Deepavali Season, Day 1 – Emergence of Wealth

Dhanteras

Deepavali Season starts with Dhanteras on the 13th phase, also known as Dhanvantari Trayodasi, a day of paying obeisance to prosperity, today celebrated by acquiring gold or other forms of wealth.

Dhan Teras or Dhan Trayodasi  – the name itself suggests prosperity. Dhan means wealth and teras, trayodasi mean the thirteenth day of the waning moon cycle.

This day is associated with the emergence of the divinities for health and wealth – Dhanvantri and Lakshmi respectively, when the Universe was created.

 Dhan Teras is the festival related to wealth. It comes just prior to Lakshmi Pooja. As we have already seen, this is the season post monsoon. Post the monsoon season, the crops would have been harvested and the farmers and the community at large have money in hand.

In the Indian ethos, gold has always been looked at, not just as an ornament to bedeck the women in the house but more importantly as an investment for future expansion or as a saving that one can dip into during a bleak period. With this thought in mind, the joy of having abundance to buy gold, ornaments and decorate one’s house for the festive season was itself a reason to celebrate, a reason for a festival.

Today, in towns, the focus has shifted from Agrarian needs to the needs and demand of a city life. In this commercial world, Dhan Teras has taken on a commercial dimension of buying ornamental gold jewellery and for picking up electronic gadgets.

Dhan is of two types. One Dhan is the material wealth –  gold, silver, luxuries, land and such others. These are all ever flowing wealth as they do not stick to one place. They are constantly in circulation, with us one today, gone tomorrow.

The other wealth is the wealth of health.

Dhanvantri Trayodasi – Health is Wealth

The wealth of health is denoted by Dhanvantri, the divine physician. Among the Indian pantheon of divinities, Dhanvantri is the divinity for health. In his very name itself, the first part of the name is Dhan. From this it is amply clear that the seers of ancient India believed that good health while one is living, is the most important wealth and the primary divinity for health aptly termed as Dhanvantri.

 Dhanvanthri

Dhanvanthri

If you closely observe the image of Dhanvantri, you will see that Dhanvantri is coming out of water. Similarly good health in our body is dependent on the waters in our body as 70% of our body is after all, made up of water.

In one palm Dhanvantri holds a leach, Jalloka. The leach removes bad blood from our system so that fresh blood can rejuvenate our system. In the right hand is the Amrit kalasa, pot of nectar. Nectar is the elixir of life. It is that which gives us freshness and adds longevity to our life.

Alongwith celebrating Dhan teras as the festival of gold and wealth if we can celebrate it to bring about a right balance in our health, which is the true wealth, then celebtating Dhan teras gets a wholistic perspective.

If we see, one of the popular traditions in the South of India, especially Tamil Nadu, is the tradition of preparing and consuming an Ayurvedic, herbal, medicinal preparation called Deepavali Lehiyam, paste. This is given along with the sweets and goodies prepared for Deepavali.

This Lehiyam contains herbs that primarily help with improving digestion as well as immunity – 2 important factors required for a season of festivities and chillness due to winter.

One of the important rituals of this day, is to prepare this Lehiyam and seek Dhanvantri’s blessings to endow all with a life rich with good health.

Deepavali Season, Day 2 – Victory of Good Over Evil

Naraka Chaturdasi

The 14th phase of the dark moon, is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi in commemoration of the slaying of Narakasura who was causing menace to the people, by Krishna and His wife Satyabhama.

narakasura

In South India, Deepavali is celebrated as Naraka Chathurdasi. Naraka was an Asura who lived about 5100 years ago. Narakasura ruled from his kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. His rule was a misery to the people of his land.

Krishna and his wife Satyabhama slayed Narakasura and freed people from his tyranny. This event of vanquishing Narakasura is celebrated as Naraka Chathurdasi. Chaturdasi is the 14th phase of the moon and is the night before Karthika Amavasya, the day of Deepavali.

It is for this reason that Deepavali is celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil.

Deepavali Season, Day 3 – Lighting Up Life With Joy, Enlightenment

Karthik Amavasya, Deepavali

The day of Karthik Amavasya, New Moon, is celebrated as the main day of Deepavali and is ascribed to many reasons.

