Namaskaram Swamigaru, Namaskaram to all.
Offering prayers of gratitude and worshipping many- to- all Gods and Goddess ,esp., Sri Lakshmi devi and celebrating with sweets, clothes, flowers-lotuses, bilva leaves, sri phal, jaiphal, fruits, crackers, gold/silver jewellery, money all with – Lighting earthen/clay deepams in rows-Deepamaalika – festival of lights- is Deepotsavam / Deepavali/ Diwali – is a bright and sparkling fest of seasonal harvest, that occurs at the juncture of rainy – autumn season in the darkest days of the month, with seasonal naivedyams too!.
During this time the sun is distanced far in the south/dakshinayana and there is low temperature with increased moisture content/humidity both in air/atmosphere and soil, and thus cold weather marks the beginning of winter, seasonal shift occurs to which our health has to gear up /adjust to climatic changes— in addition mother earth, after the rains is adorned beautifully green. This greenery, humidity, wet soil, cold air- homes in numerous microorganisms and insects, which when not controlled are responsible for various diseases. In addition moon is at peak of its waning phase, darkest nights. So the festival- Deepavali is all about maintaining our health by any and all ways possible means and to show gratitude /thanks giving to nature, GOD, Goddess and all.
The arogya pradata, as the Sun is far- distanced, we invite/invoke and worship two very important deities to preserve our health: to start, on day one / 5 day festival:
1. Dhanvantari Jayanti/ Dhana Trayodashi /Dhanteras: as Maha Vishnu incarnated as Dhanvantari, god of ayurveda/physician of gods, on this day with nectar pot/amrutham- during samudra manthan. Two in one go we celebrate his birthday as well as worship him to bless us with good health. since Covid-19, many homas are performed to please HIM.
2. Yama devata, God of death– as infections and diseases are wildly prevalent now, we light Yama deepam towards south to please and appease Yama deva and pray to Him to ward off the untimely deaths.
On 2nd day, Naraka chaturdasi:
1.Our pitris/ancestors do visit on pitru paksha, during last month and return back to their abode on naraka chaturdashi day (our 1 month is 1 day for them)- to aide/guide their path and to refrain them from going to naraka, in the darkest hours- the lamps are lit.
2. To protect health – lighting deepams begin in full swing. This increases temperature, reduces moisture/humidity in air and also aids in destroying microorganisms/ insects.
3. As cold air cracks the skin, for healthy skin – abhyanga snanam- massage with til oil(also induces heat) and bathing with ubtan to peel of dead skin came into vogue.
Few puranic stories that are associated are: the day marks the celebration of death of Narakasura (s/o Bhoodevi), killed by Sri Krishna and Satyabhama devi and the return of Sri Rama to Ayodhya . Whereas the festival traces back its roots to King Saagar of Ikshvaku dynasty(ancestor of Sri Rama), King Karthaveeryarjuna of Hyheya dynasty, who existed long back, before the legends.
On the Amavasya, darkest day of month- 3rd day of festival:
1.Very important at subtle level-as Sun is far, and also moon is in the last phases of waning , so lot of negative energy surrounds mother earth- as we all know significance/benefits of deepam, lighting deepams alone drives away negativity/tamas guna and enhances ojas, the positive energy/sattvic guna around us.
2. Linked with the point of sattvic guna- I was like? Why a particular God/Goddess is worshipped? As all our festivals are seasonal and very valid reason lies beyond every deity chosen for a particular festival. So to me, it meant (assuming) all Gods fall asleep during Dakshinayana, and even when at home too, when father is sleeping we go to mother for our needs as we know we can disturb her without second thought. So mother Goddess SRI is all ears now but mother SRI in the form of Lakshmi devi/Sridevi, iccha shakti(of tridevis), is embodiment of saatvik guna, is right choice/chosen deity. Her presence chases away negativity/tamas guna, or balances the tamasic energy in the atmosphere, which is the need of the hour. So Lakshmi Devi as Sri devi( Goddess of fortune) is invoked, – thus She blesses us with spiritual knowledge and prosperity.
And also Lakshmi devi is Bhoodevi herself, consort of Sri Varahaswamy(Maha Vishnu avatar) and as many times Lakshmi devi incarnated in the form of Sita devi (w/o Sri Rama), Padmavati devi(w/o Sri Venkateshwara), Godadevi(w/o Sri Ranganatha), She was found in the earth(ayonija) each time. Thus Lakshmi devi as Bhoodevi, mother earth only can take care of all beings, so She is also revered to grant materialistic/(arth)wealth and prosperity.
In sri suktam too –Jataveda is requested to invoke Sri Lakshmi devi for us—a clue here again is Jataveda, the Agni devata is the mediator /deliverer of oblations offered in sacrifices(yagna). Agnihotra is the gateway to Gods. By lighting deepam (or mini agnihotra) at home we open the doors, through this Agni/deepam GODs reach us. In short Lakshmi devi, as Sridevi and Bhoodevi, is said to enter ones home if a lamp is lit in their home. This goes like, the more the number of lamps one can light, one will in turn mega welcome Devi and make Her more happier. The more one pleases HER, the more blessed one becomes.
6. Sri Ganesha, the first to start off is honored to avoid obstacles as for any auspicious work. Also it is said Lakshmi resides in the kumbha sthana(forehead) of elephant, so it becomes much more necessary /obligation to pray and please HIM.
7. Kubera, Treasurer of Gods, & also as his birthday falls on same day, is revered along with Kauberini to bless us and to distribute wealth and prosperity to all.
Bali Padyami/Pratipada : on 4th day
Bali Maharaj, is praised and prayed for being the iconic eg., of bhakti in the form of surrender, what else one wants to ask for, when Sri Trivikrama puts His foot on one’s head, such unique profound infinite blessing, Bali was fortunate of . He is also worshipped for being the future Indra, 1/3 boons granted for his Bhakti.
On 5th day: Bhai dhooj(akin to Rakshabandhan) and Bhagini hastha bhojanam (similar lines) rituals follow based on Yami and Yama story.
Burning crackers– is a custom induced-which adds further light, color and fun filled with loads of kids laughter and game to watch. The smoke that emanates is actually lethal to disease causing organisms, so to have safe and Green Deepavali minimalistic burning of crackers helps.
Therefore by lighting deepams and praying to Gods and Goddesses we not only drive away the outer darkness but also light up our inner dark ignorant body- earthen lamp (bahya-antara) and kindle the light of knowledge within us-Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya.