Diwali - The Festival Of Lights

Discussion in 'Festivals & Special Days' started by Ashna, Oct 19, 2005.

  1. Ashna

    Ashna Bronze IL'ite

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    DIWALI CELEBRATIONS

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    India is a country that is culturally so rich that it celebrates one or the other festival almost every month. And most of these festivals have their origin in Indian Mythology and there is very interesting stories about them. It is the spiritual and religious richness in India that each festival is related to some or other deity. One of such festivals is the 'festival of lights', Deepawali.

    The festival of diwali is celebrated by the Indians throughout the world in a joyous mood with great zeal and enthusiasm. Diwali is not limited to just one-day celebration like many other Indian festivals but it is a unique one for it brings a series of festivals and holidays with itself. Diwali is the festival of worship of Goddess Lakshmi, lights, crackers, cleanliness, sweets, lots of shopping, happiness, togetherness and almost one week's holiday.

    Return of Shri Ram Chandra to Ayodhyaa

    The most famous legend behind the celebrations of diwali is about the prince of Ayodhya Nagri, Lord Shri Ram Chandra. The story goes like the king of Lanka, Ravan kidnapped Ram Chandra's wife, Sita from the jungle where they were staying as per the instructions of King Dashratha, father of Ram Chandra. Then Ram Chandra attacked Lanka and killed Ravan and released Sita from imprisonment. He returned to Ayodhyaa with his wife Sita and younger brother Lakshamana after fourteen years. Therefore the people of Ayodhyaa decorated their homes as well as the city of Ayodhyaa by lighting tiny diyas all over in order to welcome their beloved prince Shri Ram Chandra and Devi Sita.

    Incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi

    On the auspicious new moon day, which is 'Amavasyaa' of the Hindi month of Kartik the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi was incarnated. She appeared during the churning of the ocean, which is known as 'Samudra Manthan', by the demons on one side and 'Devataas' on the other side. Therefore the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, the Lakshmi Pujan, on the day of Divali became a tradition.

    Lord Krishna Destroyed Demon Narakasur

    One famous story behind the celebrations of Diwali is about the demon king Narakasur who was ruler of Pragjyotishpur, a province to the South of Nepal. During a war he defeated Lord Indra and snatched away the magnificent earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi who was not only the ruler of Suraloka but also a relative of Lord Krishna's wife, Satyabhama. Narakasur also imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of Gods and saints in his harem. With the support of Lord Krishna Satyabhama defeated Narakasur and released all the women from his harem and also restored the magnificent earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi.

    The Return of the Pandavas

    The great Hindu epic 'Mahabharata' has another interesting story related to the 'Kartik Amavasyaa'. The story reads that 'the Pandavas', the five brothers Yudhishthhira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahdeva, were sentenced thirteen years banishment as a result of their defeat against 'the Kauravas', Duryodhana and his ninety nine brothers, at the game of dice. Therefore they spent thirteen years in the jungles and returned to their kingdom on the day of 'Kartik Amavasyaa'. On their return the people of their kingdom welcomed the Pandavas by celebrating the event by lighting the earthen lamps all over in their city.

    Coronation of King Vikramaditya

    Another legend or story about diwali celebrations relates to one of the greatest Hindu King Vikramaditya. It was the day when he was coroneted and the people celebrated this event by lighting tiny earthen 'diyas'.
    Diwali is the festival, which means celebration one after another, each day with a new philosophy.


    Diwali Date 2005
    In 2005 Diwali will be falling on Tuesday 1, November.

    Diwali 2006
    In 2006 Diwali will be falling on Saturday 21, October
     
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  2. Ashna

    Ashna Bronze IL'ite

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    DIWALI - CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS

    DIWALI - CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS
    Diwali is the festival, which means celebration one after another, each day with a new philosophy. Many interesting rituals and traditions have attached themselves to Diwali and one can find a little regional variation in them in different parts of India.

