DEEPAVALI
By Mohan Shenoy
GOW PUJA
The Festival Bath
Naraka Chathurdashi
Dhanalakshmi Puja
Dhanteras
Balipadyami
The Shops and Establishments Puja
Adyar Gopal Parivar
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DEEPAAVALI (FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS)
ALSO KNOWN AS DIWALI.
By Mohan Shenoy
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Deepavali is one of the leading festivals of
India.  It is popular by the name of Festival
of Lights all over the world. The Hindi
language vernacular term is Diwali festival.
         It is a festival of not only lights but
also of joy to men, women and children, of
all castes and creeds. Deepavali is known
to provide good business to the shops
because people buy things and give gifts
during this festival. Deepavali greetings
cards are sold in large numbers because
this festival is chosen to send greeting
cards to friends, both personal and
corporate. The shops put up 'discount
sale' during these festivals and clear their
stocks as much as possible. In India there
is no restrictions to fire-works being fired
at homes.
         People in India buy fire-works such
as crackers, sprinklers, flower pots,
rockets etc., and light them up in their
front-yards. Children and adults alike
enjoy the fire-works very much. A lot of
money is spent on fire-works.         
There is a tradition in relation to
Deepavali festival of playing cards. On
the Deepavali night Hindus are willing to
loose some money by playing one or two
sessions of cards with wagering. Both
men and women form four-some teams
and play card with or without Another
custom is to offer Ganja, Hashish, and
Marijuana etc. to guests at private parties
at home or at the clubs.
However use, sale or storage of these
narcotics is prohibited by law and attracts
penalty including imprisonment. There are
adult parties where liquor flows freely.
Many of the Hindus who have tasted
non-vegetarian food before, resort to
having a dish or two of chicken, meat or
fish for lunch or dinner on Deepavali day
or night. Thus the festival of Deepavali is
for merry-making rather than any worship
of gods or goddesses
.
Gow Puja (gow is Sanskrit for cow) is a
puja performed to cattle. If there are cows
being looked after in the cow shed
belonging to the house, for the sake of
milk, then these cows are to be pujaised
on the day following the Deepavali day, or
on the day of Balipadyami.
Cows are treated as sacred by the Hindus.
Cows and bulls are not slaughtered for
meat by Hindus. They are allowed to get
old and die naturally. However, in the cities
one can see cows roaming on the streets
for food because the owners of those cows
do not feed them once they stop giving
milk. Male calves are also let go to roam
on the city streets. These cows rummage
the garbage dumps in the city streets and
eat most unhygienic things like plastic
bags etc. There is a Law to control the
slaughter of cows passed by the Central
Indian Government. This law states that
only injured or sick cows may be
slaughtered.
This law is not enforced so that there are
many houses where cows and calves are
slaughtered even if they are not injured or
sick.
The Hindus who have milching cows at
home still practice the Cow Puja in their
homes on the Gow Puja day. The cows
are given a thorough wash and fed the
choicest of cow feed on this day
consisting of groundnut oil cakes and rice
congee. The vegetable peels and skins
are also favorite food of the cows. The
cow are made to look nice by pressing tin
containers dipped in lime water on their
skin to produce circle marks. Flowers are
placed on the cow's horns and a garland
is put around its neck. An aarathi is
waved to the cow and Naivedya is
offered. This Naivedya consisting of rice,
and other dishes prepared for the family,
the cow eats with relish.
The Festival Bath is a part of Deepavali
celebration since ages. This festival was
started from the time the river Ganga was
considered sacred. Like Ganga, the other
rivers and lakes were also considered
sacred and their water was fit to be called
divine. In order to honour the water bodies
a Puja was devised, by the elders and the
Wise among the Hindus.
To perform the Puja a person could either
go to the river and do various rituals on the
banks or perform them at home using the
well water. In order to perform the Puja a
full head-bath is a must. In those houses
where the old style bath-room furnished
with two large copper vessels for filling
water are present, the vessels are
decorated with flowers, garlands and lights.
One of the vessels is for cold water and the
other is for hot water. They are first
cleaned and shined and then water from
the wells is brought in pitchers to fill
them.                         
Firewood is lighted and the water heated to
more than 56 degrees Celsius. A
hot-water-bath is preferred on this festival
bath day. The pitchers too are cleaned and
shined and done up with flowers and
garlands. The wells are also beautified with
painted circles and squares on their
embankment. Potted flower plants are
placed around them.
Puja is performed to the well, the pitchers,
the bathroom vessels, and the jugs used
for pouring water on our body while
bathing. The sequence of the Puja is same.
Naivedya is also kept ready for offering to
the water-body and then distribute among
those who are in attendance.
