In this era of nuclear families, where we experience clashes and misunderstandings, the survival and dignified growth of family relationships becomes a concern.
Diwali is not only a festival of lights but also the festival of family relations and celebration.
In Ancient India, for the optimum fulfillment, satisfaction and peace in one’s life, it was advised to live one’s life since childhood to the end, in a simplified four stages with assigned duties also called ‘Varnashramadharma’.
The human lifespan was divided into four major periods. The child begins life with Brahmacharya stage as a student, then progresses to the Grihastha stage of a householder, then retires to Vanaprastha stage and finally accepts the Sanyasa stage of renunciation. The Grihasthashrama stage is represented after the marriage of an individual, when he begins his family life and was considered the most important of all stages in the social, cultural and economic context of life.
Mostly, all the festivals in India, are centered around this concept of celebration with family and friends, highlighting a specific concern, like holi, etc. However Diwali celebrates the Grihastha stage to the fullest as it focuses on highlighting the need to enjoy and appreciate each member of the family with deserving importance, their mutual bonding with others and also their wealth and prosperity, like almost a complete package of a five day celebration of coordination of members of family, respect, affection, care and sharing, human values of forgiving, gratitude and humility.
Often considered one of the biggest festivals in India, Diwali that begins on the onset of autumn, is celebrated with a lot of fanfare and is mentioned in the Skanda Purana and Padma Purana, indicates the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
The grand five day celebrations begin with Dhanteras (the festival of wealth) or Dhanatrayodashi. Lord Dhanvantari – the God of health and ayurveda is worshipped on this day. It is considered an extremely auspicious day to make new purchases for family or business, to buy new ‘dhan’, some form of precious metals especially Gold or Silver articles and new utensils.
The second day, Naraka chaturdashi also known as Kali Chaudas or choti Diwali is a very beautiful day for the family bonding and fun moments. It is also the day to abolish laziness and evil. Families wake up before sunrise and begin the day with ‘abhyanga snan’ or sacred bath before dawn with ‘ubtan’ or holy scrub. They rub the holy scrub off over their entire body, before bath and it’s believed that all your worries are warded off and happiness fulfills your life, cleansing your mind of negativity too. Early morning, the house is decorated with diyas and rangolis drawn with rangoli powder or made with flowers to welcome goddess Lakshmi into the house and to bring colour and joy in our hearts. An elaborate breakfast of traditional delicacies specific to Diwali is enjoyed. In the evening, people go to each others houses, enjoy with relatives and friends, exchange gifts and sweets as an expression of love, warmth, togetherness, respect, thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation for our near and dear ones.
Legend has it that people of ayodhya decorated the entire town with diyas to celebrate Lord Ram’s return to ayodhya from fourteen years exile.
The third day of Diwali is celebrated as the Lakshmi Pujan, According to legend, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and lord Vishnu’s wife, visits her devotees and bestows gifts and blessings upon each of them. In the evening of Lakshmi Pujan, people open their doors and windows to welcome Lakshmi, with diya lights on their windowsills and balcony ledges. The mothers, who work hard all year, are recognized by the family. They are seen to embody a part of Lakshmi, the good fortune and prosperity of the household.
The fourth day is Diwali Padwa or Bali Pratipada, which celebrates the bond between the wife and husband. The wife normally gets dressed in her traditional wear with jewellery and prays for the long life, wealth and prosperity of her husband and husband reciprocates his love and care towards his wife with gifts and blessings. Married daughters and son-in-laws are also honoured with gifts and sweets on Padwa.
The five-days of Diwali conclude with Bhau beej, a day dedicated to the bond of brothers and sisters, also called as Bhai dooj, or Bhai Tika, signifying the duty of a brother to protect his sister, as well as a sister’s blessings for her brother. It is also a day to forgive and forget any mutual tensions or negatively and continue relations with affection, sister’s sincerest prayers for a long and happy life of her brother. Brothers also gift their sisters while sisters welcome them with a delicious meal.
Thus Diwali underlines the concept of how the Grihasthashrama stage in a person’s life may be enjoyed for happiness, while discharging responsibilities. The fun element in the family coordination is brought out well in Diwali, while learning to be together and care for one another, including the relatives and neighbours. We all know about these concepts and human values but Diwali reminds us of our greatest wealth and resource that lies in our family, our integral support system.