    First Day -Dhanateras

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    The first day of the festival of diwali begins with Dhanvantari Trayodashi (Dhanwantari Trayodashi), which is the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha, of the Hindu month of Kartik. Dhanvantari Trayodashi is popularly known as Dhan-teras. Legends have it that Lord Dhanwantari (Lord Dhanwantari) came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic on this day for the welfare of the mankind. The people worship Lord Yamaraj, the God of death, on this day and light a 'Yama-Diya' in the night to offer prayers to Him. Purchasing a new utensil by the people on this day is also a tradition related with Dhanvantari Trayodashi.

    The festival of Dhanteras is also known by the names of Dhantrayodashi and Dhanvantari Trayodashi (Dhanwantari Trayodashi). It is the festival that marks the beginning of the diwali celebrations and therefore it is considered the first day of five days long festivities of diwali. The term 'dhanteras' consists of two factors 'dhan', which literally means wealth and 'teras', which means thirteenth. Here thirteenth is meant to indicate the day 'Trayodashi', on which dhanteras falls. Dhanvantari Trayodashi (Dhanwantari Trayodashi) is celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha, of the Hindu month of Kartik, that is two days before diwali.

    Dhanteras Legends

    Legends have it that Lord Dhanvantari who is the physician of the Gods and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu came out of the ocean that was churned by the Gods and the demons on the day of dhanteras. Lord Dhanvantari appeared with Ayurvedic for the welfare of the mankind.



    Another interesting story famous about dhanteras is related to the son of King Hima and his intelligent wife. It was predicted about him that he would die on the fourth day of his marriage. And the reason behind his death would be snakebite. When his wife came to know about such a prediction she decided not to let her husband die and for this she made a plan. On the fourth day of their marriage she collected all the jewellery and wealth at the entrance of her husband's boudoir and lighted lamps all around the place. And she started telling stories and singing songs one after another in order to not let her husband sleep. In the mid night Lord Yama, the God of death arrived there in guise of a snake. The bright lights of the lamps lit by the wife of the king's son blinded His eyes and he could not enter their chamber. Therefore Lord Yama found a place to make himself comfortable on top of the heap of the jewellery and wealth and kept sitting there for the whole night waiting to get a chance to bite the king's son. But as the wife of the king's son kept telling stories and singing songs for the whole night therefore he could not get any chance and in the morning he left the place quietly. Thus the wife saved her husband's life from the cruel clutches of death.



    Since then the day of dhanteras is also known as the day of 'Yamadeepdaan' and it has become a tradition to light a diya on dhanteras and to keep it burning throughout the night in reverential adoration of Lord Yama, the God of death.

    Dhanteras Celebrations

    The people worship Lord Yamaraj, the God of death, on this day and light a 'Yama-Diya' in the night to offer prayers to Him to bless them with prosperity, well being and protection.



    The people purchase a new utensil, silver or gold coin or some other precious metal as a sign of good luck on the day of dhanteras. This is also a tradition related with celebrations of the festival of Dhanvantari Trayodashi.



    The day of dhanteras has great importance for the mercantile community of Western India.



    There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as Naivedya.


    In the rural areas the cultivators worship their cattle because they form the main source of their income and livelihood.
     
  3. Ashna

    Ashna Bronze IL'ite

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    DIWALI - CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS -Second Day

    Second Day -Chhoti Diwali

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    After the Dhanvantari Trayodashi the second day of diwali is Narak Chaturdashi. Legends have it that Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasur on this day to make the mankind free from his fear. It is a tradition to massage the body with oil and to bathe on this day. According to an interesting saying it is believed that those who do not bathe on this day, go to the Narak (hell).

    Diwali is a festival, which brings a series of festivals with it. One after another we get a chance to celebrate five festivals together. Narak Chaturdashi is one of these festivals and it is celebrated on the second day of diwali celebrations, just one day before the main diwali. The Narak Chaturdashi is more popular by the name of Chhoti Diwaliand it falls on the fourteenth day of the Hindi month, Kartik after the dhanteras. The Narak Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali is celebrated with same zeal and enthusiasm as the main diwali but it is on comparatively lower scale. Just like diwali people light diyas on chhoti diwali to fill their homes with light, worship Goddess Laxmi and offer prayers to Her and they also burst firecrackers but all these things are not as grand as they are on the day of main diwali (Badi Diwali).

