Diwali, the ‘Festival of Lights’ is here and like the rest of India, Odisha too has geared up for its share of celebrations and rituals. Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness. According to mythology, on this day, Rama, Sita and Laxmana came back to Ayodhya from their prolonged exile of 14 years. Ever since, this festival is celebrated to observe the victory of Rama over Ravana and his arrival in Ayodhya. Thus, the festival is usually observed by cleaning and whitewashing homes, lighting traditional earthen lamps (diyas), decorating houses with colourful rangoli artworks, sharing sweet delicacies and gifts with families and friends, and bursting of crackers.
MCL brings you some interesting known and unknown facts about the festival.
Diwali, also known as ‘Deepawali’, can be broken into two parts, that is – ‘deep’ meaning ‘light’ and ‘avali’ meaning ’row’. So Deepawali literally means ‘a row of lights’, which illuminates the country with its brilliance, and dazzles all with its joy. The festival is celebrated on the new moon day of Odia month of Kartika (Kartika Amavasya).
The origin of this festival in Odisha traces backs to some 350 BC when the Sadhabas of the state returned after trading with the south Asian countries bringing with them a treasure of wealth. Diwali was celebrated to welcome them by lighting earthen lamps. Another myth about Diwali says that after autumn when winter arrived, there were a lot of insects that popped up in the atmosphere. In order to get rid of these insects, people across the state lit up diyas all over their houses on this day, which eventually came to be known as Diwali.
Odias celebrate Diwali more or less the same way as across the rest of India with the exception of one small ritual, called ‘Bada Badua Daka’. This tradition is associated with the Jagannath culture, because he is the Supreme God whom Odias worship. As per tradition, the day of Diwali is marked by invoking ancestors and forefathers of ones’ families and paying homage to them in order to receive their blessings. In the morning, rangolis in the shape of a sailboat are drawn. Later after dusk, all the members of the family gather together and perform puja by lighting a lamp and placing it inside an earthen pot that is tied to a pole erected in front of the house. All the members then light a bunch of kaunria sticks (jute sticks) from the puja diya and raise it towards the sky accompanied by chanting of the verse: ‘Badabadua ho andhaara re aasa aalua re jaa, mahaprasad khai baaisi pahaacha re gada gadutha’. After the puja and offerings, the family celebrates Diwali by bursting crackers.
Of course, in Odisha as well as Bengal, the vibrant festival of Diwali usually coincides with Kali Puja and that is why Goddess Kali is also worshipped on this day. There is a belief that this dark night of Kali Puja will remove all the darkness from everyone’s lives.
CELEBRATIONS FOR OTHER COMMUNITIES
Apart from Odisha, Diwali is usually a five-day affair for almost the rest of the country. It starts from Dhanteras and ends with Bhai Dooj. The first day of Diwali festival is Dhanteras when people purchase items that symbolise prosperity, such as gold, silver, other precious items and utensils. The word ‘Dhan’ literally means wealth and ‘Tera’ comes from the date 13th. Lord Kuber, the treasurer of wealth and bestower of riches and Maa Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and fortune are worshipped together on Dhanteras as people have a belief of doubling the benefits with such prayers along with prosperity and wellbeing. Diwali houses are brightly lit with the doors and windows kept open as Lakshmi is supposed to visit every home, and you can’t afford to leave it dark and abandoned.
Another legend says, in the cosmic battle between the gods and the demons when both churned the ocean for ‘amrit’ or divine nectar, Dhanavantri – the physician of the gods and an incarnation of Vishnu – emerged carrying a pot of the elixir. So, according to this mythological tale, the word Dhanteras comes from the name Dhanavantri, the divine doctor.
Since Dhanteras is considered auspicious for buying gold, jewellery shops and outlets have a field day during this festival. A customer executive of Bishandayal Jewellers, Ramakant Mishra tells MCL, “Dhanteras is a day when our shop is filled with customers for the entire day. There has been a lot of craze for Dhanteras among the people in Bhubaneswar for the past few years. The amount of ornaments and products sold on this day has therefore been increasing with every passing year.”
To this, Narayani Jena, a housewife adds, “I have been following the tradition of buying jewellery on Dhanteras for the last three years. Be it gold or silver, I definitely buy something on this day”.
The second day of the celebration, ‘Chhoti Diwali’ is also called as ’Naraka Chaturdashi’ as ‘Naraka’ means hell and ‘Chaturdashi means 14th. It is also known as ‘Yamadeepdaan’ as the ladies of the house light earthen lamps or ‘deep’ and these are kept burning throughout the night glorifying Yama, the god of Death. Since this is the night before Diwali, it is called ‘Chhoti Diwali’.
The third day is the ‘Badi Diwali’ or simply ‘Diwali’ which is considered to be the prime day of Diwali celebrations, when people clean every nook and corner of their houses and decorate their homes to welcome Goddess Lakshmi and impress her so that she would bless the families with riches and prosperity. This is also the time when people renovate and colour their homes and bring in positivity in the environment. Crackers are burnt to enlighten the environment signifying the burning of evil and negativity.
The fourth day is celebrated as ‘Govardhan Puja’ and Lord Krishna is worshipped on this day. People remember the incident when Lord Krishna lifted the entire mountain of Govardhan with his little finger to protect his villagers and pray to him to protect them from all odds of the world. This day is also referred to as ‘Annakut’ sometimes.
The last and fifth day of Diwali festival is ‘Bhai Dooj’ or ‘Bhai Tikka’, which owes its name to the relation between brothers and sisters. On this day, sisters apply a mark of vermilion on their brothers’ forehead and pray for their longevity. This ritual strengthens the bond between brothers and sisters and ends the five-day long festival on a warmer note.
Customs and rituals apart, Diwali is a festival of fun, gusto and joy. Be it an oldie, a house wife, a child or a youngster, this festival brings cheer and happiness to everyone. People love to wear new garments and burst crackers along with feasting with their friends and relatives.
Diwali is incomplete for every person without bursting crackers. Nowadays eco-friendly crackers are available and people are more inclined towards them, leaving those that create more noise and air pollution. And, therefore the market is flooded with various types of crackers that are noise and air pollution free.
Biraja Prasad Nayak, a bank employee tells MCL, “I order crackers every year from Sivakasi. There are several packages available like silver, gold, diamond and platinum. I usually buy the diamond or the platinum pack according to the requirement of my children”.
No wonder, with so many options available, people today are choosy while buying their quota of crackers for home. Ananta Prasad Lenka, an LIC agent, says, “I generally prefer bombs and explosives but as they create a lot of pollution and affect our environment, I am avoiding those and switching to the eco-friendly ones. I mainly like rockets that make a whistling sound and those that go up high in the sky and explode with a variety of colours”.