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Deepawali, Festival of Lights - Fairs and Festivals in India

One of the biggest festivals of Hindus, Deepawali or Diwali in India is celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and happiness. This festival is celebrated for five continuous days, with the third day being celebrated as the main Diwali or as 'Festival of Lights'. Fireworks are always associated with this festival. The day is celebrated with people lighting diyas, candles all around their house. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening to seek divine blessings of Goddess of Wealth. Diwali gifts are exchanged among all near and dear ones.

The Mythological Story
The mythological story of Sagar Manthan or ‘churning the ocean’ may help us understand why Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, is worshipped during Diwali. Legend has it that once all the devtas, or demigods were under a curse that made them weak in body and mind. They were advised by Brahma (Creator in the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer) to drink amrit, or the elixir of life. But amrit could only be obtained by the churning of the ocean, which, needless to add, was no mean feat. Now the question arose as to how to go about churning the gargantuan ocean. Lord Vishnu (the Hindu Preserver of the Universe) came up with a solution saying that Mount Meru could act as the churning stick, while Vasuki (the mythical serpent) could be used as the coil around Meru. Pleased with the suggestion, the devtas went to the asuras, or demons and sought their help in accomplishing the formidable task. The devtas’ promise to share the amrit with the asuras tricked the latter into consenting to tug Vasuki from one end.

Thus ensued a phenomenal churning that, however, threatened to destroy the three worlds (Heaven, Earth and Hell). The gods simply could not let that happen, so Vishnu appeared in the guise of a giant tortoise or Kurma (Vishnu's second incarnation) and stabilised the churning by acting as a base under Mount Meru. It is said that eventually, spectacular treasures emerged from the great ocean including Laksmi the Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth, Sura the Goddess of Wine, Chandra, or the moon, Apsaras, the celestial nymphs, Kaustabha, the precious gem of Vishnu, Uchchaishravas, the divine horse, Parijata, the wishing coral tree, Kamdhenu, the wish-fulfilling Divine Cow, Airavata, the four-tusked white elephant, Panchajanya, or the conch, Sharanga, the invincible bow, and Dhanvantri, Nimi and Bharadwaj - the physicians and surgeons.

Goddess Lakshmi - The Main Deity
Since Goddess Lakshmi was amongst the spectacular treasures that emerged from the great ocean, hence, along with Ganesha, who is customarily invoked before ceremonies are performed, Lakshmi presides over all the ceremonies that are performed during Diwali.

Days before Diwali, people get into a veritable tailspin, what with all the planning and shopping to be done for the ceremonies, especially for the grand Diwali night.

They wash, clean and even whitewash their homes and shops – it seems no god or goddess blesses a mess! The women folk especially in South India decorate their homes and doorsteps with colourful rangolis (patterns made on the floor by using various coloured powders). Dhan Teras Celebrations.

Two days before Diwali is called dhan teras (dhan is wealth in Hindi and teras is 13th, to signify the 13th day after the full moon).

This day is devoted to Goddess Lakshmi as it is believed that she pays each house a visit on this day of the year. People hold a Lakshmi puja (prayer ceremony) in their homes. This day is especially significant for the merchant class, and quite understandably so. Traditionally this day marked the commencement of the new financial year and is still considered to do so by some people. In urban India, many business deals are finalised around this time and business houses give a Diwali bonus and gifts to their employees on the occasion.

 

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