vmurthy at informix.com vmurthy at informix.com
Thu Oct 5 00:04:34 UTC 1995

Follwoing is an article from the book, "Our Festivals" by H.V.Seshadri.


The 14th Day of the dark half of Aashwayuja to the 2nd day of bright half of


If there is one occasion which is all joy and all jubilation for one and all -
the young and the old, men and women - for the entire Hindu world, it is
Deepaavali - the Festival of Lights. Even the humblest of huts will be lighted
by a row of earthern lamps. Crackers resound and light up the earth and the
sky. The faces of boys and girls flow with a rare charm in their dazzling hues
and colors. Illumination - Deepotsavas - in temples and all sacred places of
worship and one the banks of rivers symbolize the scattering of spiritual
radiance all round from these holy centres. The radiant sight of everybody
adorned with new and bright clothes, especially ladies decorated with the best
of ornaments, captures the social mood at its happiest.

And all this illumination and fireworks, joy and festivity, is to signify the
victory of divine forces over those of wickedness.

Narakaasura was a demon king ruling over Praagjyotishapura (the present-day
Assam). By virtue of his powers and boons secured from God, he became
all-conquering. Power made him swollen-headed and he became a menace to the
good and the holy men and even the Gods. The Gods headed by Devendra implored
Sri Krishna who was at Dwaaraka (in the present-day Gujarat) to come to their
rescue. Sri Krishna responded. He marched from the western end of the country
to its eastern end, Praagjyotishapura, destroyed the huge army which opposed
him and finally beheaded Narakaasura himself. The populace was freed from the
oppressive tyranny and all heaved a sigh of relief. The 16,000 women kept in
captivity by the demon king were freed.
After the slaying of Narakaasura Sri Krishna bathed himself smearing
his body with oil in the early morning of Chaturdashi. Hence the invigorating
vogue of taking an early morning `oil-bath' on that day.

Mother Earth, whose son Narakaasura was, requested Sri Krishna that the day be
celebrated as one of jubilation. Sri Krishna granted the request and since then
the tradition has continued. Mother Earth reconciled herself to the loss of her
son and knowing as she did that the Lord had punished her son for the sake of
the welfare of the world, she set a glowing example of how one has to brush
aside one's personal joys and sorrows in the interest of society. It is this
deliverance of the people from the clutches of the asuras that fill the people
with joy.

Then follows Amaavaasya, the new moon day, auspicious for offering prayers and
gratitude to the bygone ancestors of the family and invoking their memories and
blessings for treading the path of right conduct. This is also the sacred
occasion for the worship of Mahaa Lakshmi, the goddess of Wealth and
Prosperity. The business community open their New Year's account with Her
worship. This reminds us of the famous saying of the sage Vyaasa,
'dharmaadarthashcha kaamashcha...' - it is through right conduct that wealth
and fulfilment of desires also accrue.

In northern parts of Bharat, Deepaavali is associated with the return of Sri
Rama to Ayodhya after vanquishing Raavana. The people of Ayodhya, overwhelmed
with joy, welcomed Rama through jubilation and illumination of the entire
capital. Well has it been said that while Sri Rama unified the north and south
of our country, Sri Krishna unified the west and the east. Sri Rama and Sri
Krishna together therefore symbolize the grand unity of our motherland.

The third day, i.e., the first day of Kaartik, is named Balipratipada, after
the demon king Bali, the ruler of Paataala (the netherworld), who had extended
his kingdom over the earth also. On the day, Sri Vishnnu, taking the form of a
dwarfish Brahmin by name Vaamana, approached Bali, for a boon of space equal to
his three steps. Bali, known for his charity, gladly granted the boon. Vaamana
now grew into a gigantic form; with one step he covered the entire earth, with
the second he covered the outer sky, and asked Bali where he should keep his
third step. Bali, left with no other choice, showed his own head. Sri Vishnu
placed his foot on Bali's head and pushed him down to the netherworld, the
rightful territory of Bali's reign. However, Bali prayed to the Lord that he
might be permitted to visit the earth once a year. Now it was the turn of
Vishnu to grant the boon. And the people too offer their and respect to him on
this day.

The annual visit of Bali is celebrated in Kerala as Onam. It is the most
popular festival for Kerala where every Hindu home receives him with floral
decorations and lights and festoons adorn all public places. Onam, however,
falls on the 16th day of Aavani (Sowramaana) in september.

The pratipada is also the day for Govardhana Pooja and Anna Koota (heap of
grains), the former signifying the Govardhana episode in Sri Krishna's life and
the latter conveying affluence and prosperity.

The fourth and final day is Yama Dwiteeya, also called Bahu beej. It is a most
touching moment for the family members when even distant brothers reach their
sisters to strengthen that holy tie. The sister applies tilak and waves aarati
to her brother, and the brother offers loving presents to the sister.

To the Jains, Deepaavali has an added significance to the great event of
Mahaaveera attaining the Eternal Bliss of Nirvaana. The passing into Eternity
on the same Amaavaasya of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, that leonine sanyasin who
was one of the first to light the torch of Hindu Renaissance during the last
century, and of Swami Ramatirtha who carried the fragrance of the spiritual
message of Hindu Dharma to the western world, have brought the
national-cum-spiritual tradition of Deepaavali right up to modern times.


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