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Diwali...

 

Diwali the festival of lights is observed in the month of Kartik (October-November) on the night of the New Moon. This night happens to be the darkest night of the year. It is a five day celebration with Diwali day being the most important of the five days. Weeks before these five days, Hindus observe fasting, they clean themselves, their homes and its surroundings in preparation for Lakshme Pooja or worship to the Goddess of light. Diwali was brought to Trinidad by the indentured labourers who came to these parts in 1845. It is the largest Hindu festival and is observed as a national holiday in Trinidad and Tobago.

The first day of Diwali is called Dhanwantari Triodasi or Dhan Theras and falls on the thirteenth lunar day of the dark forthnight in the month of Kartik. This was the day when Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic medicine for mankind. This day ushers in the Diwali celebrations and at sunset one should cleanse onself and offer a lighted deya along with Prasad to Yama or the Lord of Death and pray for protection from untimely death. This offering should be made close to a Tulsi tree or any other sacred tree in the front yard. In the absence of any trees, any clean place in the front yard will suffice.

The second day of Diwali is called Narak Chaturdasi and it is the fourteenth lunar day of the dark forthnight in the same month of Kartik and is the actual eve of Diwali. Legend records that on this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura and freed the community from fear.

The next day is Diwali itself and on this day Hindus join with family and friends and along with the family priest they worship the divine mother, Goddess Lakshme. This festival of lights endorses the phenomenon that light removes darkness in the form of ignorance and that good triumphs over evil.

The day following Diwali or the fourth day Goverdhana Puja is performed. Worship of the Goverdhana Mountain goes back to the previous age when it was prophesised that Lord Krishna will grant his blessing to this mountain and all the people associated with it. So on this day He caused the inhabitants of Vraja to perform Goverdhana Puja and this has since become a life-long tradition.

Finally there is Bhai Dooj or Bhratri Dooj. It is a day when brothers visit their sisters and offer them gifts and well wishes. In times of old Yamaraj the Lord of Death visited his sister Yamuna and granted her the boon that whosoever visits her on this day will achieve Moksha, and from that day this became a new tradition and a new practice. This culminates the five day celebration of the festival of Diwali.

The origins of Diwali...

 

During the reign of Emperor Prithu there was a worldwide famine. The Emperor ordered that all available cultivatable lands be ploughed. When the rains finally came grains were planted and there was a bumper harvest with enough food to feed all civilization. The harvest took place close to Diwali time and was a reason for celebrating the festival with joy and merriment.

Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after fourteen years in exile made the celebration of Diwali universal in nature. This aspect of Diwali is the most common and acceptable account with regards to the origins of Diwali. The city of Ayodhya became a garden of light as everyone went out to meet and greet him with their lighted deyas.

When Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura on the day before Diwali, the news travelled very rapidly throught the land. It gave people who were already preparing for the celebrations of Diwali another reason for celebrating with greater joy and merriment.

Legend has it that the Pandavas also returned from the forest during Diwali time. Once more the celebrations extended beyond the boundaries of India to wherever their stories were known. All of these reasons contributes to the universal celebration of Diwali as it is today be it in India, Trinidad or any other country where Hindus reside.