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India is a country of festivals. People, in India, celebrate festivals from all religions such as Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Sikh. Therefore, it is like there is at least one festival to celebrate every month. Each festival is celebrated with exhibition and happiness, and each of them has religious or mythological significance behind them. One of the most celebrated of all festivals is Diwali- The festival of lights. It is known as `the festival of light’ because during this festival each street, house, mall, and store are decorated with colorful lights. It usually comes in October or November. The date is not fixed because it is celebrated according to Hindu calendar. People start the preparations for Diwali about a month before it comes. They clean their houses; and they also decorate their houses with good-looking and decorative things. In addition, they also make some traditional sweets and snacks. Diwali is a five day long festival, and each day has its own tradition and importance.
First day of Diwali is called `Dhanteras’ in which `Dhan’ means wealth and `teras’ means thirteenth because it falls on the thirteenth day of the month of the Hindu calendar. On this day people worship Lord Yamraj, the God of death. They offer prayers to him to bless them with prosperity, well being, and protection. They also purchase a new utensil, a silver or gold coin or some other precious metal as a sign of good luck on the day of `Dhanteras’. The story behind this day is about a 16 years old son of king Hima. His horoscope predicted his death by snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage, so his newly wedded wife did not let him to sleep. She laid out all her ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a stack at the entrance of the sleeping chamber and lit lamps all over the place. Later that night, she narrated stories and sang songs to keep her husband from falling asleep. When Yama, the god of Death, arrived at the prince’s doorstep in the appearance of a Serpent, his eyes were dazzled and blinded by the brightness of the lamps and the jewelry. Yama could not enter in the prince’s chamber and went away. Thus, the young prince was saved from the clutches of death by the cleverness of his new bride, and the day came to be celebrated as `Dhanteras’.
The second day is `Choti Diwali’. Choti means `small’, and thus Choti Diwali is celebrates just like Diwali only on a smaller scale with lesser lights and lesser fireworks. It is also known as the `Narak Chaturdashi’. According to Hindu mythology Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura on this day. The demon Narakasura was the evil king of Pragjyotishapura, near present-day Assam in India. Narkasura’s power made him arrogant, and he became dangerous to everyone and even to the Gods. He empowered the kingdom of Lord Indra, and he imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and snatched the earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi, who was also the relative of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s wife. Satyabhama was really angry about what Narakasur did, so after her request Lord Krishna empowered Satyabhama, and she was able to murder Narakasur by beheading him. She then rescued the sixteen thousand women prisoners from the clutches of Narakasur and even found Mother Goddess Aditi’s earrings. In order to save the women from embarrassment, Lord Krishna married all the sixteen thousand women and accepted them as His wife. Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with blood as a sign of victory over Narakasur and returned home with his wives on the morning of Choti Diwali.
The next day is known as `Diwali’. `Laxmi Pooja’ is one of the most important things in Diwali. Laxmi, the Goddess of light, beauty, good fortune and wealth is worshipped on the occasion of Diwali to bring prosperity in the family. She is also worshiped to achieve success and fortune. Business men also do `Chopda Pujan’ meaning worshiping of the account books on this day. According to the columnist Deepak Verma from Times of India “in some states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, Diwali represents the new business year so all businesses close their accounts and present them to Lakshmi and Ganesh during Chopda Pujan.” Moreover, people light up beautiful `diyas’ (candles) inside and outside of their houses, and everyone enjoys fireworks. The reason behind the celebration of Diwali is because Lord Ram came back to Ayodhya, a town in India and also his home town. He returned on this day after 14 years of exile after his victory against evil Ravan. The king of Lanka (Sri Lanka) Ravan, kidnapped Lord Ram’s wife (Sita) from the forest, where they were staying as per the instructions of King Dashratha, father of Lord Ram. After then, Ram attacked Lanka and killed Ravan and released Sita from his custody. He returned to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and younger brother Lakshamana after fourteen years. Therefore, the people of Ayodhya decorated their homes and the town itself, by lighting tiny `diyas’, in order to welcome their beloved prince Shri Ram. Ram is considered the symbol of good and the positive things and Ravan represents the evil. Therefore, Diwali is considered the festival, which established the victory of good over the evil. On the night of Diwali, people light diyas, which is again an icon of positive energy to conquer darkness.
Following day of Diwali is the New Years of Hindus according to the Hindu calendar. People wake up early on this day and usually wear new clothes that are specially bought for this day. Later on, they head to the temple to pray to God for prosperity and good health for themselves and their family. There is always a family get together for the celebration of New Years. Family membranes exchange gifts, thoughts and New Year’s resolutions. Chhavi Bhatia from Indian Express supposed “Diwali gifts [are] replaced by plants and books instead of sweets in 2009. Plants convey the concept of a green Diwali and books are good gesture to encourage the habit of reading.” Furthermore, younger kids take the blessings from their elders, as it is considered respectful to the elders. People decorate their houses with `Rangoli’ which is the design made of different powder colors. Some people also decorate their houses’ wall with different kind of designs and make the small foot prints on the door steps of their house which resemble Goddess Laxmi’s foot prints. People also perform `Govardhan Puja’ on this day. Govardhan Puja is worshipping of the mountain Govardhan which is in the city of Vrindavan in India. Lord Shri Krishna once performed the Govardhan Puja along with the people of Vrindavan for their protection from heavy rains. Since then it became a tradition for Hindus to worship Govardhan to honor that first Puja on this day. They also offer fifty-six different dishes to Govardhan on this day which is called `Chappan Bhog’. Lastly, the fifth day of Diwali is known as “Bhai Beej” – Brother’s Day, in which sister invites her brother over for dinner. It is called “Bhav-Bij” in the Marathi-speaking communities, and people in Nepal know this festival by the name of “Bhai-Tika”. There are various distinct ways in which this beautiful festival is solemnized, but the features that are common in all rituals is the act of smearing a tilak (a holy mark) of roli (vermilion), kesar (saffron) and rice on the brother’s forehead by their sister as a mark of their love and protection. It is considered a big day for the sister, she cooks brother’s favorite dishes, and prays to God for her brother’s good health and fortune. At the time of dinner, brother presents his sister with a toast and a gift. “Bhai Beej” is based on an old story written in mythological books over 5000 years old. This day is an auspicious day for both the brother and the sister because it is believed to strengthen their relationship. According to a tale, on this auspicious day of `Bhai Beej’ Lord Krishna, after slaying the Narakasura demon, goes to his sister Subhadra where she welcomes her brother with a diya (candle), sweets, flowers, and put the holy protective `tilak’ on his forehead. Keeping this tale in mind, people celebrate the festival of `Bhai Beej’ with great enthusiasm and dedication.
All in all, Diwali is the most celebrated festival in India that unites every Indian with joyous sentiment. Even though it is a five day long festival, celebrations start over a month ago. Everyone enjoys food and fireworks during this festival. People consider this festival very important, and they celebrate it with open heart and happiness. The important events that occurred during the time of Diwali is what created the most enjoyed festival in India. Every day of Diwali has its own significant story and the reason for its celebration. It seems coincidental that every event that occurred fell into one same period which now we know as Diwali. Nevertheless, the coincident seems to be liked greatly by everyone with enthusiasm.
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