Diwali is supposed to be a corruption of the word
Deepavali, the literal meaning of which in Sanskrit is
‘a row of lamps.’ Filling little clay lamps with oil and
wick and lighting them in rows all over the house is a
tradition that is popular in most regions of the
country. In the north, most communities observe the
custom of lighting lamps. However, in the south, the
custom of lighting baked earthen lamps is not so much
part of this festival as it is of the Karthikai
celebrations a fortnight later. The lights signify a
welcome to prosperity in the form of Lakshmi, and the
fireworks are supposed to scare away evil spirits.
Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the Northern part of
India. This day is also observed as Annakoot meaning
'mountain of food'. In temples especially in Mathura and
Nathadwara, the deities are given milk bath and dressed
in shining attires with ornaments of dazzling diamonds,
pearls, rubies and other precious stones. After the
prayers and traditional worship innumerable varieties of
delicious sweets are offered to the deities as "Bhog"
and then the devotees approach and take Prasad.
Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped in every Hindu household.
In many Hindu homes it is a custom for the wife to put
the red tilak on the forehead of her husband, garland
him and do his "Aarti" with a prayer for his long life.
In appreciation of all the tender care that the wife
showers on him, the husband gives her a costly gift.
This Gudi Padwa is symbolic of love and devotion between
the wife and husband. On this day newly married
daughters with their husbands are invited for special
meals and given presents. Diwali celebration is a very
happy occasion for all.
For the grown-ups, there is also a custom of indulging
in gambling during Diwali. It is all in fun, though, in
a spirit of light-hearted revelry, and merrymaking.
The children can be seen bursting fire crackers and
lighting candles or earthen lamps. This is a time of
generously exchanging sweets with neighbors and friends.
Puffed rice and sugar candy are the favorite fares.
Diwali is a time for shopping, whether for gifts or for
adding durable items to one’s own household. The market
soars—everything from saffron to silver and spices to
silks. Yet, symbolic purchases are to be made as part of
tradition during Diwali.
Whatever may be the fables and legends behind the
celebrations of Diwali, all people in India exchange
sweets, wear new clothes and buy jewelry at this
festive time. Card parties are held in many homes.
Diwali has become commercialized as the biggest annual
consumer spree because every family shops for sweets,
gifts and fireworks. However, in all this frenzy of
shopping and eating, the steady, burning lamp is a
constant symbol of an illuminated mind ..