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DEEPAAVALI
By Mohan Shenoy

DEEPAAVALI (FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS)
ALSO KNOWN AS DIWALI.

Deepavali is one of the leading festivals of India.  It is popular by the name of Festival of Lights all over the world. The Hindi language vernacular term is Diwali festival.

It is a festival of not only lights but also of joy to men, women and children, of all castes and creeds. Deepavali is known to provide good business to the shops because people buy things and give gifts during this festival. Deepavali greetings cards are sold in large numbers because this festival is chosen to send greeting cards to friends, both personal and corporate. The shops put up 'discount sale' during these festivals and clear their stocks as much as possible. In India there is no restrictions to fire-works being fired at homes.

People in India buy fire-works such as crackers, sprinklers, flower pots, rockets etc., and light them up in their front-yards. Children and adults alike enjoy the fire-works very much. A lot of money is spent on fire-works.
There is a tradition in relation to Deepavali festival of playing cards. On the Deepavali night Hindus are willing to loose some money by playing one or two sessions of cards with wagering. Both men and women form four-some teams and play card with or without.

Another custom is to offer Ganja, Hashish, and Marijuana etc. to guests at private parties at home or at the clubs.However use, sale or storage of these narcotics is prohibited by law and attracts penalty including imprisonment. There are adult parties where liquor flows freely.

Many of the Hindus who have tasted non-vegetarian food before, resort to having a dish or two of chicken, meat or fish for lunch or dinner on Deepavali day or night. Thus the festival of Deepavali is for merry-making rather than any worship of gods or goddesses.

GOW PUJA (COW WORSHIP)

Gow Puja (gow is Sanskrit for cow) is a puja performed to cattle. If there are cows being looked after in the cow shed belonging to the house, for the sake of milk, then these cows are to be pujaised on the day following the Deepavali day, or on the day of Balipadyami.

Cows are treated as sacred by the Hindus. Cows and bulls are not slaughtered for meat by Hindus. They are allowed to get old and die naturally. However, in the cities one can see cows roaming on the streets for food because the owners of those cows do not feed them once they stop giving milk. Male calves are also let go to roam on the city streets. These cows rummage the garbage dumps in the city streets and eat most unhygienic things like plastic bags etc. There is a Law to control the slaughter of cows passed by the Central Indian Government. This law states that only injured or sick cows may be slaughtered.
This law is not enforced so that there are many houses where cows and calves are slaughtered even if they are not injured or sick.

The Hindus who have milching cows at home still practice the Cow Puja in their homes on the Gow Puja day. The cows are given a thorough wash and fed the choicest of cow feed on this day consisting of groundnut oil cakes and rice congee. The vegetable peels and skins are also favorite food of the cows. The cow are made to look nice by pressing tin containers dipped in lime water on their skin to produce circle marks. Flowers are placed on the cow's horns and a garland is put around its neck. An aarathi is waved to the cow and Naivedya is offered. This Naivedya consisting of rice, and other dishes prepared for the family, the cow eats with relish.

THE FESTIVAL BATH

The Festival Bath is a part of Deepavali celebration since ages. This festival was started from the time the river Ganga was considered sacred. Like Ganga, the other rivers and lakes were also considered sacred and their water was fit to be called divine. In order to honour the water bodies a Puja was devised, by the elders and the Wise among the Hindus.

To perform the Puja a person could either go to the river and do various rituals on the banks or perform them at home using the well water. In order to perform the Puja a full head-bath is a must. In those houses where the old style bath-room furnished with two large copper vessels for filling water are present, the vessels are decorated with flowers, garlands and lights. One of the vessels is for cold water and the other is for hot water. They are first cleaned and shined and then water from the wells is brought in pitchers to fill them.

Firewood is lighted and the water heated to more than 56 degrees Celsius. A hot-water-bath is preferred on this festival bath day. The pitchers too are cleaned and shined and done up with flowers and garlands. The wells are also beautified with painted circles and squares on their embankment. Potted flower plants are placed around them.

Puja is performed to the well, the pitchers, the bathroom vessels, and the jugs used for pouring water on our body while bathing. The sequence of the Puja is same. Naivedya is also kept ready for offering to the water-body and then distribute among those who are in attendance.

