Diwali, or Deepavali, is one of the most auspicious festivals of the Hindu community celebrated with great devotion and exhilaration. The festival epitomizes the victory of “light over darkness”, “good over evil”, and “knowledge over ignorance”. Celebrated in the months of Ashwin or Kartik of the Hindu lunisolar calendar, the festival of Diwali makes the Indian land no less than a dreamland embellished with lights and the bright colors of Rangoli.
Owing to the cultural and traditional diversity in terms of festivals in different parts of India, there are different mythological and historical tales associated with the origin of festivals. Every part of India follows a different legend while celebrating these festivals. Diwali, the festival of lights, is another such festival which has many mythological legends associated with it. Let’s read here…
The tale of Ramayana is the most popular legend associated with the festival of Diwali. The return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman after 14 years of exile marks the celebration of Diwali in the northern parts of India. The whole city of Ayodhya was lit by millions of lamps and diyas and was decorated beautifully by the dwellers to welcome their King with great pomp and show. As Lord Rama returned to his home after defeating the demon-king Raavana, the day also marks the victory of good over evil.
When Pandavas lost the gambling game to Kauravas, they were sent on 13 years of exile as a punishment. After the lapse of this time period, the day on which the Pandavas returned back to Hastinapur was a New Moon day of the Kartik month. Knowing their honest, loving, caring, modest, and loyal nature, the commoners decorated the whole kingdom with diyas to celebrate their homecoming after the exile. Some cultural sects of the society believe in this legend and consider it the origin of the Diwali festival.
The legend goes back to the mythological times when Lord Shiva performed Samudra Manthan to obtain Amrit from the ocean. While performing the churning of the ocean, Goddess Lakshmi also surfaced during the process. The day happened to be the New moon day of the Kartik month which was similar to the day of Diwali. This is the reason why Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in the majority of homes on the day of Diwali.
Naraksura, a demon king, was blessed with a long life by Lord Vishnu. But, his demonic traits made him create havoc in all the three worlds making mankind seek divine help to protect themselves from his tortures and assaults. Naraksura even chained thousands of women in his palace and frequently assaulted them. Seeing this, Lord Vishnu killed Naraksura and unlocked all the women locked in his palace and saved mankind from his atrocities. The heaven and earth celebrated this day with great happiness and excitement and named this day as Diwali.
According to the Hindu Bhagavata Puranas, the rising fear and influence of the demon king Mahabali among the Gods made them run for help to Lord Vishnu. God took the form of a dwarf or Vamana on a New Moon Day of the Kartik month and sent King Bali to Patala by His feet on his head. The defeat of King Mahabali is celebrated as Diwali.
Many parts of India worship Goddess Kali on the day of Diwali. It is said that the Goddess took birth from the forehead of Maa Durga to protect the heaven and earth from the atrocities of the cruel demons. But, after demolishing all the demons, Goddess Kali killed anyone who came in her way in a fit of fury. This made Lord Shiva to intervene to stop her from killing innocent people in anger and rage. He laid himself at the feet of the Goddess after which she controlled herself and takes out her red tongue.
The coronation of King Vikramaditya is nothing less than a Diwali celebration for the people of his kingdom. The intellect, wisdom, courage, and large-heartedness of the king made him a favorite among the commoners who lighted diyas in the whole palace in his praise. This legend became one of the reasons for celebrating Diwali.
Vardhamana Mahavira was the last Tirthankara of the Jainism who attained Nirvana or Enlightenment in the month of Kartik. This is the main reason for the Diwali celebrations among the people who follow this religion. The day also marks the release of the human souls from the earthly desires.
Celebrated as Ashoka Vijayadashami in India, Diwali is the festival celebrated with great excitement by the Buddhists in the country. It marks the conversion of King Ashoka to Buddhism and monasteries get beautifully decorated with lights and flowers on this special day.
It is believed that the foundation stone of the Sikh shrine, Golden Temple, was laid on the day of Diwali in 1577. Moreover, it is also said that the day also marks its beginning of the Diwali festival by Sikh Guru Amar Das when Sikhs gathered together to seek the blessings of the Guru.
In 1619, when the sixth Sikh leader Guru Hargobind Singh was freed from the captivity of Mughal Emperor Jehangir, the day began to be celebrated as Diwali by the people of this community.
There is a belief that when the great Hindu reformer Swami Dayananda Saraswati attained salvation or Nirvana, Diwali became a festival celebrated in the households. Many people commemorate the contributions of this wonderful and intellectual reformer on the day of Diwali as it was on the New Moon day of the Karthik month, he attained Enlightenment.