshmi Aarati