Lakshmi Pooja

In most parts of India, especially the north and west, the Deepavali festival is celebrated as Lakshmi Pooja. Lakshmi is the divinity for wealth. During this Lakshmi pooja traders start new accounting books for the next accounting year.

lakshmi2

Why do the traders in India start new accounting year on Deepawali?

India as a land is a monsoon rain fed Country. The Southwest monsoon rain sets in in the first week of June. This South West monsoon rain lashes throughout India for the next four months. India being an agrarian Society, that is Agriculture being its main occasion, it is during these four months of continuous rain that the primary crop of India is sown and reaped.

By the time the abundance of this crop is harvested and brought to the market to be traded, it is the time of Deepavali. It is the time of plenty. It is the time of fresh arrivals.

Isn’t it but apt that the new financial, new accounts year for the traders start with Lakshmi Pooja? It has been so through the centuries and through the millennia.

In the word Lakshmi you have the root word Lakshya meaning aim, goal.  The aim of a society is to be productive, harmonious and noble. It is when there is bounty that all this is possible. This Lakshmi Pooja is not only significant for the traders to start new account but also encourages the people at large to relish their hard work from the bountiful harvest, share their bounty with one and all, which in turn brings out their nobility, their dharma –  the aim, the goal, the lakshya of people.

Thus Lakshmi Pooja is just not praying to the divinity of wealth but is in fact a culmination of four months of agrarian effort and is a form of thanks giving to the divinity of prosperity for the plentitude showered and also a time for setting goals to lead a noble and harmonious life.

Coronation of Rama and Rama Rajya

Rama, the legendary hero of India was born in Ayodhya and ruled the kingdom of Kosala about 7,100 years ago.

The historicity of Rama has been traced in our book, Historical Rama from the Bharath Gyan Series.  Rama, after his fourteen years vanavas, exile and after defeating Ravana who had kidnapped His wife Sita, Rama returned to His city Ayodhya with Sita and His brother Lakshmana, to begin His rule on this day. Rama ascended the throne in the year 5076 BCE.

This day of His return and the event of coronation as King of Ayodhya, Rama Pattabhishekh, was marked with joy by lighting series of lamps, Deepavali. It has been celebrated since then, every year as Deepavali in North India.

The noble rule of Rama, from then on through the Itihasa, Ramayana and the Puranic legends, have come down to our times, our knowledge, as the period of ideal rule. This ideal rule of Kingship is what is eloquently referred to as “Rama Rajya”. The details of this Rama Rajya, the components of this ideal rule and its relevance in the modern management scenario is discussed in our work “Rama Rajya” which is part of the Bharath Gyan Series.

This ideal rule of Rama was so much cherished through the systems, practices, traditions and stories by generations and generations of people through the ages in this land that the people thought it fit to celebrate the coronation of Rama, His Pattabhishekham as the festival of Deepavali so that successive rulers of this land can try to emulate the good components, the good features of the rule of Rama that can make the land and its people prosperous, progressive and peaceful through the ages.

It is for this reason that to this day, the festival of Deepavali is remembered and celebrated year after year, yearning for a good rule from the rulers of the land.

The rule of India is in turmoil today. The rule of India is sans values.

Apart from bursting crackers, wearing new clothes, eating sweets, distributing gifts and sweets and wishing each other a Happy Deepavali, if we can reaffirm to ourselves the reason for which the festival of Deepavali  has being celebrated continuously for the last 7,100 years and create in our times, an atmosphere of a Noble Rule and a value based living, then the festival of Deepavali will truly light up our lives.

Return of the Pandava

It was on this day, about 5100 years ago, that the Pandava returned to Hastinapura, after their 13 year exile. It was a day of joy for the people of Hastinapura which they too expressed by lighting lamps to welcome them. This formed another reason for the celebrations of Deepavali since then.

The historicity of the Pandava and the events in their lives can be found in our work Historical Krishna, from the Bharath Gyan Series.

Start of Vikram Samvat

About 2000 years ago, in 56 BCE, Vikramaditya was crowned king of Ujjain on this day. This day marked the start of the Vikram Samvat, Vikram Era which we follow to this day. It is one of the official calendars for the Government of India. The New Year as per this calendar start with Chaitra Amavasya, i.e. around April in present times.

