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The Deepavali - Diwali festival
on the 15th day of the descending mooncycle in the month of Kartik

Heidi Rauhut
Aum Gang Ganapataye Namah Aum
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The Deepavali - Diwali festival

The copper lota with carbon deposits
Making a deepavali lamp
Part of the kandil (lampshade)
Deepavali lamp detail
Lighting the deepavali lamp
The puja place is ready

Deepavali - the festival of rows (avali) of light (deep) - is the joyous celebration of Lord Ram's victorious return to Ayodhya. During his exile of 14 years Lord Ram defeated the powerful demon king Ravana.

Dhanwantari Treeyodashi

Deepavali - or Deevali - the festival of lights is actually a four days series of festivals starting with Dhan Teras or Dhanvantari Treeyodashi. Two days prior to Deepavali, on the 13th day of the descending mooncycle in the sin-destroying month of Kartik (October/November), Hindus worship Lord Dhanvantari, the Cosmic Physician with the healing touch, who appeared with the vessel of amrit (nectar of eternal life) during the famous "samudra manthan", the "churning of the ocean".

Lord Dhanvantari is often called "the father of Ayurveda" - the science (veda) of long life (ayu) as the traditional Indian medicine system is called. On the Dhanteras day, Lord Dhanvantaris birthday is celebrated, everyone purchases a new household utensil made from silver, copper, brass, or any other metal. The vessel is filled with puffed rice and kept at the shrine where Lakshmi will be worshipped in the darkest night. It is believed that during the Diwali puja Dhanvantari deposits health and Lord Kubera (the God of wealth) deposits riches in it. The word dhan means also wealth and Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, includes good health. And honestly, what would be wealth without good health?

Narak Chaturdashi

The following day is the 14 th day in the descending moon cycle of Kartik. On this day Narak Chaturdashi is celebrated, "Narak" literally means hell, and Narakasura was once upon a time a terrible demon (naraka) on earth, who was defeated by Lord Krishna and his noble wife Rukmini.

Rubbing the body with oil and taking bath before dawn is believed to be of specially great value on Narak Chaturdashi and the day after. Oil acts as a great purifier and rejuvenator. Ancient scriptures mention that during the hours of dawn before Chaturdasi, the new moon day, when the sun is in the zodiac sign Libra, water anywhere in the world is getting the quality of the holy Ganga water and has the power to purify all and everything, and all oil becomes saturated with the auspicious presence of Sri Mahalakshmi.

In North India ladies perform a puja in the evening while they squat at the open main entrance of the house near a "nala" (open canalisation) and recite a traditional story in the light of a mustard oil lamp. A copper or silver lota (vessel) is held or placed near the mustard oil flame and the carbon that deposits on the vessel is later applied to the eyes of all family members as "kajal" (protection for the eyesight). It is believed that by doing so one will not feel afraid if one happens to meet the Lord of Death, Lord Yama, in the coming new year.

The story of Naraka-Chaturdasi

"Once upon a time an extreme lazy and depressed Brahmin lady and her daughter met Yama Raj, the Lord of Death. Both of them consulted him because they felt extremely bored and depressed due to their own laziness. They asked Yama how to get rid of their boredom. Yama Raj felt compassion for them and said, "You may come with me and help me taking care of my children!"

The ladies agreed and started working for the Lord of Death. But soon they felt bored and lazy again. Again they complained to Yama Raj, who said, "Well, what to do? I cannot help you. If you feel so much fed up with any kind of job, it's better you change your form, become a worm and spent your days in the drains where you can sit comfortably and feed on what others have already digested. After hearing this the ladies became what Dharma Raj (another name for the Lord of Death) had suggested. After a long time of remaining in the incarnation of a worm in the drains they again got fed up with the lowest of lower existence. And they prayed to the Lord of Death again. Again the Lord of Death showed compassion. He said that even in the form of the lowest creatures of existence they could get liberated if they happen to crawl near a nala (open canalisation) where ladies perform this ritual, and if a drop of the water used during this ritual is dropping upon them they will be purified and liberated."

