The ancient festival of lights, Diwali is celebrated across India and world with fervour and exuberance. According to Hindu mythology, darkness signifies ignorance and evil while light represents knowledge and victory. Therefore, lighting lamps on Diwali symbolises destruction of ignorance and evil through light. Diwali is associated with fun, sparkle, glitter, gifts, delicacies and inspires endless zest for living. Diwali is a spectacular festival held in late autumn. The celebration takes place on the new moon day (Amavasya), at the beginning of Kartika (October-November), eighteen days after the celebration of Dussehra. On this day, rows of lamps decorate the houses and presents are exchanged. Diwali celebration lasts for five days.Choti DiwaliChoti Diwali or Narak Chaturdasi is celebrated a day before Diwali, but in a smaller scale. The rangolis are created in front of the courtyard and doorway. Tiny footprints made of rice paste are specially drawn symbolising little feet of Goddess Lakshmi entering the house.Legend has it that the demon king Narakasur after defeating Lord Indra had snatched away the magnificent earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the Gods and saints in his harem.When Satyabhama (Lord Krishna’s spouse) came to know about this, she was enraged by Narakasura`s malevolence towards women, and she appealed to Krishna to let her destroy Narakasura. Narakasura was given a curse that a woman would kill him. Krishna granted Satyabhama a boon to fight with Narakasura. With Krishna as the charioteer, Satyabhama entered the battlefield. During the war, Krishna swooned for a while, a preordained divinely act adopted to empower Satyabhama to kill the demon. After Narakasura was beheaded, the imprisoned women were released, and Krishna accepted to marry them all. It is interesting to note that Bhudevi, mother of the slain Narakasura, declared that his death should not be a day of mourning but an occasion to celebrate and rejoice. Since then, Deepavali is being celebrated every year with lot of fun, frolic and fireworks. In South India, the victory of the divine over the mundane is celebrated in a very peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise prepare a paste by mixing Kumkum or vermillion in oil, symbolizing blood and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste. In Maharashtra also, traditional early baths with oil and ‘Uptan’ (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders are a `must`. All through the ritual of baths, deafening sounds of crackers and fireworks are there in order that the children enjoy bathing. Afterward steamed vermicelli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served.
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