Diwali or Deepavali is the Festival of Lights. Diwali is a five day celebration where each day celebrates a different tradition and holds a special meaning.
The first day of Diwali is Dhanteras. “Dhan” means wealth and “teras” means that this auspicious day falls on the 13th day of Krishna Paksh (dark fortnight). People buy new things and clean out the old. However, the significance of this day extends beyond the physical. Spiritually speaking it signifies a new beginning — a process of clearing out the redundant and unnecessary habits that are impeding our spiritual path and replacing it with Bhakti (worship), Seva (Selfless Service) and Dhyaan (Meditation).
The second day of Diwali – Naruka Chaturdasi – marks the day on which Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama vanquished the demon Naraksura.
Legend has it that Naraksura, the son of Bhudevi, had been blessed with immense power by Lord Brahma. He caused great suffering among the people he ruled and even defeated Lord Indra in battle. Unable to find a way to stop Naraksura, the celestial lords sought the intervention of Lord Krishna.
Lord Krishna was aware of the chink in Naraksura’s armor. He had a boon that he would only die at the hands of his mother, Bhudevi. Lord Krishna was aware that his wife Satyabhama was a reincarnation of Naraksura’s mother. He requested her to become his charioteer when he confronted the powerful demon. After Naraksura’s arrow rendered Lord Krishna unconscious, Satyabhama shot Naraksura with an arrow, killing him instantly. The lesson in this story is that we need to evolve beyond earthly bonds to work for the common good even if it comes at the cost of great personal sacrifice.
Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, marks the worship of Lakshmi when she is in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Godess Lakshmi is worshipped as the giver of material wealth but in her truest essence she represents the fountain of spiritual knowledge, quenching the thirst of those who seek spiritual evolution.
By worshipping her essence, you invoke her blessings in order to attain spiritual wealth and illuminate the light within. This finds a physical manifestation in the burning of earthen lamps, candles and bulbs on the night of Diwali – the illumination of the without while invoking the divinity within.
On a spiritual level, being the darkest night of the year Diwali is prone to enhancing the power of negativity. Spirits also find it easier to travel from place to place your home to home due to the event being a cosmic one. It is as a self preservation the people burn so many candles and crackers to scare away any negative spirits in the neighbourhood. It was never about entertainment! The days after Diwali are very favourable for worshipping or acquiring the qualities of the silver element or guna. Receiving silver or showing reverence to it enhances the Rajsic qauality
The fourth day of Diwali is Balipratipada. The powerful king Bali was vanquished by Lord Vishnu, who appeared in a short, dwarf-like form known as Vamana, on this day. After being defeated, Bali offered himself to Vishnu by requesting that the latter place his foot on Bali’s head signifying complete surrender. This day symbolises the annihilation of the ego — the “I” that distances us from our true divine nature. People also serve food to the needy as a form of serving the divine energy that flows through us all.
The last day of Diwali is known as Bhaidooj. Since this day falls on the Yama Dwitiya, the legend goes that Lord Yama, or the God of Death visits his sister Yami on this when she puts an auspicious mark on his forehead so that her brother stand protected and prays for his well-being. The belief hence goes that when a sister puts Tilak on the forehead of her brother on this day, he will never be hurled into hell and be protected from all evil and obstacles.
The other legend on this is that Lord Krishna, after slaying the Narakasura demon, goes to his sister Subhadra who welcomes him with the lamp, flowers and sweets, and puts the holy protective spot on her brother’s forehead.
In each legend, myth, and story of Diwali lies the significance of the victory of good over evil, of the journey from darkness unto spiritual light. The light empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds and brings us closer to our own divinity.