Deepawali celebrations across India
Indian festivals are one of the most beautiful ways to bring people closer and create a stronger bond of humanity. Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated across India in unique and colourful ways. The grand festival is an integral part of India's vast cultural milieu. The most known way of celebrating the festival is by lighting lamps and bursting crackers. However, people celebrate Deepawali in many other ways across the nation.
Diwali has developed into a national holiday that is celebrated by both Hindu and non-Hindu people. For instance, in Jainism, Diwali commemorates Lord Mahavira's nirvana, or spiritual awakening, on October 15, 527 BC; in Sikhism, it celebrates the release from captivity of Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru. Diwali is also celebrated by Buddhists in India.
A few groups mark the day as the beginning of the New Year because many associate it with the appearance of Goddess Lakshmi during the Samudra Manthan (the churning of the ocean of milk), which took place between the gods and demons.
Here's how the festival of lights is celebrated across seven regions in the country.
During Diwali, many people travel to cities like Varanasi and Ayodhya. Reportedly, Ayodhya will commemorate Deepotsav this year by illuminating 12 lakh earthen lights, nine lakh of which would be placed along the banks of the Saryu River. Additionally planned are the staging of Ram Lila programmes, a laser show, and fireworks. There will also be river worship through Ganga Arati and candle offerings on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi (see image above by Davide Gandolfi / Shutterstock). If you are unable to attend the celebration right away, you could consider going to Varanasi's Dev Deepavali later in the month.
In Maharashtra, Vasu Baras marks the start of the Diwali celebrations. Here, Chhoti Diwali is observed as Narak Chaturdashi whereas Dhanteras is observed as Dhantrayodashi. On the day of the celebration, Maharashtrians offer prayers to the goddess Lakshmi and commemorate the marriage pact by participating in Diwali Cha Padva. Bhaav Bij marks the conclusion of the festivities, and Tulsi Vivah ushers in the wedding season.
Kandeels, a type of colourful lantern, are used to decorate homes. They are either homemade or purchased from markets. Walking around Mumbai streets and seeing houses decorated with various kandeel patterns is a delight.
Diwali heralds the arrival of winter in Punjab. The first batch of seeds are sown as farmers get ready for the growing season. On the same day, Sikhs observe "Bandi Chhor Diwas." The festival honours the Freedom Day. Thousands of earthen lamps and pyrotechnics are used to illuminate the Golden Temple, and a "langar" (free kitchen) is available to anyone who visit the holy site to offer their prayers.
Like Goa, probably no other state observes Narak Chaturdashi. Before being set ablaze, Narkasur effigies are paraded around the streets. The celebration of light has officially begun, signalling the defeat of evil and darkness.
Weeks before the major event, people start working on the effigies, using their wildest imaginations to give the devil the goriest, or occasionally playful, looks. It's also typical to hold contests to determine which effigy has the best design.
Diwali and Kali Puja both fall on the same day in West Bengal. The day prior, Bengalis will light 14 earthen lamps in remembrance of their ancestors and consume the "choddo shaak," a seasonal health treatment made up of a combination of 14 leafy vegetables and medicinal plants.
Kali Puja is typically performed at night. At all Kali temples, elaborate festivals take place, and Lakshmi Puja is practised in many houses.
Typically, the evening is spent lighting off firecrackers (but this year it is in a bind owing to protests from environmentalists). You can tour the marquees housing the idols of Goddess Kali in the various neighbourhoods by engaging in pandal hopping in both West Bengal and Odisha.
Diwali signifies the conclusion of the customary year for the Gujarati community. Lakshmi Puja is held after thorough preparations. The revelry comes to an end with the commencement of business for the New Year on the day of Labh Pancham, which falls on the fifth day after Diwali. Numerous rituals related to Diwali and to fend off the evil eye are carried out in houses.
In the southern Indian states, Deepavali (also known as Diwali) festivities start the day before. The major day of the celebration for the southern region of the country is Narak Chaturdashi, which is identical to Chhoti DIwali as it is observed in the northern states. The day in Tamil Nadu starts with an oil bath before daybreak, and other rituals are performed during this time. Tamilians offer neivedyam to the gods and light the "kuthu vilaku" (lamp). Before home entrances and even on roadways, kolam (painted with a mixture of rice powder and gradually white or coloured chalk) is used as decoration. As a preventative measure against indigestion that individuals could have after five days of feasting during this time, they also make an Ayurvedic medication called "lehyam."
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