Starting from the day of Rama’s return to Ayodhya with Sita and His coronation, to the day of Pandava’s return to Hastinapura with Draupadi, to the day Vikramaditya was crowned king, thereby starting the Vikaram Era, have all been celebrated across millennia, as days of joy and hope for good times ahead, by lighting lamps and sharing sweets.

Mahavira PariNirvana

Mahavira, the last Jain Tirthankara, attained PariNirvana, liberation from His mortal life, at Pavapuri, in present day Bihar, on the day of Deepavali. This day is therefore celebrated by the Jains as a day of salvation and enlightenment.

Deepavali Season, Day 4 – A Day of Prayer and Pledge

Govardhana Pooja

The Govardhan episode is a very popular legend related to the deeds of Krishna. Krishna, who was born in Mathura around 5,100 years back was a very precocious child, a child prodigy. Krishna is the central character of the Mahabharatha events. It is Krishna who gave us the sermon of the Bhagavad Gita, which is one of the primary texts of the Indian lore,

govardhanagiridharaspeaking of the duties of man and his relationship between himself, his soul and the divine Creation.

More on Krishna and his historical personage can be read in the book, “Historical Krishna’ which is part of the Bharath Gyan series.

Krishna in his childhood, once questioned his elders as to why they were praying to Indra, when instead they should be praying to the hills, the rivers, the forests, the fields and the cows which were so immediate to them, which were near them, which gave them succour in their daily lives.

Krishna opined that instead of praying to Indra, the people of Vrindavan, among others should be praying to Nature and such aspect that gave them the immediate succour. Hearing Krishna’s wrongs of wisdom the people turned their prayers from Indra to the hills, the orchards, the rivers and the cows that were nearby which gave the people the daily nourishment. Indra, the leader of the divine forces obviously did not like being neglected. Indra unsheathed his wrath and sent down lightning after lightning and torrential hailstorms.

The common people who had listened to the advice of Krishna were frightened by the turn of events and turned to Krishna for help. Krishna literally rose to the occasion and lifted up a nearby hillock, collected the local people under it and shielded them from the wrath of Indra, which eventually subsided after wearing out against the steadfastness of Krishna.

This episode was one among the many defining moments in the life and deeds of Krishna. This event which happened over 5,100 years ago, is commemorated to this day as Govardhana Pooja  a day after Deepavali.

While at one level this legend seems like a miracle performed by Krishna, at a ground level, the Govardhana Giri episode is symbolic of Krishna steering people towards achieving harmony with Nature by focusing their attention on performing their daily chores bearing in mind the dependency of man on Nature. Through this Govardhan Giri episode and bringing people under the shade of Govardhan, Krishna was bringing people to the fountainhead of knowledge and re-emphasizing the need for rational thought, physical sciences and knowledge in one’s daily life.

 Annakut

This event of Govaradhan Giri is also celebrated as Annakut where varieties of food preparation are decorated in the form of a mountain, symbolizing Govardhana Giri and offered to the divine and later distributed to all.

After all the celebrations and feasting, the Govardhan Pooja is a reminder to people to pay obeisance to the Nature around them that has given them all this prosperity and to pledge to work in harmony with Nature in the forthcoming seasons.

Start of New Accounting Year

The 1st day of the Karthik month, is celebrated as the start of the New Accounting year by the trading community, especially in Western India, the gateway for trade since the times of Krishna, 5100 years ago. More on this can be found in our work Historical Krishna of the Bharath Gyan Series.

For this community of traders, with new produce, fresh stocks have arrived for trading. New books of accounts were therefore opened to start fresh account keeping. This day was celebrated with prayers for a good financial year ahead and also to commit to conducting business in an honest and righteous manner.

Bali Pratipada

The day after Karthik Amavasya, i.e. the Prathama, Pratipada, according to legends is the day when Vishnu in the form of Vamana, a short statured scholar, sends the mighty Asura king, MahaBali to Patala Loka. More about this legend and where Patala Loka lies, is discussed in out book 2012 – The Real Story of the Bharath Gyan Series.

