The Five Day Diwali Festival
Swami Atmananda

Traditionally Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is not a single day festival, but is a part of a Five Days Festival Package. Each of these five days is celebrated for a specific purpose, and in a specific way. This starts two days before Diwali and continue till two days after Diwali. As per the Hindu Calendar this is from the teras of Kartika Krishna Paksha, and continues till the Dwitiya of Kartika Shukla Paksha.

1. Teras
2. Chaudas
3. Amavasya (Diwali)
4. Pratipada
5. Dwitiya

Teras :

The thirteenth day of the month of Kartika in its Krishna Paksha is today famous as 'Dhan Teras'. From this day begins a Five Days Festival, in which comes the famous 'Festival of Lights' - the Diwali. Today this Teras is mostly known for buying new utensils, ornaments or some new equipment etc. but this day had lots of different significances.

Earlier Significance :
Later Associations :
What & How to do :

1. Earlier Significance :

The thirteenth day (in Krishna Paksha) of the month of Kartika, had a special significance right from Vedic times. In that era, this day was celebrated as the day when our Pitra's (forefathers), who come to visit their progeny in this Loka during Mahalaya (Sraadha time), are taken back to their Pitra Loka by Lord Yama, who is also the king of Pitra Loka. As a respect for Lord Yama, a lamp is lighted and kept in front of our houses, on this day.

Lord Yama is not only the king of the place where our forefathers reside, and where we too shall go one day, but he alone is the one who is indirectly giving every moment of our lives to live & make the best of it. This day was specially dedicated to express our respects & thanks to that benevolent power, traditionally called as the Dharmaraj Yama. He is an embodiment of righteousness, Dharma, and is also an embodiment of Knowledge. Yamaraj is someone who performs his highly important, but often thankless duty of taking us to the realms beyond - without any fears or favors, likes or dislikes, in an absolutely astounding manner. Lord of Death alone is the one who gave the very famous upadesha of the 'Secrets of Life & Death' to the young Nachiketas, in the famous discourse of 'Kathopanishad'. May we remind our readers that Kathopanishad is considered as the source book or mother of the famous Srimad Bhagwad Gita.

2. Later Associations :

On this day Sage Dhanvantari manifested and gave the humanity the wisdom of Ayurveda - the science which uses natural ways & means to get over all ailments. Thus this day is also celebrated as the Dhanvantari Jayanti. Respect to this great sage is expressed by his worship, and for his blessings for a good, healthy & robust life. Good health is the basic prerequisite for a good fulfilled life. So one should not only live a life which assures good health, but also get the wisdom of Ayurveda. The first step in that direction is to express his or her gratitude to this great Sage. The increasing popularity of Ayurveda and everything natural to cure diseases is recognition of the profound wisdom of this great sage.

On this day people buy new utensils, ornaments and even new equipments. This is considered very auspicious.

What & How to do :

1. Get up early in the morning, and after your daily puja & sandhya vandana etc, clean the house, prepare a rangoli in front of the house.

2. Put a lamp (diya) of Til Oil in the middle of rangoli.

3. Take a Lota (a small jug like vessel) with water, put some flowers in it and hold it close to your chest in both the hands. Invoke all the tirths (Ganga, Yamuna etc) in that vessel, and then facing south pray to Lord Yama. Thank him for taking care of your ancestors, permitting them to visit us here, for coming all the way to take them back to the Pitra Loka, for the opportunity he is giving us to live here, and pray for his blessings for the strength & wisdom to live a righteous life like him, and also to ultimately understand the great discourse he gave to Nachiketas about the secrets of our self & life, much before he comes to finally take us to the realms beyond. Thereafter stretching both the hands pour this water in that direction (south), and do namaskar.

4. Fill up the Lota once again, put some flowers in it, and face east. Now pray to your forefathers. Thank them for their boundless love & concern for us. Thank them for their regular personal visits to our loka, pray for their blessings so that we make the best of our lives, and continue the great tradition of caring for our young ones. May we too live a life by which our people may be proud of us. May we have the strength & wisdom to continue such great & noble traditions, and may we resolve that such loving & caring traditions do not stop with me. Pour the water in front of you with both hands stretched. While our ancestors should always remain source of inspiration & role models for us, and thus always reside in our hearts, yet request them to visit you all again in the coming year.

