Deepawali is a long festival of lights. It begins with Dhanteras, then on the 14th day there is 14 diyas, 14 spinach, followed by Laxmipuja and Kalipuja. Lastly bhaiyadooj happens. It brings people close to each other.
According to Charak Samhita, 14 spinach and 14 diyas are supposed to be eaten and lit respectively on the date of bhoot Chaturdashi. Fourteen spinach in Bengali means choddo shakh and it includes the ritual of eating 14 types of spinach on the date of bhoot Chaturdashi. Bhoot Chaturdashi is also called Naraka Chaturdashi when legends believe that Yama comes to earth. The entire festival of lights is celebrated to defeat the evil forces by the good forces including light and flowers and mantras.
That is the time when there is amabhasya, the day there is no light of the moon and there is absolute darkness. The 14 diyas are used as 14 mud stands where oil is poured and cotton buds are lit. The 14 diyas are used to light up the atmosphere when the moon offers no light on the day of amabasya.
The 14 spinach have different names.
In Bengali the common sakh include palang shakh, pui shakh, kolmi shakh, lal shakh, helencha shakh, note shakh, to name a few. It is not that all these form of spinach are not eaten at other time of the year.
But according to Charak Samhita, as the following months of the year will bring 2 important seasons in Bengali which are called Hemanta and Shit, meaning winter, there are chances that the human body requires to have defense systems and fight against diseases. These forms of spinach help the body to fight those diseases. After the monsoons, the different viruses and the bacteria become active and unless the immune system of the human body can combat them, more are the chances of the human body getting affected by the diseases. The consumption as all these forms of spinach prevents such diseases.
Deepawali is celebrated all over India under different names, like Diwali, Shyama utsav, but the festival is generally called the festival of lights.
It begins with Dhanteras. Dhanteras occurs on the day before the 14 spinach and 14 diya or choddo pradip and choddo sakh. Dhan means wealth, and teras means the 13th day. On that day people buy different metals to keep their houses wealthy and prosperous. Generally silver and gold are bought. People even buy copper and bronze on the day of Dhanteras.
Choddo sakh and choddo pradip follows Dhanteras. Then is the day of Laxmipuja and Kalipuja. Goddess Kali is also called Goddess Shyama and is considered to be Adi Shakti. Goddess Kali is worshipped as the Goddess of strength, power and knowledge.
Laxmipuja is the puja of Goddess Laxmi also called the Goddess of wealth. The other God of wealth that Hindus do puja for includes Lord Kuber. There was mythological belief that a prince named Hima was shown his horoscope and was predicted to be killed by a serpent. The serpent was supposed to kill the prince on the 4th day of marriage.
His wife did not allow him to sleep on that day, she lit all the lights and kept all her jewellery in place. Yama came in the form of serpent but could not kill the prince because the attention got diverted by the jewellery and the lights. So from that time the Hindus believe all the dirt from the houses should be cleaned up during the day of Laxmipuja.
The more the house is clean, the more the people are close to God because cleanliness is next to Godliness. Hindus clean the houses, put in new curtains, bed covers, and clean the floors. Alpona or rangoli in the form of rice husk and colours are given on this day and the house is made pure or pavitra.
On the day of Laxmipuja, Hindus buy mud idols of Goddess Laxmi and do the puja. Naibidya is given to Goddess Laxmi in the form of fruits and flowers. From the day of Dhanteras to choddo Pradip Choddo Sakh and Laxmipuja, on all the days candles are lit, Hindus buy colourful lights and in the evening offer flowers and fruits in the form of bananas, apples, guavas, oranges to Goddess Laxmi. Many Hindus make naru a form of sweet with coconuts at home and offer them to Goddess Laxmi.
Those who worship Goddess Kali or Goddess Shyama they also offer prasada in the form of fruits and also offer hibiscus flower to Goddess Kali.
The entire festival marks the victory of good forces over evil forces. At this time of the year, the Hindus gather together socialize together, share sweets, fruits and prasada of Goddess Laxmi and Goddess Kali to their friends, relatives, neighbours. After Laxmipuja and Kalipuja comes the day of bhaiyadooj, where sisters offer prayer to God for safe life of their brothers. Brothers also take the vow of protecting their sisters against all the odds in life. The festival strengthens the relation between brothers and sisters.
Another feature of the entire festival of lights is the burning of crackers and sparklers. Different types of crackers are made which are burned at this time. It includes hand made kali phatkas, which are also called Laxmi bomb, the dodomas which have cotton salita at both sides and make loud noise, zameen charkies which revolves on the ground, anars or tubris which go up and fall with light. Even hand made rockets are used which are kept in bottles and lighted they rise high in the air and create colourful sparks.
The good part of the festival is the increase of fraternity or brotherly feeling among the society. The more people come close to each other the more than can live well happily. The other good part is the cleaning of the houses. If people clean their own houses they can keep the environment pollution free and with alponas, rangolies, the colour of the houses create a clean, healthy atmosphere in the entire locality. Hindus should continue to practice Dhanteras, Choddo Shakh, Choddo Pradip and Laxmipuja, Kalipuja during the festival of Deepawali. It is a very sacred and pious festival and celebrated all over the world.
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