This event is a reminder to people on how arrogance can bring one down, irrespective of however good one is. Bali was a great king and was loved dearly by his people. He was known for his large hearted charity. But he was so arrogant about his greatness and goodness that he did not deem it fit to listen to his Guru’s advice at a critical juncture and this brought about his downfall.

This day of Bali Partipada after Deepavali and all the wealth, is a reminder to people on how not to get arrogant like Bali, about the wealth one has gained but to accept it with grace and share it with all like Bali again.

Deepavali Season, Day 5 – Sharing The Wealth

After taking stock of wealth and setting up new books of accounts, it is now time to share this wealth with kith and kin.

Bhai Dhuj

The 2nd day after the Amavasya, is therefore celebrated as Bhai Dhuj in the West and North of India.

Bhai Dhuj is a festival celebrated during this Kaumudi Mahotsava month, Deepavali period, when the brother goes to the sister’s house to greet her family and give her gifts. Post-harvest, there is abundance and prosperity all around. This is the time of sharing. Given this, it is but natural that the brother visits his married sister bringing goodies for her from her parent’s house. For the married sister the brother’s house is after all her house of birth, it is an occasion for reunion.

Bhai Dhuj

Deepavali Fireworks

Lighting up the skies with a display of fireworks has been the hallmark of the Deepavali celebrations in India. The history of using fireworks can be traced back to millennia.

History of Fireworks in India

 Vijayanagar Fireworks – 600 Years Ago

Vijayanagar was a kingdom that covered the Central Deccan area with its capital at Hampi. Its most famed king was Krishnadevaraya. The Vijayanagar kingdom was famed for its prosperity and well administered society.

History of the Vijayanagar kingdom which was at its peak around 600 years ago speaks of dazzling displays of fireworks during festive occasions.

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Map of Vijayanagar kingdom 

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Krishnadevaraya

Bhoja Fireworks – 1000 Years Ago

Around 1000 CE, the vast region of Malwa in Central India was ruled by Raja Bhoja, who was an accomplished scientist, engineer as well as able administrator. The present day city of Bhopal and the 1000 year old dam there, in good working condition even today, owe their name and fame to his technological and administrative skills.

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Raja Bhoja

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    Malwa kingdom

Bhoja had devised new engineering devices based on mechanics and thermodynamics for protection, defence, comfort as well as for fun.

His work Samarangana Sutradhara describes how fire and certain chemicals could be used in a controlled manner to create objects that could lift off into the sky, create a blast, display lights and sound. Spectators used to gather to watch him set off such displays.

Fireworks in 1st Millennium CE

The early part of the 1st Millennium CE, saw the evolution of various forms of fireworks display ranging from naphtha throwing by the Byzantians and Arabs, the usage of green bamboo to crack and produce loud noise when thrown in fire as used by Chinese to the Indian use of heat and chemicals to send up objects into the sky.

Collectively, these ancient civilizations took fireworks to the stage from which the present day pyrotechnics could evolve.

Bhogar’s Fireworks – 2000 Years Ago

It is worth noting that in literary and history circles, especially in Tamil Nadu, there is mention of how firecrackers can be traced back all the way to one of the Tamil Siddhars, a Siddha saint called Bhogar who lived around 2000 years ago.

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The Siddha Saint Bhogar

A goldsmith by birth and alchemist by practice, Bhogar had put the knowledge of chemistry, botany and physiology to a combined, good use. He is credited with having discovered many medicinal cures as well as many chemical and mechanical applications such as steam boats, flying aircrafts etc.

His work Saptakanda describes the various works and experiments he had carried out including formulae for some of them.

The Tamil records speak of Bhogar having travelled to China to spread knowledge.

Indian Treatises on Fireworks

Zain-ul-Abidin, the Raja of Kashmir between 1421 and 1472 CE, had composed 2 works on the manufacture of fireworks.

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The tomb of the Kashmiri king, Raja Zain-ul-Abidin

The Samskrt text Kautukachintamanai by Gajapati Prataparudradeva of Orissa authored between 1497 and 1539 CE also contains formulae for making different kinds of fireworks.