As soon as some lower creatures, like worms, bucks, or insects are passing by while the story is narrated the ladies compassionately sprinkle a few drops of their puja water (which contains Ganga water) on those lower forms of existence for their liberation.

Deepavali (Diwali)

The main Deepavali - the festival full of lights - is celebrated during "Kartik Amavasya", the darkest night in the descending mooncycle of the lunar month called Kartik. Already at dawn people massage their body with oil followed by a Ganga bath (or a symbolic bath with some drops of water of the holy river Ganga) for purifaction. Hindu scriptures state that all water that is also used by the light of the stars becomes Gangajal. That explains why many saints and spiritual aspirants take bath very early in the morning preferable even before sunrise.

Shopkeepers and businessmen open their new account books on this day while chanting repeatedly the name of Sri Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, who plays a central role in this festival.

Traditionally artists depict the lotus-goddess Lakshmi in two different images. Whenever she appears with her divine husband, Lord Vishnu, she is shown with just two arms. On Deepavali, when she is seen in company of Lord Ganesha, the obstacle remover and Lord of all auspicious beginnings, she has four arms. In one or two of her hands she holds a lotus, with the third hand she grants fearlessness and blessings to her devotees, and in her forth hand she holds a golden pitcher from which she showers gold coins distributing prosperity and thus reminding us that all kind of riches comes from a divine source.

Lakshmi is that divine principle that supports the earth and her devotees with inexhaustible material and spiritual wealth and comfort. Her true devotees will be humble and aware that they are mere trustees of wealth in any form, which in a true sense comes from HER and belongs to HER.

Wealth should be honoured as a part of the Divine, and used intelligently. A good part of "one's" wealth should be spent for noble purposes and human welfare. It is said, that money and wealth, i.e. Lakshmi, can only stay in a "light" or "sattvic" atmosphere, i.e. where dharma , virtue and goodness, prevail. That means, if we want to invite Lakshmi to stay with us, we should be aware what we eat, whose company we keep, and how we behave with others.

After the rainy season people like to clean and whitewash their houses and give away their old and useless things. With the cleaning and clearing up of outer spaces a process of inner purification brings glow and a feeling of lightness to body, mind, and soul.

Lakshmi is often portrait as sitting on an eight petaled lotus as a symbol of perfect happiness. Pictures depict eight forms of her known as "Ashta Lakshmi" (eight Lakshmis). Those eight forms are representing eight aspects of the Goddess which her devotees apprechiate the most: Adhi Lakshmi or also Vara Lakshmi (when she grants all kinds of boons), Dhana Lakshmi (when she grants wealth), Dhanya Lakshmi (when she grants abundance of food and grain), Santhana Lakshmi (when she blesses couples with children), Vidya Lakshmi (when she grants knowledge), Virya Lakshmi (when she grants courage, bravery, strength), Vijaya Lakshmi (when she grants victory), and Aishwarya Lakshmi (when she grants glory, grandeur and success).

Additional forms of Lakshmi - also known by the names of Sri, Kamla, Padma or Indra - are: Bhagya Lakshmi (the one who gives good fortune), Gaja Lakshmi (the one who gives power), Vaibhav Lakshmi (gives fame).

The Mantra of goddess Lakshmi grants all kind of prosperty :

Aum Shreeng Mahaalakshmyey Namah

Salutations to the goddess of good fortune, prospertiy and beauty

Aum is the primordial sound, its utterance opens our innermost being to the vibration of higher reality.

Shreeng is the seed sound of Mahaalakshmi.

Mahaalakshmyey means one who grants all forms of prosperity.

Namah means bowing the head with devotion.

Let us celebrate the festival of lights keeping the spiritual significance of light in mind. Light is a symbol for knowledge. In the light of inner wisdom and spiritual knowledge we all can grow in every aspect of life.

The main oil lamp in front of the shrine will be kept burning throughout the darkest night. The one who watches over it can repeat the Mantra of the goddess continuously.

Happy, blessed and prosperous Deepavali to all !

Heidi Rauhut
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Aum Gang Ganapataye Namah Aum