Pujas and rites at Deepavali. The 5 days of diwali

Though in major parts of India Diwali is associated with the worship of Laksmi and Ganesh the practice differs from region to region. For instance in the North Ram is worshipped with great fanfare at this time. Also many in the North worship Gobardhana, the hillock in Braj, on this occasion. In Bengal Goddess Kali, a form of Durga and a consort of Shiva, is worshipped with pomp and grandeur.
A glimpse of all these rites performed across the nation:

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Dhanteras and Lakshmi Puja :

Dhanteras Though the celebration of Diwali spans over four days but in some parts of the country, as in the western India, the curtain for the period of the celebration is raised with Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Kartik. The word "Dhan" means wealth. As such this day of the Diwali festival has a great importance for the rich mercantile community of Western India. Houses and Business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colorful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights. Believing this day to be auspicious women purchase some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Lakshmi are sung and "Naivedya" of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as Naivedya.

In villages cattles are adorned and worshipped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. In south cows are offered special veneration as they are supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are goddess Lakshmiadorned and worshipped on this day.

The pre-diwali day is of great importance to the rich community of western India Houses and Business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colorful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights. Believing this day to be auspicious women purchase some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils.
Lakshmi-Puja is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits, devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung and Naivedya of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess.

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Diwali or Deepavali :

The day of Amavasya or the new moon which usually falls on the 15th day of the month of Kartik as per Indian lunar calendar sees the hub of the week long festive period. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped as it is believed that on this day Goddess Lakshmi would be in her benevolant mood and would fulfill all the wishes of her devotees. One version says that it was on this day Goddess Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagara when the Gods and demons were churning the ocean world for raising of Amrita, the mythical elixir of life.

On this day there is a traditional practice specially in Maharashtra of taking bath before sunrise with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders.
There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as Naivedya In villages cattle's are adorned and worshipped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. In south cows are offered special veneration as they are supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are adorned and worshipped on this day.
In South India that victory of the divine over the mundane is celebrated in a very peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise prepare blood by mixing Kumkum in oil 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.

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Govardhan-Puja :

is also performed in the North on the next day that follows the day of Diwali. It is the first day of the following fortnight of full moon. This day is also observed as Annakoot meaning mountain of food. In temples especially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given milkbath, dressed in shining attires with ornaments of dazzling diamonds, pearls, rubies and other precious stones. After the prayers and traditional worship innumerable varieties of delicious sweets are offered to the deities as "Bhog" and then the devotees approach and take Prasad.

In many Hindu homes it is a custom for the wife to put the red mark of tilak( made up of vermillion powder pasted with oil) on the forehead of her husband, garland him and do his "Aarathi" with a prayer for his long life. In appreciation of all the tender care that the wife showers on him, the husband gives her a costly gift. This Gudi Padwa is symbolic of love and devotion between the wife and husband. On this day newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals and given presents.

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Bhayya Duj :

Bhai duj The festival of Diwali is not complete without yet another festival, known by the name of "Bhayya-Duj" in the Hindi-speaking belt, "Bhav--Bij" in the Marathi-speaking communities, "Bhai Phota" to the Bengalees and in Nepal by the name of "Bhai-Tika". It is observed on the second day following Diwali or the new moon. As the legend goes Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yami on this particular day. She put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and led him with special dishes and both of them together ate the sweets, talked and enjoyed themselves to their heart's content, while parting Yamraj gave her a special gift as a token of his love and in return Yami also gave him a lovely gift which she had made with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister will never be thrown. That is why this day of Bhayyaduj is also known by the name of "Yama-Dwitiya" Since then this day is being observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It became also imperative for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhayya-duj.

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Kali Puja :

Also falls at this time, widely celebrated in Bengal. Click here to learn about Kali Puja

 

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