According to ancient Indian legend, Diwali signified a new beginning for Lord Rama, as it marks his return to the kingdom of Ayodhya after a fourteen year exile, and celebrates his ascendancy to the throne.
Diwali is celebrated during the month of Kartik, in the Hindu lunar calendar, which is usually at the cusp of Autumn and Winter in late October/ early November. This year, we celebrate Diwali on November 7, 2018. But one day just isn’t enough for India’s largest and most universal festival. It’s celebrated over five momentous days, when the entire country comes to a standstill and everyone celebrates – across communities and beliefs.
DAY 1: Dhanteras
“Dhan” means wealth or prosperity. “Teras” means the thirteenth day of the Kartik fortnight. On this day, many people believe that Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity will bless the most beautiful homes – so if a little autumn cleaning was on your mind anyway, this is a great time to do it with the entire family!
(Psst…maybe your kids will be even more motivated with the idea of Laxmi dropping off a little Diwali gift if they turn out their room properly).
By the way, girls… Dhanteras is traditionally the day when one goes shopping. After all, Laxmi is all about beauty and investing in your well-being. So this could be the perfect day for a little self-indulgence or to buy a gift for another woman you love… maybe mum or a sister?
(Stay tuned for our Malavara Diwali shopping guide… coming out soon).
If you have children who are growing up outside of India, Diwali is a terrific way to lay a meaningful yet fun foundation for their cultural roots. As the sun goes down, start by lighting diyas or oil lamps all over the house. Lighting the lamp is a symbol of hope for the year to come.
Get your hands dirty and teach the kids how to create pretty rangolis by using coloured rice powder. The simple designs can be floral or geometrical.
(Did you know that rice powder was traditionally used for Rangolis in ancient India, because it kept insects and pests from entering the house?)
After the lamps are lit and the rangolis are done, it’s time to gather around as a family and perform a small blessing, laying out sweets and puffed rice, to welcome Ganesha (the god of knowledge and wisdom) and Laxmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity) to your home.
Preparing the laddoos is another fun activity for the kids and keeps them busy during the day in the kitchen!
In Ayurveda, Dhanteras takes on a different meaning. It symbolizes the annual cleansing of the mind, body and spirit at the turn of the seasons, so that you can start the year afresh, revived and rejuvenated. Most Ayurvedic practitioners will have a havan or a purifying ceremony on this day.
DAY 2: Choti Diwali – Naraka Chaturdashi or Kali Chaudas
According to ancient legend, Goddess Kali, the embodiment of feminine strength and woman power (Shakti) kills the demon Narakasura on this day. It symbolizes the triumph of inner virtue and discipline over sloth and evil. Kali is much revered across India and Nepal, but most particularly in the east. This is the day that is most symbolic of Diwali’s origins as a harvest festival and the bounty of the Earth mother.
In North India, this is the day when the kitchen bustles with activity, as one prepares sweets and delicacies in preparation for Diwali.
In South India, it is also customary to have a fabulous oil massage, and anoint the body with healing herbs and oils to prepare it for the new year. (Make sure your Malavara body oil and Hair Elixir are at hand). One always washes one’s hair and rubs kohl on one’s eyes to ward off the evil spirit.
In West and South India this is a particularly significant day. One usually offers freshly harvested rice to the deity. Coconut, and sandalwood (both super for your hair and skin) are also a part of the tradition. In Goa and Karnataka, a bitter berry is squashed under one’s feet as a symbol of killing Nakasura. Lamps are lit and an Aarti is done in every home.
DAY 3: Laxmi Pujan and Diwali
This is the most significant day of the year and a major celebration. One usually visits with family and friends during the day and then as dusk falls, one performs a puja to Laxmi and/or Kali. Lamps are lit, firecrackers light up the sky, and there are several parties that run into the early hours of the next morning.
Most kids get a huge kick out of lighting fireworks. In India, entire streets shut down as rockets, sparklers and Roman Candles light up the night. If you live by the sea or near a river, it’s also traditional to set an oil lamp afloat on the water so that it carries the message of hope to distant shores.
If you live close to a community temple or a community center, members will usually gather round to receive Laxmi’s blessings and mix and mingle with each other.
DAY 4: Bali Pratipada
There are many legends and myths that surround Bali Pratipada, but it’s essentially a day which celebrates conquering the ego – reminding us that no single individual is greater than the spirit of the universe.
On this day, one usually has a ceremonial oil bath followed by a Shikakai rinse which is great for one’s hair. The bath is meant to wash away one’s selfishness, after which one must wear new clothes that are symbolic of a renewed spirit. In North India, the family usually gathers around to play cards or dice, and married men give their wives a gift.
DAY 5: Bhai Dooj (Bhau Beej)
Bhai Dooj or Bhau Beej is celebrated all across India and even Nepal. This day celebrates the bonds between siblings – especially between brothers and sisters. Brothers give their sisters a gift while the sisters give their brothers their blessings and ask for their protection.
Diwali literally brings light and lends meaning to the ideas of giving, love and joy in the context of one’s self, one’s family and one’s community.From a spiritual perspective, these five days signify a complete cycle of renewal of the mind, body, soul and spirit. This is a time to let bygones by bygones and to move onward and upward into a new year filled with hope, health and happiness.