An aarathi is lighted and waved to the well first and then with the band in attendance, the aarathi-holder walks to the bathroom and waves the aarathi to the pitchers, the vessels and then the jugs. The band consists of a jaagant and a conch. The jaagant is a plate made of brass and beaten by a bamboo stick. The bamboo stick has a small wooden ball at one of its ends to produce a resonating sound from the brass plate held by a thin rope. The rope is threaded through two holes made on the rim of the plate. A medium-sized conch is also blown to produce a long tootle. After the aarathi the Naivedya is offered by dropping a tiny piece of the sweet in the water. All people in attendance at the Puja receive a piece of the sweet.

The style with which the bath is taken is interesting. First the bather applies oil to all parts of his body. Coconut oil is preferred. Other kinds of oil are used if coconut oil is not available.
About 5 minutes after the application of the oil, body massage is performed by the wife in case of the husband, mother in case of the son, and by a servant or helper in other cases. Then the bather sits on a stool in the bathing quadrangle and the wife, or the mother, or the servant as the case may be, pours hot water on the head, shoulders, abdomen, thighs, legs, feet, the back and the hips in turn and in cycles. The temperature of the water is adjusted to the desire of the bather. None is forced to take a bath with very hot water unless he or she wants to. Choice soaps are applied and the water pouring is repeated. The water may be poured or thrown with force, especially on the head and shoulders.

Women and girls also apply oil and do massage but they do it behind doors. Their bathing is solitary. But they do take full advantage of the occasion and take a full head-bath. Since their hair is long, they wash the hair with soap-nut powder or with shampoo. After the bath they dry their hair either by folding over with a dry towel or standing in the sun. Some women do both. Men and boys also dry their hair by tying a towel over their head like a turban and letting it be for about 2 hours.

Everyone feels tired after a full hot-water bath. So the person lies down on a bed with his hair-drying turban on; and in order to perspire well, a bed-sheet is covered over the person, including the head. A blanket is covered over the bed-sheet to give extra warmth.

There is a notion that perspiration brings bad constituents out of the skin and blood. The person may feel thirsty and so a glass of a beverage is given to him to drink. The traditional drink is the Sunt-Meeri Kashay. Sunt is dry ginger. Meeri is black pepper corns. Kashay is decoction. Add salt and sugar to taste.


Method of preparation of Sunt-Meeri-Kashay
Place two teaspoonful powdered dry ginger and same quantity powdered black pepper corns in 500 milliliter of water and boil under medium flame for the time required to bring down the volume to about two-thirds of original quantity. Add 4 teaspoonfuls of sugar and one half teaspoonful of salt and mix well. The drink is taken while it becomes cool enough to be sipped.Other drinks such as soda, tea or coffee can also be given in place of Kashay.

NARAKA CHATURDASHI

Naraka Chathurdashi is a festival to commemorate the victory of Sri Krishna over King Naraka of Pragjotisha kingdom. Pragjotisha kingdom was located near the present Assam state. Naraka had an army commander by the name of Mura. After Sri Krishna killed Mura in a battle, he got the name Murari (enemy of Mura). Sri Krishna started from Dwarka, his capital and proceeded to Pragjotisha to fight King Naraka. After killing Mura it was easy for Sri Krishna to defeat Naraka. Naraka was the son of Bhoodevi. Naraka had a son by the name of Bhagadatta. Naraka was a good fighter, but Sri Krishna was better. Sri Krishna killed Naraka on the fourteenth day of the second half of the month of Ashweeja. He put Bhagadatta on the throne of Pragjotisha kingdom.
Chathurdashi means fourteenth day. Sri Krishna had conquered most of India by the time he won over Naraka. Therefore Sri Krishna ordered that the day he won over Naraka be celebrated as a festival. The word of the ruler was a Law unto itself. Since then, all Hindus observe the day as Naraka Chathurdashi festival.

There are no rituals or Puja to be performed on the Naraka Chaturdashi day in the house. Small terracotta oil lamps (terracotta saucers of 3 inches diameter with a single wick in oil) are lit and placed on either side of the door and on windowsill. In the cities and in the western countries oil lamps are avoided for reasons of danger of a fire. Instead, tiny electric lamps are used.

DHANALAKSHMI PUJA Dhanteras

Dhanalakshmi Puja is a Puja performed to the goddess of currency. Dhana is currency, i.e. currency notes and coins. Dhanalakshmi is goddess Lakshmi herself. When goddess Lakshmi takes on the duties of currency control she is referred to as Dhanalakshmi. Goddess Dhanalakshmi controls currency, provides currency, takes away currency, etc. She gets pleased upon performing her Puja.