5. Fill the vessel again with water, and now face north and pray to all the Rishis, and do a special namaskar to Sage Dhanvantari, who had manifested on this day to bestow us the wisdom of Ayurveda. Pray to Sage Dhanvantari that may we always have good health, die with our boots on, and whenever required & necessary, resort to natural ways of treatment. Thank all the Rishis for all the profound wisdom they have given to us, and pray for their blessings so that we understand their vision, and assimilate all the values which they have so compassionately expounded. May good health and knowledge - whether worldly or of things beyond, always remain our foremost priority. Pour the water in the similar manner in the north direction, and do namaskar to all the Rishis, and a special namaskar to Sage Dhanvantari.

6. Feed food to some deserving & needy people like some Sanyasi or Brahmachari on this day.

7. Buy some new utensil, ornament or equipment on this day with the resolve that may you continue the good work of supporting & feeding all deserving & needy people.

Chaudas :

The fourteenth day (Krishna Paksha) of the month of Kartika is today better known as 'Narak-Chaudas' or even 'Rupa Chaudas'. This is the second day of the five days Diwali Festival. This day too has special significances associated with it.

Earlier Significance :
Later Associations :
What & How to do :

1. Earlier Significance :

We find that Lord Yama was the most important deity who was worshipped during these five days. With the passage of time and the ignorance of our traditions he was somehow sidelined. On this day too there was tradition of the worship of Lord Yama, and farewell rituals for our forefathers.

On this day too a lamp is lighted and kept in front of our door for Lord Yama. Special prayers are offered to him with the sankalpa that 'May we always tread the path of goodness & righteousness. May we desist from doing any evil, with our mind or body, which only take us to hell or Narak. May we desist from all self-centered desires, anger and greed (Kama, Krodha & Lobha), because these alone take us to hell. May we religiously follow the scriptures which reveal a life style which facilitate dynamic, inspired, holistic & selfless service & life.' Awareness was inculcated in the minds of everyone to live a positive life and desist from the negative one. One should be prepared & educated in such a way that he or she is a guide for oneself alone. Such awareness should come out from within and such an occasion with its associated rituals & customs made this awareness possible.

The farewell party of our ancestors continues on this day too, by lighting lamps. People light & show mashal (torch) to the ancestors, and also do ulka-daan (Deep Daan), for their safe journey back to their Pitra Loka. Never feel alone, see your very existence as an expression of the love, care & service of your ancestors. They care for us, help us with their motivations & wisdom. So never ignore such unseen benevolent powers in the universe.

Later Associations :

It is said that on this day, early in the morning, Goddess Laxmi comes and resides in oil, and Gangaji comes and resides in water. So one should get up early in the morning and have a good oil massage, and then have a royal hot water bath. Whoever does this is blessed with the grace of Laxmiji and Gangaji by financial prosperity and good knowledge. Such a person may even be blessed by a boon wherein he or she shall not go to Yama Loka at all, i.e. the person may break the cycle of transmigration and attain mukti right here in this birth. So even a Sanyasi voluntarily follows this ritual.

On this day Lord Krishna killed a great terrorist of his times, Narakasura, the King of Pragjyotish (Kamarupa). So this day is celebrated as the one which epitomisis the victory of goodness over evil. One should always remember that 'Satyameva Jayate', that truth alone will finally reign supreme. Reverence and value for truth is the first step in our endeavor to live a truthful & virtous life. Those who do not live such a life, obviously have no value for such a life. Consciosly or unconsciously these people get fascinated with a life style which is self-centered, and where no compunction if felt while stepping on the toes of other fellows.

What & How to do :

1. One should get up early in the morning and have an oil massage - with the feeling of being blessed by Goddess Laxmi, and then have a hot water bath - with the feeling of being blessed by Gangaji, symbolizing wisdom. Many people use a special smear, the traditional 'Upatan', for putting all over the body, and even have a special session at your beauty parlour. Thank God for the great human body & life, and resolve to keep the body healthy and in fine shape, so as to make the best of this life.

2. Do your daily Puja / Sandhya Vandana, then do special tarpan for Lord Yama using water mixed with Til Oil. Offer water mixed with few drops of Til Oil in the south direction. Express your reverence & do namaskar to him.