    Legends
    One famous story behind the celebrations of Chhoti Diwali or Narak Chaturdashi is about the demon king Narakasur who was ruler of Pragjyotishpur, a province to the South of Nepal. During a war he defeated Lord Indra and snatched away the magnificent earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi who was not only the ruler of Suraloka but also a relative of Lord Krishna's wife, Satyabhama. Narakasur also imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of Gods and saints in his harem.

    When Satyabhama came to know about this malevolent act of Narakasur she got furious and she prayed to Lord Krishna to empower her so that she could destroy Narakasur. The legend also tells that Narakasur was under a curse that a woman would kill him. So Lord Krishna empowered Satyabhama to fight with Narakasur and himself became the charioteer of her 'Ratha' in the battlefield. Thus by the grace of Lord Krishna Satyabhama beheaded Narakasur on the day previous to Narak Chaturdashi and released the imprisoned ladies from Narakasur's harem and also recovered the precious earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi. In order to save all those imprisoned ladies from embarrassment Lord Krishna accepted them all as His wives. As a symbol of the victory over Narakasur Lord Krishna smeared His forehead with the demon king's blood. Then Lord Krishna returned home with His new wives early morning of the Narak Chaturdashi day. The womenfolk massaged scented oil to His body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth from his body. Since then it has become a custom to take bath before sunrise on the day of Narak Chaturdashi, especially in the state of Maharashtra.

    Another legend is about King Bali, who was king of the nether world. His power and increasing influence posed a threat to the security of all 'Devatas' so they prayed Lord Vishnu to help them out. To help Devatas and to curb King Bali's powers Lord Vishnu went to King Bali in the guise of a short-height 'Brahmin', who is known as incarnation of 'Batu Waman', and begged to give him only that much area of land that he could cover with in three steps because King Bali was well known for his philanthropy. King Bali saw just a short-height 'Brahmin' asking for a little piece of land so he proudly granted him his wish. That very moment that short-height 'Brahmin' disappeared and there was almighty Lord Vishnu in place of him. In his first step Lord Vishnu covered the heaven and in the second step the earth and asked King Bali where to put his third step. Then King Bali offered his head to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu put his third step on his head and pushed him deep into the underground. But at the same time being impressed by his generosity Lord Vishnu gave King Bali the lamp of knowledge and allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps.

    The mother of the Narakasura, Bhoodevi, declared that the death of her son should not be a day of mourning but an occasion for celebrations. Since then people celebrate diwali with joy and fun every year.

    Chhoti Diwali - The Narak Chaturdashi Celebrations
    The people wake up early in the morning break any bitter fruit and apply the kumkum-oil paste, which is called 'Ubtan', on their foreheads and then take bath. The breaking of the fruit represents the head of the demon King, Narakasur and the kumkum-oil paste symbolizes the blood that Lord Krishna smeared His forehead with.

    In the state of Maharashtra people take the traditional early baths after applying the paste of gram flour, fragrant powders and oil on their foreheads. As long as the ritual of bath takes place, deafening sound of crackers and fireworks could be heard so that the children enjoy bathing.

    The Narak Chaturdashi or Chhoti diwali is the day when people light lamps and diyas in and out of their homes.

     
  4. Ashna

    Ashna Bronze IL'ite

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    DIWALI - CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS - LAKSHMI PUJAN

    Third Day -Badi Diwali or Lakshmi Pujan


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    The third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of Lakshmi-puja and is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. On this very day sun enters his second course and passes Libra which is represented by the balance or scale. Hence, this design of Libra is believed to have suggested the balancing of account books and their closing. Despite the fact that this day falls on an amavasya day it is regarded as the most auspicious.