Dhanalakshmi Puja is held on the day following Naraka Chaturdashi. A portrait or an idol of goddess Dhanalakshmi is placed on the altar. It is decorated with flowers and garlands. The cash box is placed in front of the portrait. The box is kept open and currency notes and coins are placed in it prominently. The books of accounts belonging to the business are also placed nearby. A little turmeric paste is applied to the cash box, to one or two currency notes and to some of the coins. The turmeric paste is prepared by mixing turmeric powder in a trace of water. Flowers are kept on the lid and a small garland is put on the box. Archana is performed and aarathi is waved. Naivedya is offered (several kinds of sweets) and then distributed to the attending guests. The guests are usually the regular customers patronizing the person who undertakes to perform the Puja.

Most of the merchants regard the Dhanalakshmi Puja day as the last day of their financial year. They tally their account books on this day. If there is profit then they distribute some of it to their employees as the annual bonus. The employees look forward to this payment of bonus to them very eagerly.
However, the labour laws that are provisions for giving bonus to the employees of shops and establishments. The payment of Bonus Act specifies the amount of bonus to be paid in terms of the profit in the business. This Act applies to all the shops and establishments who have ten or more employees on their register.

The minimum bonus payable is 8% of the total wages paid in the previous year. This amount of bonus is payable regardless of the profit or loss. If there is a profit which when calculated according to the work-sheet prescribed in the law shows a total amount to be allocated as bonus to be higher than the amount needed to pay 8% bonus, then the employer has to pay the extra amount of bonus. However the maximum amount of bonus is 20% of the total annual wages. If an employer complies with this Act, then he will have very little left for himself out of his profit.

The employees have the right to file a petition in the labour court to claim the bonus if the employer does not comply with the Bonus Act. Therefore it is advisable to foresee this contingency of paying bonus to the employees before hand. If there is no need to employ ten persons then it is best not to exceed the limit. If the business is bigger and there is need for more employees than the number ten, then a provision should be made every month for payment of bonus at the time of the Deepavali festival or at the end of the year.

BALIPAADYAMI

Balipadyami is a festival, which is celebrated as a component of the Festival of Lights. While Naraka Chathurdashi is the last but one day of the Ashweej (month), and Deepavali is on the last (New Moon) day of Ashweej, Balipadyami is on the first day of the Karthik (month). Karthik is the month following Ashweej. Bali was a great king of India many centuries ago. Padyami is the first day of the month. Balipadyami therefore is the Padyami in memory of king Bali.

The story of king Bali is as follows: Even before the time of Raama there were two kings ruling India, one ruling the Swarga Loka (the land of the Deva) and the other ruling the Daithya Loka (the land of the Daithya). There were wars between the two to annex each other's kingdom. Swarga Loka was ruled by Devendra and the Daithya Loka was ruled by Bali Chakravarti. The title Chakravarti is applied to kings who have a large number of vassals under him. There was another kingdom underneath called the Paathala Loka, which was ruled by King Kubera.

After many wars between Devendra and Bali, Bali gained upper hand and in the final war Devendra was totally defeated and banished to the forests.
Bali soon packed his bags and left for Paathala Loka with his immediate family and a few of his servants. He carried bare minimum things in his bags. But the citizens of Daithya Loka got very much disappointed at the turn of events. They decided to observe one day in the month of Karthika in memory of Bali. Thus the festival of Balipadyami was born.

As for Vaamana he rose to the status of one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, the Vaamanaavathaara (Vaamana-avathaara).

Balipadyami is celebrated with much enthusiasm in some parts of India with dance, music, and other cultural programmes, but most of the people give respect to Bali by lighting as many lamps as possible around their houses. People light as much fire-works as possible on this day and again in the night. Crackers, flower pots, rockets and other fire-works light the sky and keep making so much noise as to sound dreadful.

