Divali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated throughout India over a series of days in the months of Ashvin and Kartik (occuring between October and November in the Western calendar). This festival comprises four celebrations: Govatsa Dvadashi, Dhanteras, Narak Chaturdashi, and Divali itself.
The Hindi name Divali derives from the Sanskrit dipavali, which means "row of lamps." During the festival, small clay lamps, diyas, are lit, signifying the triumph of divine light. Divali celebrates the inner light—the light of the Self, the light that illumines all creation.
Monday, October 16, 2017
The first day of the Divali celebrations is Govatsa Dvadashi. It is a tradition in India to offer puja to cows and calves on the evening of this day, as the sun is setting. Cows are considered one of the most sacred animals in India, and performing puja to cows is a way to honor the divine power that exists in all animals and in nature. Before the puja, the cowsheds are cleaned and decorated with mango leaves and flowers, and lamps are lit. People worship the cows by placing fragrant oils, sandalwood paste, and kumkum on their foreheads, and then performing arati to the cows and feeding them sweets.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
On Dhanteras, Goddess Mahalakshmi and Lord Kubera, the deities who embody wealth and prosperity, are worshiped. It is traditional to offer gold to the Guru—in the form of gold coins, for example—as well as gold-colored fruits, flowers, and cloths. As a symbolic offering of gold, many Siddha Yogis give dakshina.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
On this day, Lord Krishna conquered the demon Naraka. It is traditional to take a ritual oil bath on Narak Chaturdashi to receive blessings from Shri Lakshmi and the sacred river Ganges. In India it is believed that taking this bath before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky, is equivalent to taking a bath in the holy Ganges.
The night of Narak Chaturdashi is one of the three most auspicious nights of the year according to the panchanga, the traditional Indian calendar.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Divali commemorates Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya with his wife, Sita, and his brother Lakshmana. Their fourteen-year exile ended after Lord Rama and his army vanquished the demon Ravana. In joyous celebration at the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya illuminated his pathway with earthen oil lamps; the whole of Ayodhya was decorated with diyas.
Divali is a time of both completion and new beginnings, filled with the spirit of friendliness, generosity, and goodwill. On this day, the Goddess Mahalakshmi is worshiped. She resides in places that are orderly, clean, and beautiful. To welcome her, people clean their homes and offices and put up decorations. They also honor Mahalakshmi by preparing special food, performing puja, and performing spiritual practices.
Friday, October 20, 2017
The day after Divali is Bali Pratipada, which commemorates when Lord Vishnu, as the dwarf Vamana, conquered King Bali. In the state of Gujarat, and in some parts of Maharashtra, Bali Pratipada is celebrated as the beginning of the new year. Bali Pratipada is filled with the vibrant energy of new beginnings, and it is one of the three-and-a-half most auspicious days of the year. It is a time to formulate intentions and resolutions, to renew friendships, and to clear conflicts.
On this day, people wear new clothes, exchange gifts and sweets, and ask for blessings from their elders. Businesspeople honor this new beginning by starting new ledger books. This clearing of the ledgers makes room for Mahalakshmi to enter.
It is traditional to spend this day doing things one wants to do for the rest of the year. On the Siddha Yoga path, we celebrate Bali Pratipada by making a resolution for our sadhana, engaging in the spiritual practices, and offering our gratitude to Shri Guru for the Siddha Yoga teachings.