Diwali or Deepavali is one of the widely known and celebrated festivals in India. It is not a day’s event, in fact, the days preceding Diwali creates an environment for the main festival. It is no wonder Diwali is considered India’s biggest holiday, after all, it brings out the shiniest shades of our country. Fairy lights and decor, flowers and food, rangolis and diyas, streets and markets, prayers and gatherings, all of these are just the outlines.
Stepping Out As Photographers
With Diwali vibes, comes many amazing opportunities for photographers who eagerly look forward to a day that is widely enjoyed in all its glory. Street photographers from different parts of India and the world attempt to capture this extraordinary occasion. During these days of festivities, numerous photo walks, street photography tours, and solo trips are planned throughout India. The purpose of all these grouped and individual actions remains the same, ie, to capture the street life of India in its most illumining nights of all.
A similar purpose is behind Street Photography India’s ongoing competition: Diwali Stories. As the name suggests, the photo entries must follow the theme of Diwali. The winning photographer will receive Amazon Echo and SPI story box, worth ₹10,000. Submit your entries, and while you look forward to the winner’s announcement, read more about Diwali here.
Distinctive Folklores And Origins Of Diwali
The word ‘Deepavali’ originally means "series of lights". The festival is a symbol of ‘the victory of good over evil’. The history of India’s festival of lights, Diwali goes way back in ages. The longer and greater its history, the deeper are its roots of significance. Even though Diwali is celebrated in many religions and the reasons and rituals differ, it’s equally significant to all. Like every Indian festival, Diwali also has a long list of legends and beliefs.
In the Hindu community, the topmost acclaimed legend in the north and west India is based on the epic Ramayana. Diwali is believed to be that blessed day when after living in exile for 14 long years, Lord Ram with his wife Sita, brother Lakshman, and his biggest devotee Hanuman returned to rule Ayodhya. According to another epic Mahabharata, it is also the day when Pandavas’ 13 years of exile ended.
Another interesting lore says that God Shiva lost to Goddess Parvati in a game of dice. Delighted of her win, she declared that gambling on the night of Diwali will bring wealth to all the players. Hence, during the festivities of Diwali, many Hindu families gather with friends to play cards for money, adding fun to the auspicious day.
In southern parts of India, Diwali is the celebration of Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama’s victory over a demon Narakasura. Naraka Chaturdashi is celebrated the day before Diwali. In Assam, Odisha, and West Bengal, Kali Puja takes place, it is a festival that coincides with Diwali. Here, Goddess Kali is worshipped at midnight.
In Jainism, it is said to be the day when Mahavira, the spiritual teacher of dharma attained Nirvana. Lakshmi Puja, lighting oil lamps, and using new account books are the main rituals of Mahavira Nirvana Divas for Jains, a community majorly comprised of traders. It marks the beginning of their new accounting year.
For Sikhs, Diwali holds a historical significance as Guru Hargobind Singh, the 6th Sikh Guru was freed from the imprisonment of Mughals. So, it is also known as Bandi Chhor Diwas. Moreover, the city of holiest gurudwara, Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib), Amritsar was founded on Diwali.
In Buddhism, the Newar community people of Nepal who are the followers of Vajrayana school celebrate Diwali in a slightly different manner. Although the name of the festival is Tihar, its rituals are quite similar to Diwali.
Dev Deepavali, Varanasi
Almost every city and village look more pleasing on Diwali. However, cities such as Amritsar, Varanasi, Udaipur, and Kolkata are worth a visit. Diwali is celebrated in every country wherever Indian communities are settled closely. Countries like Guyana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, and Nepal celebrate Diwali. In some of these countries, it is a holiday.
Above all, the light festival of the Gods, the Dev Diwali ritual of Varanasi is a heavenly celebration that can make time stop for those who catch sight of it. Varanasi is the favorite city of photographers who wish to capture the essence of religion and rituals of India. Throughout the year, tour guides are pre-booked just to make sure to enjoy this particular event.