    The day of Lakshmi-Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya. The strains of joyous sounds of bells and drums float from the temples as man is invoking Goddess Laxmi in a wondrous holy "pouring-in" of his heart. All of a sudden that impenetrable darkness is pierced by innumerable rays of light for just a moment and the next moment a blaze of light descends down to earth from heaven as golden-footed Deep-Lakshmi alights on earth in all her celestial glory amidst chantings of Vedic hymns.

    A sublime light of knowledge dawns upon humanity and this self enlightenment is expressed through the twinkling lamps that illuminate the palaces of the wealthy as well as the lowly abodes of the poor. It is believed that on this day Lakshmi walks through the green fields and loiters through the bye-lanes and showers her blessings on man for plenty and prosperity.

    Lakshmi Pooja, or the worship of the goddess of wealth, is the main event on Diwali in North and West India. It is extremely important to keep the house spotlessly clean and pure on Diwali. Goddess Lakshmi likes cleanliness, and she will visit the cleanest house first. This is also the reason why the broom is worshiped on this day with offerings of haldi and kumkum (turmeric and vermilion). Lamps are lit in the evening to welcome the goddess. They are believed to light up Her path.

    Lakshmi Puja consists of a combined puja of five deities: Ganesha is worshiped at the beginning of every auspicious act as Vighnaharta; Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped in her three forms - Mahalakshmi (the goddess of wealth and money), Mahasaraswati (the goddess of books and learning), and Mahakali; Kuber (the treasurer of the gods) is also worshiped. <!--body ends-->



    Lakshmi Pooja

    [​IMG] Lakshmi was the daughter of the sage Bhrigu and took refuge in the ocean of milk when the gods were sent into exile. Lakshmi was reborn during the Churning of the Ocean. As soon as the gods saw Lakshmi, they all fell in love with her beauty. Shiva claimed Lakshmi as his wife, but since he had already taken the Moon, her hand was given to Vishnu, whom Lakshmi herself preferred.

    Lakshmi is the goddess of light, beauty, good fortune and wealth. While Laxmi is generally worshiped to achieve success, she does not reside long with anyone who is lazy or desire her only as wealth.

    Steps of Lakshmi Pooja
    Spread a new cloth on a raised platform: Place a handful of grains in the center and, on this, place a kalash (pitcher) made of gold, silver, copper, or terracotta. Fill three-fourth of the kalash with water and place a betel nut, a flower, a coin, and some rice grains in it. Arrange five kinds of leaves or mango leaves in the kalash . Place a small dish on the kalash and fill it with rice grains. Draw a lotus with turmeric powder ( haldi ) over the rice grains and place the idol of goddess Lakshmi over it, along with coins.

    Place the idol of Ganesha: In front of the kalash, on the right (South-West direction), place the idol of Ganesha. Also place ink and books related to your business or occupation on the platform. Light a lamp and begin the puja by offering haldi, kumkum, and flowers to the platform on which the kalash is placed. Then offer haldi, kumkum, and flowers to the water that is to be used for the puja. Invoke the river goddesses to be part of this water.

    Invoke goddess: Lakshmi by reciting the Vedic mantras addressed to her. One can also recite the mantras mentioned in the Puranas or simply take some flowers in your hands, close your eyes, and think of goddess Lakshmi being showered with gold coins by two elephants standing on either side of Her and chant Her name. Then offer the flowers to the idol.

    Place the idol of Lakshmi: Place the idol of Lakshmi in a plate and bathe it with water, panchamrit (a mixture of milk, curd, ghee or clarified butter, honey, and sugar) and then with water containing some gold ornament or a pearl. Wipe the idol clean and place it back on the kalash. Alternately, you can just sprinkle water and panchamrit on the idol with a flower.

    Offerings: Offer sandal paste, saffron paste, perfume ( itr ), haldi, kumkum, abeer, and gulal to the goddess. Offer a garland of cotton beads to the goddess. Offer flowers, especially the marigold flowers and leaves of Bel (wood apple tree). Light an incense stick and dhoop. Make an offering of sweets, coconut, fruits, and tambul. Make an offering of puffed rice and batasha. Pour some puffed rice, batasha, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds over the idol. Safe where you keep money and jewelry; Worship this safe as a symbol of Lord Kuber.

