Diwali Celebrations by Kashmiri Pandits

Diwali Celebrations by Kashmiri Pandits

Piyaray Lal Raina

October, 2000

ORIGIN The origin of Diwali is very obscure. However, present day beliefs for this celebration are as under :
Sage Kashyap was married to all the 13 daughters of Sage Daksha Prajapati and from the children born from his first wife ADIT were DEVAS whereas the children from his second wife DITI were DEMONS.  DEMONS were physically more powerful and scarred DEVAS who approached Lord VISHNU for help. He suggested away out. That was to churn the ocean for getting nectar, by drinking which the Devas could become immortal and out of reach of Demons harm. Devas agreed to his proposal and got ready for the job. 14 objects emerged from the churning of the ocean. Nectar was 12th which was readily consumed by Devas and they became GODS. 13th object was KAL-KOOT (poison) which no body was prepared to have. In order to save mother Earth from the pollution of poison Lord Shiva came forward to take it. He took it and held it in His throat. By this act His throat turned blue due to the effect of poison and hence He is called by the name of NEELKUNTH as well. Last object to emerge from the churning of the ocean was Goddess LAXMI seated in a lotus, holding precious jewels, wearing garland of imperishable Parijita flowers, looking prettier than anything known till then. She was immediately taken by Lord VISHNU as His consort. Ever since Laxmi came to be associated with not only good fortune and material wealth but also embodiment of loveliness gracefulness and charm.
The churning process started on  the 11th day of Kartik Krishan paksh and ended on Amavasya as per our Lunar calender.
Some believe Lord Ram (who is incarnation of Vishnu) returned home on this day after 14 years of exile along with his wife Sita (who is incarnation of LAXMI )
Hindus celebrate this day with great festivity. No other deity's worship requires as much massive cleaning except for Shivratri celebrations by our community. People decorate their houses much in advance in preparation of this festival. Some give a new paint to their homes  while others clean their homes thoroughly. This is the occasion for buying new things - a new home, a new car, furniture, clothes, utensils etc. In some parts of India celebrations last for one week starting from Ekadashi and ending two days after Amavasya. Since Laxmi is associated with material aspect of life, it is the most auspicious and important celebration for people associated with any business/commercial activity. It is the beginning of the fiscal year for their accounts/books.
On the day of Diwali people get up early in the morning and then put on new clothes, go to temples, and purchase lots of sweets and dry fruit for distribution among friends, relatives and collegues. They also purchase earthen lamps, candles, electric and electronic devices for illuminating their homes and business establishments. For children it is a day of merry making.  They enjoy by playing with crackers especially at night time. They also receive cash as Diwali Gifts. All government and private establishments remain closed on this day. Business houses reward their employees with gifts of cash and kind. In some homes gambling and drinking is considered part of celebration process. Winning is considered a sign of good luck for the coming year.
The elders of family keep a fast until evening. Goddess LAXMI along with God GANESH is worshipped after sunset. Some people purchase new 'murties' made of clay or silver or even gold. Prayers are offered with or without a family priest. Sweets, dry and fresh fruits, cereals flowers etc. are offered with prayers.
Deepawali is one of the oldest rituals for Kashmiri Pundits. We find a mention of its celebrations in Nilmat Puran. It was then celebrated as SUKHSUPTIKA which literally means sleep with happiness.  The celebration would start from Ekadeshi and last on Amavasya. On Amavasya elders of family would keep a fast and worship goddess LAXMI after sunset. Earthen lamps were placed in temples, on the road crossings, cremation grounds, banks of rivers, streams and lakes hills houses, at the foot of trees, cow sheds, court yards and shops. People would wear new clothes and listen to music.
With the passage of time some of these things have become obsolete but the tradition is still there. Since we were not used to eating Sweets in Kashmir, we substituted sweets with sweet puris and offered the same to  Lord NARAYAN (incarnation of Lord Vishnu).
On the whole we do not celebrate Diwili with the same gusto as is done by our Hindu brethren outside Kashmir. This could be due to the fact that we are Lord SHIVA worshipers. Diwali is primarily a worship of Lord VISHNU who is very popular in the plains of India.

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