Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Complex Traditions of the Diwali Celebration

Article from The Times of India. Photo from an article in the Daily Mail Online, November 10, 2007, I could not find a photo credit. Caption: Workers could take time off for the Hindu celebration of Diwali - the festival of lights. October 18, 2009 Diwali celebrations: A melange of traditions By Nidhi Singhi LUDHIANA: While Diwali is celebrated all across the country with same enthusiasm and fervour, it holds different meanings for various communities. While Bengali community celebrated it by worshipping Goddess Kali on Diwali night, people belonging to south Indian community marked the day commemorating victory of Lord Krishna over demon Narkasur. Bengalis worship Goddess Lakshmi five days after Dussehra, but on Diwali, they worship goddess Kali. Devotees believe that Kali is the aggressive form or the destructive incarnation of Goddess Durga, but Bengalis celebrated the festival by worshipping goddess Kali, because she destroys the evil and in turn, she promises rejuvenation of life and justice on earth. Among south Indians, it is believed that Diwali celebrations are simply for commemoration of victory of Lord Krishna who killed Narkasur, a powerful king of Assam, who had imprisoned various inhabitants and had been freed by the Lord on this day so Diwali is also known as Naraka Chaturdasi. Some devotees also believe that Narkasur had requested the Lord to fulfil his last wish that he wanted to enjoy the last day of his life in a grand manner and the practice thus continued. Describing celebrations, TK Banerjee, secretary, Bangia Samsad, said it is a tradition in their community to decorate the house with 14 candles a day prior to festival to keep ghosts away from their houses. Since they could not use fried sweets in the worship, they used plain burfi solely prepared by ladies of their homes but one sweet called nadu, served after havana, is liked by all. R Sidhartan, a member of south Indian community, said it is just the traditions that differ but the purpose of festivals is to celebrate it with friends and family members. He said Diwali celebrations include a visit to the temple, gifts of clothes and jewellery, gorging on sweets and receiving blessings of elders.
I did not know that Hindus believe in ghosts. If there is reincarnation of a decedent's soul, where do the ghosts comes from, or who are the ghosts? At another website discussing the Diwali celebration, the worship of Ganeha in conjunction with the Goddess Lakshmi is mentioned (from Hindus worship Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi in Diwali, Posted on October 19th, 2009 in Latest India News) : Diwali, Festival of Lights is an auspicious occasion celebrated across India. During Diwali the devotees worship Lord Ganesha beore any other god or goddess. Traditionally on Diwali night, Ganesh shares the altar with Lakshmi. Shree Ganesh is the Lord of Wisdom and the remover of obstacles. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity and also personifies beauty, grace, and charm. In the Hindu pantheon, the two are unrelated, Ganesh being the son of Shiva and Parvati. However, when placed side by side, Lakshmi Ganesh hold out promise of a year of fulfillment, free from wants. During the Ganesh pooja, the idol of goddess Lakshmi is placed on the left and Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed god is kept on the right. Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped for wealth and prosperity, while Ganesh is worshiped first to ensure that any obstacles to obtaining wealth and prosperity are removed. Shri Laxmi-Ganesh Pooja takes place on Diwali by placing their idol on a platform, making various offerings of sandal paste, saffron paste, perfume(itr), haldi, kumkum, abeer, gulal, garland of cotton beads, flowers , especially the marigold flowers and leaves of Bel (wood apple tree). Incense stick and dhoop is lit and offering of sweets, coconut, fruits, and tambul are made. At the end, aarti dedicated to Lord Ganesh is sung by the devotees.

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