Foreigners Observe Indian Fireworks

  1. Barbosa, the Italian traveller who came to Vijayanagar, duringthe prosperous reign of Krishnadevaraya, writes in his travelogue about how Deepavali was celebrated in Hampi with fireworks. This clearly shows us that celebration of Deepavali with fireworks has been a tradition of this land for atleast over 500 years.
  1. Varthema, another Italian traveller who visited much of S.E.Asia between 1502 and 1508, writes about the people of Vijayanagar as great masters in the art of making fireworks and how their fireworks had reached the islands of Sumatra.

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Ludovico di Varthema,1470–1517 & his book

  1. Abdar Razzak, an Ambassador from the court of Emperor ShahRukh of Turkey to the court of the Vijayanagar kingdom between April to December 1443, mentions about having seen the use of fireworks in Vijayanagar, during his visit.

The Samskrt dictionary contains age old words such as Sphotak, Visphotak for explosives and words such as agnikreeda meaning sporty display of fires, pointing to ancient Indians’ knowhow and usage of fireworks and explosives.

From Deepavali to other Festivals

 Taking a leaf from Deepavali, today festivals such as New Year, Christmas and many other festivals or even events around the world are celebrated with fireworks.

In England, Guy Fawkes day has been traditionally celebrated with fireworks.

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Guy Fawkes celebration

America celebrates Independence Day on 4th of July every year with characteristic displays of fireworks.

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America’s Independence Day Fireworks

Fireworks of the God – Ad hir Vettu

In every major temple festival, when the Deity is brought out in procession, fireworks have been an essential part of processional fanfare. A single loud sounding burst from a firecracker at important milestones of the procession, was a signal to the people of the village and nearby areas to be ready to receive and pay respects to the Deity, who was approaching.

Such fireworks in the Tamil land have been called Adhir Vettu – resounding blast.

In Tamil Nadu, there are still specialists who make these loud sounding crackers and they are still used in traditional temple processions and temple festivals, the most famous fireworks being that at Trichur Puram festival.

We thus see an usage of fireworks, especially for Deepavali and other festive occasions going for millennia, in our history.

Why These Fireworks?

 More than for merrymaking, bursting of firecracker has been used as way to announce. Announce either the arrival of the Divine or the departure of the Evil. An age old practice has been to burst cracker on the death of someone, especially wicked, vile.

It is a common tradition followed even today, to burst atleast one cracker, even in the poorest of poor houses, on Naraka Chaturdasi to acclaim the death of the Asura, Naraka.

We see this when effigies of Ravana made with fire crackers are set aflame on Vijaya Dasami day during Dassehra, to mark the death of Ravana and victory of Rama, i.e good over evil.

With the blurring of the history behind traditions over time, since the death of the wicked also means joy, bursting of firecrackers took on the connotation of celebrations and joy instead.

An Act of Proclamation

Bursting of loud crackers besides being a wonderful sight and an expression of merriness, has an effect of infusing a sense of bravery, boldness, courage and achievement. It ushers in a feeling of having won over something. It is like an act of proclamation – a proclamation of siding with the right and righteous.

The firecrackers therefore had been put to a fitting use, to evoke such emotions when celebrating occasions that stand for a victory of good over evil.

Discriminate Use

They can emphasize the cause of celebrations, if only we care to know the cause and care to use the crackers discriminately.

A Thriving Industry Today

In many places though, this tradition has given way to indiscriminate use of long string of crackers that go on endlessly for minutes, as a mere sign of celebration of a few, at the cost of discomfort and distress to other pedestrians, animals and vehicular traffic.

Also, all caution is thrown to the winds, by the youth of present day, as they handle fireworks.

The industries too in present times exploit local and seasonal labour, especially child and women workforce.

Making of fireworks is a thriving industry around Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, in China and other parts of world as well. Manufacture and export of fireworks and the field of pyrotechnics have become an important contributor to the economy of the land.

The pollution that fire crackers give forth is negligible compared to various other sound and air pollutants that we are polluting this earth with, on a daily basis and valuable, considering how they can be effective in emphasizing a good cause.

So, if we can ensure that we can keep under check, the inconsideration and other safety and labour norms that are flouted around the business of firecrackers, then we can make every Deepavali season SOUND FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS. Given this wholistic understanding, let us celebrate Deepavali with care, caution, consideration and cheer – the way Deepavali has been celebrated for hundreds of years in this land. It is the most popular festival of India, celebrated in its own distinctive style.

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