You know Diwali is around the corner when TV channels and newspapers get flooded with advertisements. I have always enjoyed the build-up to the festival – sprucing up of the house, shopping sprees, delectable snacks, decorative lamps, flowers, rangoli patterns and the light wintery chill that begins to set in.
One thing I do miss a lot is how my grandparents would round up all the children and share gripping narratives of why we celebrate Diwali – describing the myths, legends, and mystical mythological characters. So today, I am going to revisit these stories. All states across the length and breadth of India have varied customs and traditions when it comes to Diwali celebrations. The mythological stories vary too! The Diwali festivities go on for 5 days – starting with Dhanteras followed by Narka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali, Lakshmi Pooja, Goverdhan Pooja or Padwa and lastly Bhai Dooj or Bhau Beej. There are stories for each one of them! Here are just some of those stories –
Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu visit Earth
Goddess Lakshmi wanted to visit Earth and she insisted that Lord Vishnu accompanied her. He agreed to come on two conditions – firstly, she would never look towards the south and secondly, she would not get attached to earthly temptations. Goddess Lakshmi agreed to those conditions and the two visited Earth. With every passing minute, she found it more and more difficult to resist the temptation of looking towards the south. She finally broke her promise, started walking south. There, she was mesmerized by the yellow flowers and the sugarcane in a poor farmer’s bund. Soon she wore those yellow flowers and started enjoying the sweet sugarcane juice. Seeing that Goddess Lakshmi had broken her promise, Lord Vishnu got furious and asked her to serve the farmer for 12 years.
After enlisting Goddess Lakshmi’s services, the poor farmer’s fortunes changed. He became wealthy and prosperous. 12 years passed and Lord Vishnu returned to take Goddess Lakshmi back with him. However, the farmer refused and didn’t budge, paying no heed to Lord Vishnu’s numerous requests. Goddess Lakshmi finally revealed her true identity and the astonished farmer bowed down and agreed to let her go. Before leaving, Goddess Lakshmi promised that she would come visit the farmer every year on the night of Krishna Trayodashi before Diwali. The ecstatic farmer agreed and every year before that night, he cleaned his house, placed lamps around his house and kept his door open, waiting for Goddess Lakshmi to visit. And that’s how the tradition began.
Lesson to learn – If you keep your homes and your environment clean, prosperity is bound to follow.
Satyabhama kills Narkasura
Bhumi Devi was Lord Vishnu’s bhakt and she prayed to him every day with all her heart. Impressed by her dedication, he decided to grant her with one boon. Bhumi Devi asked for her son Narkasura’s long life. According to the boon, only she could take Narkasura’s life. After Bhumi Devi’s death, Narkasura became immortal! He turned into an aggressive, greedy and powerful demon, who thanks to this boon ruled both the earth and the heaven. He assaulted the devas and even Lord Indra escaped as he couldn’t stop the demon. Narkasura then went on to steal Aditi’s earrings and kidnapped 16,000 women. All the devas and celestial beings felt helpless and went to Lord Vishnu to seek his help.
Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) knew that his wife Satyabhama was an incarnation of Bhumi Devi. So he asked Satyabhama to be his charioteer as he mounted an attack on Narkasura’s great fortress. In the battle, Krishna got hit by Narkasura’s arrow. This angered Satyabhama. She took the bow and released an arrow aiming right at the demon, killing him immediately. It is said that to remove the blood stains of Narkasura and cleanse himself thoroughly, Krishna had a bath with various aromatic oils and powders.
Lesson to be learnt – Good always triumphs the evil.
Padwa or Bali Pratipada
Diwali Padwa is also referred to as Bali Pratipada. King Bali was a noble and a generous king, but he was at the behest of a demon. One day Lord Vishnu came to rescue him in the form of a dwarf called Vaman. After rescuing him from the demon, King Bali thanked Vaman and very kindly offered to fulfil any wish he may have. Vaman then told King Bali that he would take three steps and the land underneath his feet would become his. King Bali agreed to grant this wish. King Bali was the King of the three worlds and felt that Vaman’s wish was very trivial.
Vaman then grew bigger and bigger and took his first giant step which covered the entire planet of earth. He then took the second step which landed on the worlds beyond earth. Vaman then asked King Bali where he should place the third step. King Bali realised the true identity of Lord Vishnu and humbly bowed down and asked Lord Vishnu to place the third step on his head. Lord Vishnu agreed and then took the third step. It pushed King Bali to Patal or the netherworlds. Impressed by King Bali’s commitment to dharma, Lord Vishnu granted him a boon – on every fourth day following the Amavasya period, he would come into the real world and rule for that one day.
Lesson to be learnt – Follow the path of righteousness in any given circumstance.
Many people in the north of India celebrate this day as a commemoration of the day when Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan hill on his little finger and saved the people of Gokul from the deluge sent by the angry Lord Indra.
Lesson to be learnt – Never let ego and pride affect your decisions
Sister Varni finally meets her brother Yama
Lord Surya gets married to a beautiful Princess named Samjna (Sangya). They both happily live in heaven. After a year, Samjna gives birth to twins – Varni and Yama. However, since Samjna is unable to bear the radiation of the Sun God, she decides to leave heaven and return to Earth. She leaves her shadow, Chayya, in heaven so that the Sun God doesn’t notice her disappearance. Chayya, however, turns out to be a cruel stepmother to Varni and Yama. After giving birth to her own children, she convinces the Sun God to drive Samjna’s kids out of heaven. Thus, Varni returns to Earth, becomes Yamuna and marries a beautiful prince, while Yama goes to the underworld and becomes the King of Death.
Having been separated for a long period of time, both Yama and Yamuna are longing to meet each other. Yama finally decides to meet his sister one day. On hearing the news of her brother’s visit, Yamuna is extremely thrilled and prepares a great feast for her brother. Pleased, Yama tells Yamuna that he would be happy to grant one of her wishes. Yamuna thus asks Yama to promise that he will never forget his sister and will visit her every year, two days after Diwali. This is how the tradition of Bhai Dooj began.
Lesson to be learnt – Always remember your loved ones.
These are just some of the fascinating stories that have been passed on from one generation to the next. Hope you share these stories with your young ones and enjoy the Diwali celebrations. Happy Diwali!