Different and diverse are no foreign words for Indians. From the northern zone of Kashmir to the southern zone of Kanyakumari, festive and flavours differs. In the same way Diwali is a kind of a festival which is celebrated uniquely in various destination with a different reasons. “The festival of lights” as it is known nationwide, is an amalgamation of culture, tradition, lights and colours.
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an imp harvest festival. However, various states in India have got their own folklores which talks about its origin. Some believes that it is dedicated to Goddess Kali, or a celebration of marriage between Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu. Diwali is also celebrated for commemorating the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen-year long exile. In blissful celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, enlighten the kingdom with earthen lamps.
Diwali is an elaborate event of celebrations that goes on for three to five days arousing joy in all people alike. This is the time when mankind come together, make their relations strong. Diwali in the whole of nation is a grand event of blissful happiness where people come as one with their attitude of gratitude and celebrate the joy of giving.
The festivities begin first at Gujarat before it does to the rest of the country. It is in Gujarat that the first crackers are burnt in the name of divine. Diwali is one of the most important festivals of Gujarat. While the rest of the country observes Diwali for two to five days, but Gujarat has its own unique way where the celebrations go up to nearly a week. Each of these days in the festival of Diwali is separated by a different tradition and custom, but what remains true and constant is the celebration of life, its gratification and goodness.
AGYARAS (1ST DAY)
The first day of Diwali in Gujarat begins with Agyaras, two day before Dhanteras. This falls on the 11th day of the month of Ashwin. People keeps fasts on this day and elaborate foods are prepared.
VAGH BARAS (2ND DAY)
On this day, cows and cattle is worshipped, especially in the interiors and rural areas Of Gujarat. The word “Vagh” in Gujarati is termed as the payment of the financial debt. People do not make any new financial transactions or make any entry in the new ledger books from this day until the day of Labh Pancham .
Vagh also means tiger in Gujarati. In some villages and localities of Gujarat, men colour themselves like tiger as well as cattle. The men who have coloured then as tiger will chase the men who have coloured oneself as cattle. To witness this, a huge crowd gathers together and celebrate with fun and frolic.
DHANTERAS (3RD DAY)
This day is celebrated in honour of Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth. On Dhanteras, most people buy precious metals and stones like gold, silver and diamonds. Gujaratis believes that, if you spend on this day, it makes Goddess Lakshmi happy and in turn you are blessed with prosperity
KALI CHAUDAS (4TH DAY)
This day is celebrated to honour Goddess Maha Kali or Shakti. It signifies the destruction of all evil and everything that leads to inauspiciousness.. Lord Hanuman is also worshipped on this day for protection against evil spirits and negative energy.
LAKSHMI PUJA (5TH DAY)
Lakshmi Puja is the main and the most important day of Diwali festivities. This is the last day of the year according to the Gujarati calendar. People decorate their houses with lights and lamps. They draw rangoli and padukas at doorsteps and entrances of their houses to welcome goddess Lakshmi. There is Lakshmi Puja in the evening, where the whole family gathers and comes together for the occasion; the offerings are distributed amongst the members of the family. Once the Puja is over, people, especially children burst abundant firecrackers and the sky is illuminated with them.
BESTU VARAS (6TH DAY)
The day after Diwali is when Gujarat celebrates its New Years. This day is known as Bestu Varas. This is celebrated on the first day of the new month of Kartik as the New Year. The day begins with welcoming of the new years with the burst of firecrackers at 4 am in the morning. People wish each other “Nutunvarsh Abhinandan” meaning Happy New Year in Gujarati. Houses are decorated with fresh flowers and rangolis for the New Year. Sweets and snacks are distributed. There is a custom observed by the young boys in the rural villages of Gujarat, that they collect salt from the evaporated ponds and distribute it to people, calling it ‘sabras’ which means that it will bring good luck in the New Year.
BHAI BIJ (7TH DAY)
The second day of the Gujarati New Year is celebrated as Bhai Bij. This is a day for brothers and sisters. Sisters worship and perform prayers for the health, long life and welfare of their brothers. A Sister invites her brother home for puja and then prepares delicious meals for him on this occasion. In return the brother presents their sisters with gifts, warmth and blessings. Bhai Bij enhances and strengthens the love between a brother and a sister.
Gujaratis celebrate Lab Pancham on the fifth day of the New Year. Business-men, shopkeepers and traders start new business ventures and purchase things for their respective shops, trades and companies. It is considered an auspicious day for new investments and business proceedings.
We have seen various aspects of Diwali in this article. Let us remember and spread awareness on the same to have a safe and happy Diwali this season. Also now that we know the significance of Diwali the festival of lights let us remember to remove the darkness or bad things around us that hinders our life and bring about the achievement of goodness around us.
Wishing you all a very happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year.
Content courtesy: Aarthi, Archaeologist