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Diwali Traditions & Customs
Festivals

Diwali Traditions & Customs

Deepavali, the literal meaning of which in Sanskrit is 'a row of lamps.'  Filling little clay lamps with oil and wick and lighting them in rows all  over the house is a tradition that is popular in most regions of the  country. Even today in this modern world it projects the rich and  glorious past of our country and teaches us to uphold the true values of  life. It is associated with many customs and traditions. One of the most  curious customs, which characterizes this festival of Diwali, is the  indulgence of gambling, especially on a large scale in North India.

The first day of five day long Diwali celebrations is of great importance  to the rich community of western India. Houses and business premises are  renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colorful with lovely  traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of  wealth and prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small  footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the night. Believing this day  to be auspicious women purchase some gold or silver or at least one or  two new utensils.

Lakshmi-Puja is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas of clay are  lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits, devotional songs- in  praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung and Naivedya of traditional sweets is  offered to the Goddess. There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to  lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as Naivedya In  villages cattle are adorned and worshiped by farmers as they form the  main source of their income. In south cows are offered special veneration  as they are supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and  therefore they are adorned and worshiped on this day .

On second day there is a traditional practice specially in Maharashtra of  taking bath before sunrise with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and  fragrant powders. In northern India, especially in places like Punjab,  Diwali is dedicated to the worship of Lord Rama. While in Bengal,  Kali/Durga, the goddess of strength, is worshiped. Diwali is one of the  few Hindu festivals, which is celebrated in every part of the country,  even in states like Kerala that has Onam as its main festival. To the  Jains, Deepavali has an added significance to the great event of  Mahaveera attaining the Eternal Bliss of Nirvaana.

Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on the fourth day. This day  is also observed as Annakoot meaning 'mountain of food'. In temples  especially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given milk bath and  dressed in shining attires with ornaments of dazzling diamonds, pearls,  rubies and other precious stones. After the prayers and traditional  worship innumerable varieties of delicious sweets are offered to the  deities as "Bhog" and then the devotees approach and take Prasad.

Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped in every Hindu household. In many Hindu  homes it is a custom for the wife to put the red tilak on the forehead of  her husband, garland him and do his "Aarti" with a prayer for his long  life. In appreciation of all the tender care that the wife showers on  him, the husband gives her a costly gift. This Gudi Padwa is symbolic of  love and devotion between the wife and husband. On this day newly married  daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals and given  presents. Diwali celebration is a very happy occasion for all.

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