Even now Bali's rule is regarded as the golden era in the history of
India, although very little is known to us about those times other than mythology and folklore.
Devendra had a brother by the name of Vaamana. Vaamana was a short man, an ascetic but very intelligent. There is a saying, which goes like this: Kullanige entu buddhi. Kulla is Kannada word for short man. Entu is eight. Buddhi is intelligence. Kullanige entu buddhi means a short man is eight times intelligent than others. Vaamana was a short man but he was eight times intelligent than others. He decided to trick Bali into losing his land without a fight. It was on a padyami day that Bali was performing a Yajna (a fire in which offerings are made to God). He was giving away gifts to who ever came asking as part of the Yajna. He would give whatever one asked. Everyone who asked Bali for a gift would ask for land, jewelry, cattle etc. They would not ask Bali for things that would embarrass Bali. But Bali kept giving away most of whatever he had with him.

Vaamana came to this Yajna of Bali and asked for land, which he would cover with just three steps.  Bali's Guru Shukracharya detected that Vaamana was an unusual candidate for gifts and that Vaamana has come to the Yajna with some ulterior motive to harm Bali.

BHAVUBEEJ (BROTHER'S DAY)
The day following the Balipadyami is observed as a day of the sisters. Every brother who has a sister would go to his sister's house aThe nd give her gifts such as saree dresses, consumer electronic items, jewelry pieces or cash. He will go to the houses of all his sisters and repeat the gift giving. Following the sister's day it is the turn of the brothers. On the day of the brothers the sisters go to their houses and give gifts to them.

Only the young and unmarried brothers are selected for this exercise. The older brothers and the married brothers do not expect to receive gifts from their sisters.

One important aspect of the Deepavali and other major festivals is the treat being given to the new son-in-law. A son-in-law is the husband of the daughter and both the daughter and the son-in-law are very dear to people. Therefore the daughter who got married recently and went away to live with her husband is invited to her parent's house on the festival days. It is customary to send our son to the daughter's house to invite the couple to the festivals. The couple is treated as lovingly as possible and they stay in the house for a few days. They are offered every luxury that is available and grand dinners are arranged for them.

Variety of sweets are either made at home or bought from the market to give to the couple. The couple takes part in the Gow Puja, the Dhanalakshmi Puja, the Festival bath and the lighting of fire-works in as equal enthusiasm as the in-laws. The daughter especially enjoys her stay in her maternal home very much and she would go back to her husband's house with loads of gifts, wads of currency notes and many packets of eatables.
SHUKRAACHARYA WARNS BALI
Shukraacharya the wise well-wisher of Bali, studied Vaamana and got suspicious of his intentions. He explained to Bali his impression of Vaamana and his opinion about him. He advised Bali not to grant Vaamana any gift.

But Bali will have nothing of it. He would cover with his three steps. Vaamana drew a map on the ground shaped like the world and the Universe. He marked separately the kingdom of Bali and rest of the Universe, on the map. Then he said to Bali that now he is taking the three steps and took one step across the kingdom of Bali and the second step across the Universe and asked Bali to tell him where should he put his third step.

Bali was not in a position to argue with Vaamana. Bali had realised the futility of owning and fighting for kingdoms. He was seeking peace of mind. Vaamana had covered only the land occupied by the map on the ground. Bali could have rejected the contention of Vaamana that he has to give his kingdom and the universe to Vaamana. He could have just given only the land occupied by the map on the ground.

By giving that much land covered by the map on the ground, Bali could have satisfied the condition of the deal. But Bali did not do that. Bali was becoming more and more philanthropic in his outlook and wished to free himself of problems of administration of a vast kingdom. He found an answer to his question as to how he can get away from all these problems he is facing in the administration of his empire. 

Bali told Vaamana to step on his head to place his third step, and so Vaamana did. Even the person of Bali was gifted to Vaamana in this exercise causing Bali to be a slave of Vaamana.

Vaamana did not want Bali to live within the reach of his brother Devendra to whom he is going to hand over the land acquired in this deal. He suggested to Bali to go and live in Paathala Loka where Kubera would welcome him and looks after him for the rest of his life.
COMMENTS ON DEEPAAVALI FESTIVAL
Some of the crackers are so loud they scare the children very much. There is also air-pollution because of the smoke that follows every cracker that is lighted. Every rocket that is fired into the sky carries dense smoke into the atmosphere.

There are accidents too. If a child fires a cracker without the safety precautions then the cracker might burst into his eyes and cause eye injury sometimes leading to blindness. The blindness could be permanent and incurable. Others suffer burns of their faces or other exposed parts of the body. Their clothes can catch fire and burn them quite badly. Some crackers can land on the roof and later lead to fires in the house. This is common in rural area where the house roofs are made of straw and hay.