    Aarti: Finally, perform the aarti for goddess Lakshmi. Always remember that She abhors loud noise. So the aarti should be accompanied only by a small bell. Do not clap hands, as is the practice when performing aarti for other gods. A peaceful and sublime atmosphere should prevail during the pujan. Do not light crackers while the puja is on or immediately after it.
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  5. Ashna

    Ashna Bronze IL'ite

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    Fourth Day - Govardhan Puja(Gowardhan Puja) or Padwa

    Fourth Day - Govardhan Puja(Gowardhan Puja) or Padwa
    [​IMG]As the name itself suggests the fourth day of diwali is devoted to Govardhan Pooja (worship of Lord Govardhan Parvat). Legends have it that Lord Shri Krishna once performed the Govardhan Pooja along with the people of Vraja for their protection from heavy rains. Since then it became a tradition for Hindus to worship Govardhan Parvat to honour that first Pooja on this day.
    The fourth day of diwali celebrations is 'Padwa' or 'Varshapratipada'. In the North India Govardhan Puja is performed with great zeal and enthusiasm. And in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar there is a tradition of building cow dung hillocks, which symbolize the Mount Govardhan. After making such hillocks people decorate them with flowers and then worship them. They move in a circle all round the cow dung hillocks and offer prayers to Lord Govardhan.

    Legends
    Govardhan Puja-'Govardhan' is a small hillock situated at 'Braj', near Mathura. The legends in 'Vishnu Puraan' have it that the people of Gokul used to worship and offer prayers to Lord Indra for the rains because they believed that it was He who sent rains for their welfare. But Lord Krishna told them that it was Mount Govardhan (Govardhan Paevat) and not Lord Indra who caused rains therefore they should worship the former and not the latter. People did the same and it made Lord Indra so furious that the people of Gokul had to face very heavy rains as a result of his anger. Then Lord Krishna came forward to ensure their security and after performing worship and offering prayers to Mount Govardhan lifted it as an umbrella on the little finger of his right hand so that everyone could take shelter under it. After this event Lord Krishna was also known as Giridhari or Govardhandhari.

    Anna-Koot- The fourth day of diwali celebrations is also observed as Anna-Koot, which literally means 'mountain of food'. On this auspicious day the people prepare fifty-six or one hundred and eight different varieties of delicious dishes to offer Lord Krishna as 'Bhog'. In the temples, specifically in Mathura and Nathdwara, the deities are given milk bath, dressed in new shining attires and decorated with ornaments of dazzling diamonds, pearls, rubies and other precious stones and metals. Then they are worshipped, offered prayers and bhajans and also offered delicious sweets, fruits and eatables that are ceremoniously raised in the form of a mountain before the idols.

    Padwa- The fourth day of diwali celebrations or the day following the 'Amavasya' is 'Kartik Shuddh Padwa', which is also the day when the King Bali would come out of the 'Patal Lok', the nether land and rule the 'Bhoo Lok', the world as per the boon given to him by 'Batu Waman', Lord Vishnu. Therefore this day is also known as 'Bali Padyami'.

    'Padwa' or 'Varshapratipada' also marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya as 'Vikaram-Samvat' was started from this Padwa day.


    Gudi Padwa- The day of Gudi Padwa has special significance for the Hindu families. It is symbolic of love and devotion between the wife and husband.
    There is a custom in which on this holy day the wife applies the 'Tilak' on the forehead of her husband, garlands him, performs his 'Aarti' and also prays for his long life. Then the husband gives her a gift in appreciation of all the tender care that his wife showers on him. Thus the Gudi Padwa is festival of celebrations and respect of love and devotion between the wife and the husband. People invite their newly married daughters with their husbands on this day of Gudi Padwa for special meals and give them gifts. In olden days brothers went to fetch their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day.

