this is a popular kannada poem that translates to Deepavali arrives bringing with it abundance and light.
We have been celebrating Diwali in the same age old manner for hundreds of years with crackers, oil sweets, heavy unhealthy food gambling and what not… are we really Sunita I am not sure.
Is it time we changed… well it is your life, it’s your call.
I have rewritten Deepavali over the years in my life Sunita, because the essence of life is change. The focus changes each year. Like everything in Hinduism festivals also satisfy the Dharma-artha Kama Moksha goals depending on what is that you seek in the festival.
Any festival is about celebrating, we celebrate because we acknowledge something a festival is also about gratitude.
I grew up in the conservative temple town of Udupi; Sunita gambling was never part of our Deepavali. For us Deepavali was about family, getting together, thanking nature and abundance. It was about preparing for the winter.
The celebration began for us on what we called “neeruthumbisuva habba” that is the festival of storing water. I remember the excitement we had when the water containers were emptied it was cleaned with tamarind and then wiped dry, after which a string of marigold would tied. We would wait for the privilege of painting the outer surface. This I think is what the northern part of the country would call dhanateras. This day also renders thanks to the two Yaksha’s Kubera and Dhanawantri, Kubera the divine treasurer and Dhanawantri the divine medicine brewer. Here we are actually acknowledging natures abundance of forest reserve and render gratitude.
The tradition of buying something gold is about saving through the year and investing so that there is some liquid asset available in the case of emergency.
The festival naraka chaturdashi on the day before new moon it is anointing oneself and having a ritual bath. This is the first day of this ritual which will happen every morning till the New moon of the month of Makara this is the way ancients handled the activation of VitD3 which is essential. Goa has an excellent tradition where all the garbage is collected an effigy of Narakasura the demon of debris and decay is burned, this is also acknowledging the debris and sends wing it away with honour.
The Lakshmi Puja on New Moon, when Lakshmi the goddess of abundance is welcomed. We do not realize that abundance is within us it for us to acknowledge and care for it. It is thanking nature for the abundance and all her gifts.
The day after the new moon the Bali Padya for us is the most important day, when we render gratitude to the great king Bali who emerges from the netherworld on the day of Onam oversees the harvest and returns to his domain when he knows that his subjects have enough to sustain them without destroying one another.
Balipadya is also the day for Go-puja again an agrarian link cows are very much part of the agrarian soceity, Though the advent of ISKCON and other cowbelt bhakti cults like to refer to this as Govardhan Puja, the worship of Krishna lifting the Govardhana giri, it is about worshiping Kamadehnu who is the personification of all cattle form, for their contribution in creating wealth and protecting abundance.
When it comes to buying new clothes, traditionally clothes were bought only twice a year once during Yugadhi or the New Year and once during Deepavali the kind of clothes were also different, oh! Yes when we received a new dress we had to give away a old one, the cycle was the one brought during Yugadhi would now come into everyday use, the one used on daily basis would become for home wear only and the home wear only would be relegated to status of a rag to mop or it would be given away to Bhagi’s the daily helps daughter.
As far as food goes since our every day is not rich in ghee or other fatteners, this was an occasional indulgence. And the food prepared was no doubt elaborate and various combinations of rice, fresh coconut, lentil and fresh vegetables. The first extract of sugarcane, the newly made jaggery would all be part of cookery after all a successful harvest does deserve to be celebrated.
Sunita, I realize that I cannot get the world to celebrate festivals the way I think it should be, but it cannot stop me for celebrating it the way I want to celebrate it either.
I welcome the winter with Lamps and ginger Leha, I thank the harvest by cooking the new rice in the fresh coconut yield and make kheer with fresh jaggery. I declutter my house thank Dhanawantri for giving the health and energy to do so. I thank Kubera for the comfortable life that I lead.
I pamper the child in me with some noiseless crackers. I honour the abundance in me, for each of us, you, me and the person on the street are all Lakshmi’s personification of abundance it is just a matter of acknowledging and accepting her within us.
Ps there are numerous myths that are related to this festival, I shall share them some other time.