The glorious and rich multicultural heritage of India is adorned with a plethora of fascinating festivals that celebrate the very essence of this nation i.e. unity in diversity. Diwali is certainly one of the most significant Hindu festivals celebrated across India. During the festive season of Diwali, an electrifying wave of good cheer, wellbeing and vivacity runs across the nation. Regional diversities in the celebrations and rituals related to this festival can be clearly seen throughout the nation; however, the underlying theme remains the same, which inspires people to have faith in the power of good and remain unfazed no matter how strong evil might be. This article explores many subtle as well as apparent differences in the festive celebrations of Diwali in southern and northern India. In Southern India, Diwali is celebrated a day before Deepavali celebrations held in North India. In the same way, while this charming festival of lights is popularly known as Diwali in northern parts of the country, in the south, it is generally referred to as Deepavali. Keep reading the article to find out more such interesting diversities.
Legends in North and South
Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival that has its origins traced through various mythological legends that find base in various ancient scriptures. In the North, the festival is celebrated to honor the legend as per which, on the new moon night of Kartik Amavasya, the beloved crowned prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama returned back to his kingdom, along with his pious wife Sita and devoted brother Laxman. It is said that the first Diwali was celebrated by his loyal subjects, when in order to show their happiness, they lit every nook and corner of the kingdom with earthen diyas to welcome their beloved prince.
However, in a contrast to this legend, South India celebrates Deepavali, a day ahead on the day of Narak Chaturdashi. They do so to honor the memory of vanquishment of a malicious demon named Naraksura at the hands of Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. It is said that this demon had become so powerful that he defeated the king of the deities, Lord Indra and abducted 16,000 innocent daughters of sages and deities. Therefore, to end his cruelty, Lord Krishna killed the demon and smeared his blood on his forehead as a mark of victory. To gain respectability for the rescued women, Lord Krishna gave them the status of his wives. After the battle when the lord returned to his home early before the breaking of the dawn, womenfolk massaged him with fragrant oil and bathed him to remove the grime of the battlefield. The mother of Narakasura, Bhudevi announced that this, indeed, was a day of celebration for all humankind. Since then, people light lamps and firecrackers on this day.
Celebrations in North and South
In South India, people wake up much before sunrise and apply a paste of kumkum and water on their forehead. After squashing bitter fruit under their foot and a hearty oil massage, they take the ritualistic bath. This entire ceremony symbolizes the legend of Narakasura. Houses are kept immaculate and doorways are adorned with rangoli, made from Kavi (red oxide). The rooms are festooned with beetle leaves, beetle nuts, fruits, flowers, sandal paste essence sticks, etc. Various delectable dishes like Ikaria, vela papa, idly, chutney, samba, mapped and bronchi are prepared to mark the occasion and cows are worshipped as incarnations of Goddess Lakshmi. In the evening, diyas and fireworks illuminate the darkness. Since south Indians believe that their ancestors visit them on this day, the favorite food of the diseased is served in front of their photographs on a banana leaf.
In North India, Diwali is celebrated on a much grander and extravagant scale than the South. Here, people begin to repaint and refurbish their houses months in advance. Markets overflow with latest products and shoppers. Houses, shops and offices are decorated with light bulbs, shimmering streamers and diyas on the eve of Diwali. The night sky is decked in bright spectacle of colors and sound by insistently bursting firecrackers. However, before all this revelry begins, a prayer ceremony dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha is performed on the eve of Diwali across all Hindu households in North India. People chant hymns and perform aartis to invoke the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to be the bestower of wealth as well as prosperity and Lord Ganesha, who is the deity of wisdom. Elaborate family get-togethers and exchange of gifts among near and dear ones is a common celebratory practice followed here.
Diwali is one of the most enthusiastically as well as lavishly celebrated bedazzling festivals of India.