Various Hindu festivals are celebrated throughout the year. Click here to view the calendar of Hindu festivals.
See our HindiLearner blog entries for details of upcoming Hindu festivals.
Diwali or Deepawali
Diwali (also called Deepawali) is festival of lights as it is normal to light candles or small oil lamps around the home over the Diwali period. Often, fireworks are set off as well.
It's significance lies in removal of darkness (ignorance) through the means of lights (knowledge).
Diwali means different things to different people. For some, it is the celebration of Lord Rama's homecoming. For others, it is associated with the goddess Kali. In Gujarat, it honors goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
The diwali festival is celebrated over five days period:
Day1. Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi or dhanwantari Triodasi
Day2. Chhoti Diwali (Naraka Chaturdasi)
Day4. Govardhan Puja
Day5. Bhaiya Dooj
Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi or Dhanwantari Triodasi
Dhanteras marks the beginning of five-day long Diwali festival. It falls on the auspicious thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksh in Hindu month of Kartik. In the word - Dhanteras- dhan sands for wealth. On this day Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped to provide prosperity and well being.
Hindus consider it auspicious day to purchases metal objects including gold/silver ornaments or new utensils.
Legends say that sixteen year old son of King Hima was doomed to die by a snake bite on the fourth day of his marriage as per his horoscope. On that day, his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid gold and silver ornaments and coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husbands boudoir and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. And she went on telling stories and singing songs. When Yama - the God of death- arrived there in the guise of a snake, his eyes got blinded by the the dazzle of those metals and could not enter the prince's chamber. Thus the young wife saved her husband from the clutches of death. Since then, it is called day of Yamadeepdaan and lamps are kept burning throughout the night.
According to another legend, when gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrit (nectar), Dhanwanatri - the physician of gods and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu - emerged carrying a jar of of the elixir on this day.
Chhoti Deepawali (Naraka Chaturdasi)
Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Narakasur
by Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and his wife Satyabhama.
'Puranas' have it that Naraka, son of Bhudevi, acquired immense power from a blessing given by Lord Brahma after a severe penance. He soon unleashed a reign of terror in the kingdom of Kamarupa, harassing celestial beings with his invincible might. Unable to bear the tyranny of the demon, the celestial beings pleaded with Lord Krishna to save them from his torture.
But Naraka could not be easily killed as he had a boon that he would face death only at the hands of his mother Bhudevi. So, Krishna asks his wife Satyabhama, the reincarnation of Bhudevi, to be his charioteer in the battle with Naraka.
When Krishna feigns unconsciousness after being hit by an arrow of Naraka, Satyabhama takes the bow and aims the arrow at Naraka, killing him instantly. Later Lord Krishna reminds her of the boon she had sought as Bhudevi.
The slaying of Naraka by Sathyabhama could also be taken to interpret that parents should not hesitate to punish their children when they stray on to the wrong path.
The message of Naraka Chaturdasi is that the good of the society should always prevail over one's own personal bonds.
Deepawali (main event)
On the day of Amavasya, Lakshmi puja is performed. It is believed that on this day Goddess Lakshmi would be in her benevolent mood and fulfill the wishes of her devotees.
The Story of Lord Rama
Lord Rama was exiled by his father King Dashratha of Ayodhya on his wife's insistence for 14 years. During this period, he put an end to the demon king Ravana of Lanka, who was highly learned but of evil mind. On his return to Ayodhya at the end of exile period, people welcomed him by lighting rows of clay lamps. So it is an occasion in honor of Rama's victory over Ravana -or, Victory of good over evil.
It is to worship Gobardhan mountain which is said to have saved its' inhabitants from incessant rains. It symbolizes the importance of nature in our lives.
The mythology of Govardhan Puja:
In gokul village, people prayed to God Indra for rains. But Lord Krishna persuaded them to worship mountain Govardhan because the mountain and the land around it were fertile. This annoyed God Indra. He sent torrential rain down on the village. The people cried to Krishna to help. Krishna saved the villagers by lifting the top of the mountain. The offering of food to God on this day is a reminder to the importance of food and bounty of nature.
It is also known as "Bali Padyami". On this day King Bali would come out of Patala Loke (under world) and rule Bhuloke (The Earth) as per the boon given by Lord Vishnu.
The mythology of Bali Padyami :
King Bali was a generous ruler but very ambitious. Gods feared his power and requested Lord Vishnu to check it. Vishnu came to King Bali in the form of a vamana (dwarf) dressed as a priest and asked, " You are the ruler of the three worlds : the earth, the world above the skies and the underworld. Would you give space that I could cover with three strides?" King Bali agreed to dwarf's request. At this point, the dwarf changed into Lord Vishnu and his three strides covered the Earth, the Skies and the whole universe. King Bali was sent to under world.
On this day, sisters invite their brothers to their homes. Some refer it as "Yama Dvitiya" also.
This is the final celebration of Diwali festival.