To avoid all these accidents the Western countries have prohibited citizens from lighting fire-works in individual homes. The municipal administration of the cities and towns arrange collective lighting of fire-works on these days. The time and date is announced in advance. The location selected is usually a large open space with sufficient arrangement for the public to view the fire-works with comfort. There have been vast improvements in the designing of the Fire-works and various new crackers, sparkers, flowerpots and rockets have been invented. These are expensive and therefore the municipal administration or other organisations can afford to buy them and display them.

SHOPS AND ESTABLISHMENTS PUJA

The Shops and Establishments Puja is observed on the day following the Balipadyami.The shops are decorated on this day and business is stopped for a few hours in the evening.

A portrait of the goddess Dhanalakshmi is placed on a high stool and garlanded. An oil-lamp is placed on one side and incense sticks are lighted. Naivedya in the form of sweets is kept nearby. A coconut is brought and placed on the stool. A koythi (a sturdy sickle) to break open the coconut is also kept near the coconut. A banaana phonno is kept near the coconut. A phonno of banaana is a bunch of five banaana fingers.

An aarathi is readied with a matchbox placed nearby. Oil is poured in the aarathi plate and a wick is placed in it with one end sticking out for lighting. A jaagate and a conch is arranged to produce appropriate music for the Puja. Soft music is played either on the radio or on a CD player. A line of small flags and ticker tapes is hung overhead from corner to corner in the room. Balloons are blown in and hung on the walls and other furniture as a decoration.

Two well-grown banaana plants are placed on either side of the shop. A line of mango leaves is hung across the front door. Bunches of mango leaves are hung on either side of the top of the front door. All these decorations give a festive look to the shop and anyone visiting would realize that there is a celebration going on in the shop.It is important to get prepared for the arrival of many guests who expect either a piece of sweet or a gift on this occasion. A priest might be invited to perform the Puja.

At the designated time, say at 7 p.m. the priest or the manager or the proprietor of the shop would begin the Puja. He would first offer Archana prayer, then break the coconut and break the tips of the banaana fingers. He will pick a flower and show it to the goddess's portrait and then drop it in the Naivedya box. Then he will light the aarathi wick by lighting with the matchstick. He will raise the aarathi and wave it repeatedly in front of the portrait. The priest would have a small jingle bell in his other hand. The priest keeps ringing the jingle bell constantly as he waves the aarathi.

Meanwhile two of the shop assistants would produce the music by playing the jaagate and the conch. Once the aarathi waving is completed the priest would give the manager/proprietor the first Naivedya (sweets) in a tray.
The Puja performer, usually a priest, will also place in the tray, the broken coconuts, the banaana phonno, some flowers and a bit of sandalwood paste, which he brings with him. He will apply the sandalwood paste to the forehead of the manager in the form of a naama (broad line in the middle of the forehead from the root of the nose to the top of the forehead). The priest would place a spoonful Thirtha (consecrated sandalwood-scented water) into the out-stretched hand of the manager/proprietor, from a small pot he brings with him when he comes to perform the Puja. This Thirtha is to be sucked into the mouth and swallowed by the devotee. After this everyone attending the Puja would get the Thirtha, the Naivedya and a little bit of sandalwood paste for applying on his forehead in the form of a naama. He would receive a gift if the shopkeeper were prepared to give a gift to each of the attendees.

Most of the merchants treat the Shops and Establishments Puja as the first day of their new financial year. Therefore they buy all the necessary files and account books and write the names on the first page. An Om figure or the word SRI is also written on the front of the books and files. Kumkum and Haldi marks are made on them. A Swastika mark is also made.

The Swastika mark was in use in Hitler's Germany and it has been associated with fascism all over the world since the end of the World Was II. But in India it is a sacred mark drawn on walls of temples, Mathas, and other religious places. It is also drawn on either side of the platform on which a deity is placed in the god-room in the house, and on the opening pages of the account books of merchants.

The files and books should be all new stationary for use in the coming financial year. They are placed in front of the portrait of the goddess. The cash box is also placed nearby.The government of India has enacted a law, which prescribes the financial year to be from April 1 this year to March 31 next year. Therefore the practice of treating the Shops and Establishments Puja as the first day of the financial year by the merchants has been hit badly.

The Puja is performed even now but the books that are kept in the Puja are the ones, which have been in use since the 1st of April of the current year.

Concluded.
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