Diwali is celebrated as the festival of lights and every city with Hindu heritage will be lit, literally. But do you know the reasons behind this celebration? Here are 10 reasons that we celebrate the festival of light – Diwali / Deepawali.
1. The Legends of King Mahabali
In the Bhagavad Purana, there are verses that talk about how Vishnu in his fifth incarnation as Vamana rescues Laxmi from the prison of King Mahabali. Also known as Bali, Mahabalai was a powerful demon king who was ruling the earth then. He had been granted a boon by Brahma that he could be invincible and no gods can defeat him in battles. Though he was wise, he was violent while dealing with Devas.
Upon the requests of the gods, Vishnu disguised himself as a Brahmin and went to Mahabali for some offerings. The righteous Mahabali couldn’t refuse Brahmin’s offer and Vishnu in the avatar form tricked him to submit all his kingship and wealth, which included Laxmi to him. Thus, this day falls on Diwali and is marked to celebrate how Vishnu overcame Mahabali.
2. The death of Narakasura
There used to live a ferocious demon by the name of Narakasura who had acquired great powers. He had been ruling over the heavens and earth and spread tyranny across all dimensions. While there are different versions to who killed Narakasura, one version states that Krishna, the avatar of Vishnu, killed Narakasura on the day before Diwali and saved 16,000 women who had been imprisoned by Narakasura, eventually going on to marry them. The occasion for the defeat of Narakasura was celebrated with grand feasts and lightings.
3. The Return of Pandavas
Mahabharata talks about the time when Pandavas returned back from their 12 years of vanabaas as they had lost to the hands of Kauravas while gambling. To mark this joyous day, the people in Hastinapura illuminated the place with bright earthen lamps and the tradition is maintained to today.
4. The Return of Rama after defeating Ravana
In the story of Ramayana, Lord Rama returns to his capital Ayodhya in about 21 days after defeating Ravana in Lanka. He came back with his wife Sita and his brother Laxman. Everyone celebrated the homecoming of their King by lighting up their houses with diyas and decorating the city in a grand manner. The occasion was then celebrated every year on the same day.
5. Coronation of Vikramaditya
In India, the legendary King Vikramaditya was known for his wisdom, valor, and magnanimity, and was responsible for the victory over Sakas during 56 BC. This occasion was celebrated on the day of Diwali, and thus the celebration has not only mythical values but also historical values in India.
6. Enlightenment of Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Sami Dayananda Saraswati is one of the greatest reformers of Hindu dharma, and he became the Maharshi Dayananda (the great sage) after attaining nirvana in 1875. This day was the new moon day of Kartik. He even established Arya Samaj, the society of nobles, to eradicate evils that were poisoning Hindu dharma in the era.
7. Enlightenment of Vardhamana Mahavira
Vardhamana Mahavira (the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankaras of Jains and the founder of modern Jainism) achieved his enlightenment on Oct 15, 527 B.C., which resided during Diwali. Thus, Jain celebrates on the day of Diwali for their own occasion as it stood as the celebration of the emancipation of human spirit from earthly desires.
8. Special Day for Sikhs
On the day of Diwali, the third Sikh Guru Amar Das held the gathering among the Sikhs to give his blessings and institutionalized the festival of lights as the same occasion every year. The sixth leader of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind Ji, who had been held by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in Gwalior fort had been released on this day. The Golden Temple at Amritsar was also laid on the same day in 1577.
9. Kali Puja
Also known as Shyama Kali, Kali is the first of 10 avatars of Durga. Durga is Shiva’s consort. Legend has it that in one of the battles where the gods lost, Kali was born from the forehead of Goddess Durga. She is the personification of Nari Shakti and her meaning in birth was to save heaven and earth from the cruelty of demons. But after killings all the devils, Kali lost her control and killed everyone who came near her. This stopped only when Shiva intervened.
This day has been commemorated and celebrated as Kali Puja, which is done specifically to seek her help to destroy evil – both internal and external.
10. The Harvest Festival
This is also the time of the year when the rice cultivation gives its fruits. Since India is an agro-economic society, the harvest holds great value for celebration.