The victory of good over evil is always celebrated. One such religious celebration is “Deepavali”. It is celebrated with utmost piety with a touch of gaiety, throughout India. It is believed that the asuras like Narakasura and Ravana are killed by the incarnations of Vishnu- Krishna and Rama. And Deepavali is a celebration in commemoration of those victories. In other words, they are the victories over evil.
In the north of Vindhyas, it is believed that the coronation of Rama, after returning from ‘Vanvas’ ( exile to the forest) for 14 long years, took place on this day and celebrate the day as such. In the South, It is believed that Krishna conquered Narakasura following a ferocious fight and killed him. Hence, the day is celebrated as a victory of Krishna over Narakasura. Either way, it is a victory over evil.
Basically it is a festival of lights, as the name itself implies. Light removes darkness and spreads a divine aura of peace, goodness, knowledge and wisdom with a touch of spirituality. It is a day that reminds us about all that is bad, negative in nature, not conducive to a good and truthful living and praying for the blessings to conquer all that and live a life that is good and positive and that leads to Prosperity, Good Health and Respect for all. A life without light can only be a dull one devoid of the challenges existing on a bright and brilliant day. So it is a grace bestowed on us by Lord Almighty for a beautiful and challenging life. So, as a matter of salutations to Him, the day is celebrated as a festival of lights to ingrain the importance of it in our day-to-day lives.
Deepavali is celebrated on the krishna paksha chaturdashi day in the month of Ashwin. This festival is also called “Naraka Chathurdashi”. The belief is that, people who celebrate the festival with piety and devotion, will not suffer the travails of life.
Deepavali means row of lights.The whole house is cleaned and decorated with lights on the day. Rangolis, with rice powder, are drawn in front of the deity, just outside the pujaroom in the house, tulasi pedestal, front courtyard of the house, as well as on either side of the various doorsteps in the house. Mango leaf garlands are hung on the top of the door of the pujaroom, front door of the house, bathroom door and the tulasi pedestal.
A very important part of the festival, especially in the south, is having a bath by all members of the family, after having an oil massage, during the Brahma Muhurta of the day, which falls between 3.30 and 6am. Red flowers and turmeric powder are put in the bathing water. This bath is known as “Gangasnanam”. All the members of the house after taking bath, wear new clothes and jewellery and go to the precincts of the pujaroom for prayers and stand in a single file. The lady of the house prepares five or seven deepams made with rice flour, haldi and kumkum and keep them in a row on a plate with oil and wicks placed in the deepams. A few small balls are also made with the same material. A small quantity of water is poured in the plate, with a bit of kumkum and haldi added to it. The lady of the house does the aarti for all together, 3 times in all. After that, using small balls, one for each member of the family, she makes two rounds, one clockwise and the other anticlockwise for each family member, in order to remove the bad omens. After that, she sprinkles little water from the plate, with her hands, on the feet of all and does the aarati once more, carries the plate outside and throws the contents aside.
The belief is that, when Krishna returns after killing Narakasura, people welcome Him with great love and joy and in order to remove bad omens, the mother gives Him an oil bath and do aarati.
The neivedhyam, called “Satta Phovu”, is made for the morning puja. It is prepared with parched rice, jaggery, roasted til, bengalgram and greengram dals and coconut. Little sugar and a few neem leaves are also kept as neivedhyam. This is only to signify that every life that is filled with both good and bad, has to be faced with equanimity.
After the puja and neivedhyam, people go to the temple for prayers and blessings. Only after this, the other activities of the day are done.
The bhojanam(feast) is prepared with varieties of dishes, including payasam(kheer). A special dish named “Kuwlya Ambat”(a spicy sour dish using white pumpkin-Ash Gourd) is prepared on this day and it is a must too.
After the feast, some members of the family visit their relatives, friends and neighbours and exchange pleasantries and good wishes. They also offer sweets to them.
Starting with the twilight and stretching to the late night, crackers are burst as part of the celebration.It is continued for the next few days.
In the evening, rows of lights are lighted inside the puja room as well as outside the house on the front veranda, tulsi pedestal, window sils, either side on the doorsteps(umboru) of all doors, sun shades all around the house. The house with deepams are decorated as explained above for 5 days from thrayodasi(previous day) to the ensuing dwidhiya day. A colourfully decorated lantern is also hung, high above, in the front courtyard of the house.This is done for 3 consecutive days.
In temples, the oil abishekam is done to the deity during Brahma muhurtam, using special oil prepared from champa(kevda) and jasmine flowers. The deity is decorated with varieties of flowers and ornaments. After this, special pujas are performed to the main deity, niranjanam (deepam made with rice flour, haldi and kumkum) is lighted, and neivedyam is offered.The temple premises are also decorated well with flower and mango leaf garlands and deepams lighted and kept all around the temple. Plenty of deepas are lighted all around the temple. For the puja, devotees offer oil, flowers, materials for niranjanam, etc and seek the blessings of the Lord. Prasadam is distributed to all devotees. In temples also, the neivedhyam is the phovu made with parched rice, jagerry and coconut.