An aarathi is lighted and waved to the well
first and then with the band in attendance,
the aarathi-holder walks to the bathroom
and waves the aarathi to the pitchers, the
vessels and then the jugs. The band
consists of a jaagant and a conch. The
jaagant is a plate made of brass and
beaten by a bamboo stick. The bamboo
stick has a small wooden ball at one of its
ends to produce a resonating sound from
the brass plate held by a thin rope. The
rope is threaded through two holes made
on the rim of the plate. A medium-sized
conch is also blown to produce a long
tootle. After the aarathi the Naivedya is
offered by dropping a tiny piece of the
sweet in the water. All people in attendance
at the Puja receive a piece of the sweet.
The style with which the bath is taken is
interesting. First the bather applies oil to all
parts of his body. Coconut oil is preferred.
Other kinds of oil are used if coconut oil is
not available.
About 5 minutes after the application of
the oil, body massage is performed by the
wife in case of the husband, mother in
case of the son, and by a servant or
helper in other cases. Then the bather sits
on a stool in the bathing quadrangle and
the wife, or the mother, or the servant as
the case may be, pours hot water on the
head, shoulders, abdomen, thighs, legs,
feet, the back and the hips in turn and in
cycles. The temperature of the water is
adjusted to the desire of the bather. None
is forced to take a bath with very hot water
unless he or she wants to. Choice soaps
are applied and the water pouring is
repeated. The water may be poured or
thrown with force, especially on the head
and shoulders.
Women and girls also apply oil and do
massage but they do it behind doors.
Their bathing is solitary. But they do take
full advantage of the occasion and take a
full head-bath. Since their hair is long,
they wash the hair with soap-nut powder
or with shampoo. After the bath they dry
their hair either by folding over with a dry
towel or standing in the sun. Some women
do both. Men and boys also dry their hair
by tying a towel over their head like a
turban and letting it be for about 2 hours.
Everyone feels tired after a full hot-water
bath. So the person lies down on a bed
with his hair-drying turban on; and in order
to perspire well, a bed-sheet is covered
over the person, including the head. A
blanket is covered over the bed-sheet to
give extra warmth. There is a notion that
perspiration brings bad constituents out of
the skin and blood. The person may feel
thirsty and so a glass of a beverage is
given to him to drink. The traditional drink
is the Sunt-Meeri Kashay. Sunt is dry
ginger. Meeri is black pepper corns.
Kashay is decoction. Add salt and sugar
to taste.
Method of preparation of
Sunt-Meeri-Kashay: Place two
teaspoonful powdered dry ginger and
same quantity powdered black pepper
corns in 500 milliliter of water and boil
under medium flame for the time required
to bring down the volume to about
two-thirds of original quantity. Add 4
teaspoonfuls of sugar and one half
teaspoonful of salt and mix well. The drink
is taken while it becomes cool enough to
be sipped.
Other drinks such as soda, tea or coffee
can also be given in place of Kashay.
Naraka Chathurdashi is a festival to
commemorate the victory of Sri Krishna over
King Naraka of Pragjotisha kingdom.
Pragjotisha kingdom was located near the
present Assam state. Naraka had an army
commander by the name of Mura. After Sri
Krishna killed Mura in a battle, he got the
name Murari (enemy of Mura). Sri Krishna
started from Dwarka, his capital and
proceeded to Pragjotisha to fight King
Naraka. After killing Mura it was easy for Sri
Krishna to defeat Naraka. Naraka was the
son of Bhoodevi. Naraka had a son by the
name of Bhagadatta. Naraka was a good
fighter, but Sri Krishna was better. Sri
Krishna killed Naraka on the fourteenth day
of the second half of the month of
Ashweeja. He put Bhagadatta on the throne
of Pragjotisha kingdom.
Chathurdashi means fourteenth day. Sri
Krishna had conquered most of India by
the time he won over Naraka. Therefore
Sri Krishna ordered that the day he won
over Naraka be celebrated as a festival.
The word of the ruler was a Law unto
itself. Since then, all Hindus observe the
day as Naraka Chathurdashi festival.

There are no rituals or Puja to be
performed on the Naraka Chaturdashi day
in the house. Small terracotta oil lamps
(terracotta saucers of 3 inches diameter
with a single wick in oil) are lit and placed
on either side of the door and on
windowsill. In the cities and in the western
countries oil lamps are avoided for
reasons of danger of a fire. Instead, tiny
electric lamps are used.
Dhanalakshmi Puja is a Puja performed to
the goddess of currency. Dhana is currency,
i.e. currency notes and coins. Dhanalakshmi
is goddess Lakshmi herself. When goddess
Lakshmi takes on the duties of currency
control she is referred to as Dhanalakshmi.
Goddess Dhanalakshmi controls currency,
provides currency, takes away currency, etc.
She gets pleased upon performing her Puja.
