Diwali, also known as the festival of lights is celebrated all over India by people of various beliefs and cultures. It is one of the most important festivals celebrated since the ancient India. People meet and exchange gifts, offices provide bonuses to their employees, people burn crackers and light up the streets on this auspicious occasion. There are many different histories behind this occasion :-
One of the most commonly believed history behind Diwali comes from the great Hindu Epic, The Ramayana. In the epic, the ruler of Ayodhya Rama was requested by his father King Dashartha to leave the city and live in the forests for 14 years. So Rama left with his spouse Sita and his brother Lakshmana. But there King of Lanka Ravana kidnapped Sita and took her to his kingdom. To save Sita, Rama fought and killed Ravana. He managed to rescue her successfully. Finally, he returned to Ayodhya after 14 years. The people of Ayodhya were overjoyed to hear that their beloved prince is coming back. They welcomed them by lighting up the city with diyas, burnt crackers and hosted a grand welcome for them.
The festival Deepavali means rows (avali) of diyas(deepa) the people of Ayodhya lit to welcome their prince.
Another well-believed story comes from the other great Hindu epic, The Mahabharata. The epic narrates us the story of the 5 brothers, the Pandavas. When the Pandavas got defeated in a game of dice, a rule got imposed on them and they had a serve a term of 13 years in exile. When the term was over, they came back to their homeland Hastinapur on ‘Kartik Amavashya’ (which is the moon day of the Kartik month). To celebrate this occasion and welcome back the Pandavas, along with their mother and wife Draupadi, the people lit up Diyas all over the city. It is said that this has been kept alive via the festial of Diwali, which is believed by many is held as a rememberance of Pandavas’ homecoming.
3. Goddess Lakshmi
It is said that on the occasion of Diwali, the Goddess of wealth Lakshmi rose from the ocean. The ancient Hindu scriptures and notes say that a very long time ago, both the Demons and Gods were mortal meaning they had to die too someday. But they all wanted to live forever. The Gods churned the ocean to find Amrita, the immortality nectar during which they found many divine objects. Most important find was Goddess Lakshmi, daughter of the king of the ocean, who arose on amaavasya (new moon day). Lord Vishnu married her the very same night. Diyas and brilliant lamps were lit to celebrate this holy occasion. Till date, Hindus celebrate the birth and marriage of Goddess Lakshmi to Lord Vishnu for her blessings for the coming year.
4. Defeat of King Mahabali by Lord Vishnu
The Bhagavata Purana (one of the most sacred texts of Hindus) says that on a Kartik day, Lord Vishnu took a form of a dwarf (known as Vaman-avtaara) as a brahmin and defeated King Bali. King Mahabali (also known as Bali) was once a powerful ruler who ruled the world. Mahabali had a good image and was a wise & good king but was rude & cruel to the Devas (gods). Even the Gods lost battles against him. So the Devas approached Lord Vishnu for a plan to defeat Bali. Diwali is celebrated as the defeat of Mahabali by Lord Vishnu.
5. Defeat of Narakasura by Lord Vishnu
The Bhagvata Purana has also mentioned Narakasura, an evil demon king who became so powerful that he conquered both heaven as well as earth. He was a very cruel ruler. It is said that Lord Vishnu killed this evil demon king a day before Diwali and rescued women locked by the king at his place. The people from heaven were happy and relieved to know the news and decided to celebrate the occasion with great grandeur, a tradition which is now believed to kept alive via the means of Diwali.
5. King Vikramaditya
It is also believed that on the day of Diwali, back in 56 BC, King Vikramaditya was crowned as the King. He was famous because of his wisdom, bravery and large kind-heartedness. This event was heavily celebrated by the people of the kingdom by lightning up diyas and it is said that custom is still followed for the day.
6. The Jain History
For Jains, Diwali commemorates the enlightenment of the 24th and last Tirthkaras of the Jains and the founder of modern Jainism, the Vardhamana Mahavira. Jains also believe that the festival stands for the celebration of the freedom of human spirit from desires.
7. Sikh History
Diwali holds a very special significance for Sikhs. On the day of Diwali, The Mughal Emperor Jahangir released Guru Hargobind Ji form the prison along with 52 other Hindu kings with him. This festival is celebrated as “Bandi Chhor Divas” amongst the Sikh religion all over the world.
Have a Happy Diwali Everyone!