Deepavali is special for the newly weds. The new couple is invited to the brother’s house. The family honour the couple with great celebration. They are presented with new clothes and ornamets as per the capacity. If Deepavali day falls as the last festival of the year after their marriage, they are invited for a second time for the function in the next year.
Konkani community used to celebrate Diwali for five days from Thrayodashi to the ensuing Dwithiya and they attached some mythological significance for each day.
The celebrations start from thrayodashi falling under shuklapaksha in the month of Ashwin and concludes on dwithiya (known as yama dwithiya) in the ensuing krishnapaksham. On all these five days, Oil diyas are lighted in the evenings in and around the puja room, front veranda, around tulsi pedestal, on window sils, on window rain shades, either side of all the door steps, etc, besides the normal deepams inside the puja room and on the tulsi.
The second day is known as Naraka Chathurdashi and considered as the most important day, known as Deepavali. It is believed that on this day, Lord Krishna on return to his palace after killing Narakasura with he help of Satyabhama, was very tired and his mother gave him an oil bath, worn new clothes, did an aarti with diyas made from rice powder, haldi and kumkum to get rid of the bad omens, arranged a sumptuous feast with varieties of dishes and sweets and for celebrating the victory, arranged lighting of diyas in the evening in and around the house, as also tulsi pedestal in all the houses in the town.
This celebration is continued in memory of this day, with a difference, that the oil bath , aarti of all the members of the family by the eldest Sumangali of the house is done during the most auspicious time of the day ie the Brahma Muhurta. The lady of the house also applies oil on the top of the head of all the family members, elder members do oil massage on their own and have their bath and the young kids are helped by their mothers for application of oil for the whole body and also bathing them. Rest of the morning puja activities are the same as explained elsewhere above.
The main important dish for the feast on this day is Thakka Ambat/Kuwlya ambat(without adding haldi). Other dishes are Thoy, Thiksani hummaan, Upkeri, Sukkein, Kelya Phadi, Appolu, Adgai(pickles), Dudha Paysu(Milk Kheer with rice) and other sweets made earlier for the occasion. There is also a tradition to prepare 3 or 4 sweets in reasonably larger quantities for consumption of the family members during the period and also for distribution to a few selected relatives, friends and neighbours. The sweets generally prepared for the occasion are Besan Laddu, Halwa, Boondi Laddu, etc.
Ashwin Krishnapaksha Amavasya falls on the next day. It is believed that the celebration on this day is in memory of the release of all Gods from the captivity of Mahabali by Lord Vishnu and all of them proceeding to the Milky Ocean and doing puja of Lord Vishnu, reclining on Anantha, along with Vishnu’s consort, Mahalaxmi. It is said that Mahalaxmi expressed her desire that the day be celebrated by all people by beautifying their houses by lighting lamps in and around the house. This day, Laxmi pujan is done in the evening in all the houses.
Next day is Kartik Shuklapaksha Prathama. It is celebrated in memory of the benevolent king Bali and his wife, Vindhyavali, by giving an oil bath to cows and calves being reared in the house and garlanding them with flowers and decorating them with colourful cloth, kumkum, etc, feeding them well and taking them around the neibourhood.
The dwithiya falling on the next day is called Yama Dwithiya.This is the fifth day of the festival. Yamadwithiya, also known as ‘Ad-Diwali’ in konkani, falls on the shuklapaksha dwithiya day of the kartik month. The belief is that Yama visits Kalindi/Yami, his sister, after a long time and she welcomes her brother with great pomp and show and celebrates the day with utmost joy. Yama visits his sister with his many aides and both the brother and sister partake the feast, prepared by Kalindi, sitting together. He offers plenty of gifts like fine new clothes, ornaments etc to his sister. It is also believed that he pardons all the prisoners under him that day.
This is a day for the brothers and sisters to keep up their deep bondage of love and affection. This is a day celebrated in all konkani families with great fervour. Normally, the brother goes to the younger suvasini sister’s house with lots of gifts, such as new clothes, ornaments, sweets, fruits, etc and enjoy the feast prepared by the sister, sitting along with her. These days, a reverse process is also being followed by inviting the younger suvasini sister to the brother’s house and honour her by gifting valuables along with new clothes and arrange a grand feast comprising of special side dishes, sweets and other delicacies and partake the feast together. Important dishes prepared for the feast are Kappya(tapioca) Ambat/Pulchakeri and Phadi Kalleyleli, sweetened parched rice and pappayphala(papaya) ambat.
Though the strict regimen is not followed these days due to the prevailing living and working conditions, the festival, even now, is celebrated on a low key with full of fervour and devotion in whatever way that is best possible.