In 1985, the Panchganga Ghat became the divine location where the Dev Diwali festival was first celebrated. Since then the citizens of Varanasi continue to cherish the festival as a symbol of honoring the river Ganga. The rich heritage of Varanasi has attracted pilgrims ever since the words of its religious importance spread, but the beginning of Dev Diwali gave an instant boost to the fame and tourism of this renowned city.
Dev Deepavali is the festival of Kartik Poornima, the night of the full moon. Unlike the rest of India, it is celebrated 15 days after Diwali. However, this festival too lasts for 5 days. At the same time, Ganga Mahotsav, a tourist-centered festival is also organized to display Varanasi’s cultural history of the city. Several performances including classical music, arts and crafts fair, martial arts, and country boat race take place.
On the 5th day, more than thousands of devotees, including the residents of Varanasi and nearby villages, tourists from across India and the world, take part in the evening aarti on the riverfronts. The rituals during aarti involve chanting hymns, rhythmic drum beats, and majestic burning lamps in the hands of the priests.
And a breathtaking sight emerges when all the ghats from Ravidas Ghat at the southern end to Rajghat lit up with more than a million oil diyas, both floating with the river and fixed on the riverside steps. The entrance of houses is decorated with oil lamps, flowers, and rangolis. Many tourists choose to witness all the events of the night from boats.
Importance Of Diwali In Indian Tradition
Diwali craze is not a one-day thing, it is a combo of at least 5 days wherein, each day has different rituals, faiths, and legends. Before the 5 days arrive, many preparations are completed. Cleaning homes and workspaces, decorating them with lights and flowers, and drawing colorful rangolis are some of the early tasks.
Day 1, Dhanteras: A prosperous day for buying new stuff, especially gold or silver and utensils. It is said that shopping on Dhanteras brings wealth throughout the year. Just as the western world has Christmas themes everywhere in December, India has Diwali themes stretched for a minimum of two weeks. From large-scale companies to small temporary stalls, Diwali brings a boost to so many businesses. The sale and demand skyrockets during the Diwali season. Sellers see it as luck and a good omen to have profits and buyers look forward to Diwali for discounts and offers.
Day 2, Naraka Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali: An auspicious day for buying sweets and food for Diwali. People visit family, friends, and business partners to exchange best wishes and gifts. On Chhoti Diwali, people finally meet old friends whom they otherwise don’t get to see frequently.
Day 3, Diwali: At the center of all the festivals is Diwali. In the evening, families lit-up diyas and pray to Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi for prosperity and wealth.
Bursting firecrackers have been among the main attractions of Diwali, especially for kids. Considering the increasing rate of pollution, firecrackers are now restricted in many states. Fortunately, more and more people are learning about the harmful effects of crackers. Its limited use hasn’t lower down the high spirits of the believers.
Friends and families begin gambling a day or two before Dhanteras and continue the games every day for nearly a week. In Nepal, gambling is legal only for the day of Diwali.
Day 4, Govardhan Puja: On this day, Lord Krishna saved his fellow villagers and cattle from the rage of the king of heaven and God of rain and thunder, Indra. By lifting Govardhan mountain, Lord Krishna gave everyone shelter from the storm and saved them. Various morals can be derived from this legend but the most clear seems to be the lesson to never go astray from the path of dharma.
Day 5, Bhai Dooj, or Yama Dwitiya: The last of the festival is to strengthen the bond of brothers and sisters. The tale of Yama, the Hindu god of death, and Yamuna, his sister are associated with Bhai Dooj. It is believed that brothers whose sisters put the auspicious tilak on their forehead on Bhai Dooj are sure to succeed in life.
For many reasons, Diwali is the most needed festival for the fast-running age we live in. It makes us pause for a while and look around to meet and greet, to play and smile, to pray and believe. Hope you make the best of these holidays. Happy Diwali everyone!