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Each region celebrates Diwali differently, but the essence is to beat the darkness within

Present-day festivities are limited by the modern urban life experiences whereas traditionally, festivals in India took an individual to the community and were varied and numerous in their modes of celebrations spread over a fortnight

Seema KainturaSeema Kaintura   26 Oct 2019 6:00 AM GMT

Each region celebrates Diwali differently, but the essence is to beat the darkness within

The festival of Diwali is commonly observed as a culmination of sorts, marking more-or-less the end of the festival season and celebrated with much fanfare and gaiety. People shop for their families, friends, clients and employees, host card parties, illuminate houses and establishments, burst crackers, albeit responsibly, and undertake fun festive food binging.

This festival, broadly celebrating the homecoming of Lord Rama and to mark the victory of light upon darkness, is signified by a diya (earthen lamp) and so is called a festival of lights, but, in fact, is much more than that. Present-day festivities are limited by the modern urban life experiences whereas traditionally festivals in India took an individual to the community and were varied and numerous in their modes of celebrations spread over a fortnight.

Diwali is also observed as the day of Kali puja in West Bengal which celebrates the dark goddess in her fearsomeness. Diwali celebrations begin from Dhanteras and go on till Dev Diwali. The day succeeding Diwali is celebrated as Govardhan Puja which dually celebrates the cattle and Krisna's use of Govardhan Mountain to provide his people succour from the Rain God Indra's ire. People light diyas on the mounds of dung and offer prayers. Two days after Diwali is the festival of Bhai Dooj, which celebrates the brother-sister bond.

During Diwali, many people in Purvanchal also observe the ritual of 'Dalidder' (poverty) wherein they go about the house beating a battered soop (a woven basket or fan for winnowing) chanting Ishwar baithe, Dalidder Nikle, Lachmi Kare Ghar Vas (May God be in our house, may the poverty leave us, may our house prosper with the presence of Goddess Laxmi). The community then gathers and lights up a bonfire and the soops are thrown into the fire. The Marwari community does it during Choti Diwali while many perform it on Ekadashi. People in Uttar Pradesh eat suran (yam) for it is believed that the bite of suran cuts away the sins of the entire year.

Diwali is also observed as the day of Kali puja in West Bengal.

The Uttar Pradesh, the Khatris layout rangoli in the form of a Chaupar (India ludo) and place Laxmi-Ganesh idols on its. Puffed rice is placed by the daughters of the house upon various colourfully decorated earthen toys and who also place thumms or ritualistic vermillion markings to symbolically express their desire and prayers for the prosperity of their mother's home.

Diwali is celebrated as Bagwal in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. Bagwal is observed as Choti, Badi and Egas (small, big and Ekadashi). The way people light up sparklers and candles, the Garhwalis make use of bhailu and hulki. Inner shavings of pine tree are tied together with a local creeper sirola . The resulting bunch called hulki is lighted up which is then hung by thick nails to light up the courtyards. Placing a thali above it, the black residue is collected and applied as kohl. Bhailu is hulki tied to a long creeper like a big yo-yo and whisked in a circular motion on the fields on all three days. Men and women compete joyously to see who plays the longest. Beginning Choti Diwali, the bereaved are sent out food items made from kulthi (horse gram) and ranaas (rice bean).

Among people of Damoh, Chattarpur in Madhya Pradesh, the festival of Gaur Chiraiyya is celebrated soon after Diwali wherein women take seven sticks of Khoya and fashion them into a bird. At the appointed wall for puja, a tree with a bird is made. Women gather around to hear the story and put a lighted diya upon the khoya bird's beak. Thereafter, the bird body except for its tail is eaten up and the tail is tossed away behind the shoulder. All married women observe this ritual and taint their feet red.

On Bhai dooj, women sitting in a circle worship a mound of cow dung and Ganesh and listen to the story

Another major festival of the Diwali season is that of Govardhan or Annakoot which is observed the day after Diwali. It is believed the Lord Krisna hoisted the Govardhan Mountain on his small finger to provide shelter and save his devotees from the rain god's ire. So, a mound of cow dung is symbolically worshipped as Govardhan Mountain by placing a diya atop and ritualistic offerings made to Krisna which is called Annakoot or a medley of all food items. People also mark this day by worshipping cows. Uttar Pradesh Khatris save up the vegetables offered on Ahoi Ashtami and cook all of them together as annakoot offering after Diwali.

Two days after comes the festival of Bhaidooj which celebrates the bond of brothers and sisters like Rakhi or Rakshabandhan. It is believed that Yama visited his sister Yamuna or Yami this day and Yamuna elated at her brother's visit, welcomed him anointing his forehead with vermillion (tilak) and made him up a feast. Pleased with Yami, Yama asked him what she desired to which she replied that whosoever took a dip in her water with his sister on that day shall transcend the cycle of birth and death. Yama agreed and so it is considered auspicious for brother-sisters to take a dip in Yamuna at daybreak on Bhaidooj. It is a ritual observed keenly by people in Mathura.

Towards Purvanchal, sisters begin by symbolic cursing of their brothers holding a local thorny stick, bhatkatiya. Sitting in a circle they worship a mound of cow dung and Ganesh and listen to the story. Thereafter, the curse is revoked with water and the next day on Bhaidooj brothers are treated to the feast of stuffed pooris and bakheer.

Mostly symbolic, these chapters of the larger festival of Diwali, nonetheless, enrich the meaning and experiences of the festivals. Each of these festivals is linked to another to showcase the common love and importance of relations by making members of the community celebrate them together.

Also Read: This Diwali, eat your fill, sing and dance with friends, family
Also Read: Diwali is a celebration of homecoming, coming to oneself

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