     
  6. Ashna

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    Fifth Day - Bhai Dooj (Bhaiya Dooj) or Bhratri Dooj

    Fifth Day - Bhai Dooj (Bhaiya Dooj) or Bhratri Dooj

    [​IMG] The fifth day of Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated as Bhaiya Dooj, popularly know as Bhai Dooj. The name itself denotes the day of the festival i.e it falls on Dooj, the second day after the new moon. Bhai Dooj is the time to honour the brother-sister relationship. Legends have it that in the Vedic era, Lord Yamaraj (the God of death) visited his sister Yamuna on this day and blessed her with a boon that if brothers visit their sisters on this day then they will be liberated from all their sins. Since then it is a tradition that brothers visit their sisters on this day and the sisters sweeten their mouths with variety of sweets. In the Bengali culture this day is celebrated as 'Bhai Fota'.
    Diwali is not only a festival of lights, crackers, worship of Goddess Lakshmi, sharing sweets with your loved ones but it is also a perfect occasion for social gatherings to exchange diwali greetings. This lovely festival brings with it a chance to revive your relationships with each other. One such special relationship that we talk about during diwali celebrations is the Bhai-Dooj or the Bhaiya-Duj. Bhaiya Duj is the festival that is celebrated on the fifth day of diwali and it falls on second day after diwali that is on 'Shukla Paksha Dwitiya' in the Hindi month of 'Kartik'. 'Dwitiya' means 'Duj' or the second day after the new moon. Thus Bhayya Duj is the festival that marks the end of diwali celebrations. This festival is popular in different regions with different names such as 'Bhai-Dooj' in north India, 'Bhav-Bij' in Maharashtra, 'Bhai-Phota' in Bengal and 'Bhai-Teeka' in Nepal.

    Legends
    The legends have that Lord Yamraj, the God of Death, visited his sister Yamuna on the 'Shukla Paksha Dwitiya' day in the Hindi month of 'Kartik'. When Yamraj reached Yamuna's home she welcomed Him by performing His aarti, applying 'Tilak' on His forehead and by putting a garland around His neck. Yamuna also cooked varieties of dishes and prepared lots of sweets for her brother and offered all those to Him. Lord Yamraj ate all those delicious dishes and when He was finished He showered blessings on Yamuna and gave her a boon as a gift that if a brother visits his sister on this day he would be blessed with health and wealth. This is why this day of Bhayya Duj is also known by the name of 'Yam-Dwitiya'. And thus it has become a tradition that on the day of Bhai-Dooj brothers visit their sisters' home and offer them gifts. Sisters also make various dishes for their brothers and also give gifts to them.

    Another legend is that after Narakasur was destroyed, Lord Krishna went to his sister, Subhadra. Subhadra welcomed her winner brother in the traditional way by performing His 'aarti' and applying 'Tilak' on His forehead.

    One more story behind the celebrations of Bhai-Duj is that when Bhagwaan Mahavir attained 'Nirvana', his brother Raja Nandi-Vardhan became very sad. He missed Bhagwaan Mahavir very badly then it was his sister Sudarshana, who comforted him. Since then the women have been revered during this festival.

    Bhai Duj Celebrations
    On the auspicious day of Bhaiya-Dooj brothers and sisters get up early in the morning and get ready to celebrate their day. The sisters perform 'aarti' of their brothers and apply a beautiful 'Tilak' or 'Teeka' on their forehead. Then they sweeten their mouths with mouth-watering eatables. Then the brothers and sisters exchange gifts with each other.

    On the auspicious day of 'Yam-Dwitiya' the people of 'Kayastha' community of Hindus celebrates the holy function of worshipping Lord Chitragupta who is the God, who maintains the records of life and death of the creatures. The 'Kayastha' community also worships the pen, paper and ink on this day in the honor of Lord Chitragupta.

    Thus the celebrations of Bhai Dooj marks the end of the five days long festivities of Diwali.



     

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