3. Then light a lamp with Til Oil, and put it in the front of your house, with the prayer & resolve that 'May you and all the members of the household be blessed with virtuous deeds and thoughts, good health, and live life in such a conscientious & virtuous way that all of you attain the best in this life and also beyond, and never live an insensitive life which leads one to a life & world full of pain, problems & grief - the hell.

4. Later decorate an altar of Lord Krishna and offer special prayers to him.

5. Go and light some oil lamps in some temple, garden, well etc., and later in your house in the evening too.

Amavasya :

We hope that you had celebrated the last two days in a traditional way with full faith & feelings. On Dhan Teras you must have thanked Lord Yama and your forefathers, and on Rupa Chaudas must have given a good 'Upatan' treatment to your body, and thanked God for such a great human life.

The Amavasya day of the month of Kartika is the Diwali or Deepavali day - the famous Festival of Lights. This has become one of the most famous festivals of Hindus. Below we give a brief idea of the significance & customs of this famous day.

Earlier Significance :
Later Associations :
What & How to do :

1. Earlier Significance :

As a continuity of the worship of Lord Yama and farewell ritual for one's forefathers, this day was celebrated as the final day for the above purpose. It was celebrated in a similar but a grander way. The tradition was to take ulka (mashal) in our hands and show it to the Pitras. Oil lamps were lit in one's house & common places like temple, garden, well etc.

2. Later Associations :

This day came to be known for a special Laxmi Puja. After the monsoon and the lush crops the predominantly agrarian society celebrated this day for the grace of the Goddess of Wealth. Money is never looked down, in fact wealth is seen as grace of this Goddess Laxmi. When seen in this way money is always used properly and for worthy purposes. What is at times discouraged is not money but the thoughtlessness with which one goes after money, or any other thing for that matter. There was always great value for thoughtful & awakened living, in which a person lives like a master & never a slave. Laxmiji likes clean & beautifully decorated places, so people used this day to clean up their houses nicely and decorated it too. After monsoon this thorough cleaning up was a great necessity too.

On this day alone Lord Rama came back to Ayodhya after the fourteen years of Vanavasa. So the embodiment of Dharma, who had shown to the world so explicitly that the real strength was in living a righteous life (Yato Dharmah Tato Jayah), was welcomed by the people of Ayodhya in a grand way. However, strong the evil is, it will finally be defeated and righteousness shall prevail. Whoever celebrates this day in a grand way affirms this intrinsic strength of Dharma.

There is another important event associated with this day. The great Maharaja Bali, who was a great & righteous king of his times, and for whom Lord Vishnu himself descended in the form of Vaman. When the young brahmachari asked for three steps of land from the king, and which he finally could not give, then Lord manifested in his true form and sent the king to Patala for three days. He was in fact made the King of Patala for 3 days, and it was during this time that he went to Patala to become its King. So all people who revered that righteous king do 'Deepa Dana' for these three days, from Chaudas to Pratipada.

3. What & How to do :

- Check out the right time for Laxmi Pujan. Normally all newspapers publish the various slots of right time for Laxmi Puja.
- Prepare an altar of Goddess Laxmi. Get the family together, and bring about the necessary reverence for the Goddess.
- Perform the usual steps of worship, and thereafter
- Decorate your house tastefully.
- Take the deepaks, the oil lamps (kept in the puja), and first put one lamp in the south direction - for Lord Yama, in the east - for your forefathers, in the north - for rishis, and in the west - for all other devatas. Then put lamps on your door, and in all important places of your house
- After that explode some crackers etc. celebrating the victory of goodness over evil.
- Offer sweets to all your guests.
- Go and take blessings of your elders.

Note : Please remember that we always revere Nature or Prakriti, as Lords manifestation, so there should always be necessary sensitivity to avoid bringing about pollution, and desist making the decoration of your house and exploding of crackers etc an exercise in one-up-manship. Dharma should never be used for ego-trips. Such lack of viveka will take away all the beauty of any celebration, and will ultimately make these festivals an instrument to harm & spoil the nature. Let us always keep the nature clean & beautiful, and pass on a worthy world to our children.

Pratipada & Dwitiya:

On both these two days lamps are lighted and festivities continue. On the last day sisters pray for the well-being of their brothers.