Dhanalakshmi Puja is held on the day
following Naraka Chaturdashi. A portrait or
an idol of goddess Dhanalakshmi is placed
on the altar. It is decorated with flowers and
garlands. The cash box is placed in front of
the portrait. The box is kept open and
currency notes and coins are placed in it
prominently. The books of accounts
belonging to the business are also placed
nearby. A little turmeric paste is applied to
the cash box, to one or two currency notes
and to some of the coins. The turmeric paste
is prepared by mixing turmeric powder in a
trace of water. Flowers are kept on the lid
and a small garland is put on the box.
Archana is performed and aarathi is waved.
Naivedya is offered (several kinds of sweets)
and then distributed to the attending guests.
The guests are usually the regular
customers patronizing the person who
undertakes to perform the Puja.
Most of the merchants regard the
Dhanalakshmi Puja day as the last day of
their financial year. They tally their account
books on this day. If there is profit then they
distribute some of it to their employees as
the annual bonus. The employees look
forward to this payment of bonus to them
very eagerly.
However, the labour laws that are
provisions for giving bonus to the
employees of shops and establishments.
The payment of Bonus Act specifies the
amount of bonus to be paid in terms of
the profit in the business. This Act
applies to all the shops and
establishments who have ten or more
employees on their register.                 
The minimum bonus payable is 8% of the
total wages paid in the previous year.
This amount of bonus is payable
regardless of the profit or loss. If there is
a profit which when calculated according
to the work-sheet prescribed in the law
shows a total amount to be allocated as
bonus to be higher than the amount
needed to pay 8% bonus, then the
employer has to pay the extra amount of
bonus. However the maximum amount of
bonus is 20% of the total annual wages.
If an employer complies with this Act,
then he will have very little left for himself
out of his profit. The employees have the
right to file a petition in the labour court to
claim the bonus if the employer does not
comply with the Bonus Act. Therefore it is
advisable to foresee this contingency of
paying bonus to the employees before
hand. If there is no need to employ ten
persons then it is best not to exceed the
limit. If the business is bigger and there is
need for more employees than the
number ten, then a provision should be
made every month for payment of bonus
at the time of the Deepavali festival or at
the end of the year.
Balipadyami is a festival, which is celebrated
as a component of the Festival of Lights.
While Naraka Chathurdashi is the last but
one day of the Ashweej (month), and
Deepavali is on the last (New Moon) day of
Ashweej, Balipadyami is on the first day of
the Karthik (month). Karthik is the month
following Ashweej. Bali was a great king of
India many centuries ago. Padyami is the first
day of the month. Balipadyami therefore is
the Padyami in memory of king Bali.
The story of king Bali is as follows: Even
before the time of Raama there were two
kings ruling India, one ruling the Swarga Loka
(the land of the Deva) and the other ruling the
Daithya Loka (the land of the Daithya). There
were wars between the two to annex each
other's kingdom. Swarga Loka was ruled by
Devendra and the Daithya Loka was ruled by
Bali Chakravarti. The title Chakravarti is
applied to kings who have a large number of
vassals under him. There was another
kingdom underneath called the Paathala
Loka, which was ruled by King Kubera. After
many wars between Devendra and Bali, Bali
gained upper hand and in the final war
Devendra was totally defeated and banished
to the forests.
          
There are accidents too. If a child fires a cracker
without the safety precautions then the cracker might
burst into his eyes and cause eye injury sometimes
leading to blindness. The blindness could be
permanent and incurable. Others suffer burns of their
faces or other exposed parts of the body. Their
clothes can catch fire and burn them quite badly.
Some crackers can land on the roof and later lead to
fires in the house. This is common in rural area where
the house roofs are made of straw and hay.
To avoid all these accidents the Western countries
have prohibited citizens from lighting fire-works in
individual homes. The municipal administration of the
cities and towns arrange collective lighting of
fire-works on these days. The time and date is
announced in advance. The location selected is
usually a large open space with sufficient
arrangement for the public to view the fire-works with
comfort. There have been vast improvements in the
designing of the Fire-works and various new crackers,
sparkers, flowerpots and rockets have been invented.
These are expensive and therefore the municipal
administration or other organisations can afford to buy
them and display them.
          Even now Bali's rule is regarded as the golden
era in the history of India, although very little is known
to us about those times other than mythology and
folklore. The day following the Balipadyami is
observed as a day of the sisters. Every brother who
has a sister would go to his sister's house and give
her gifts such as saree dresses, consumer electronic
items, jewelry pieces or cash. He will go to the houses
of all his sisters and repeat the gift giving. Following
the sister's day it is the turn of the brothers. On the
day of the brothers the sisters go to their houses and
give gifts to them.
          Only the young and unmarried brothers are
selected for this exercise. The older brothers and the
married brothers do not expect to receive gifts from
their sisters.
          One important aspect of the Deepavali and
other major festivals is the treat being given to the
new son-in-law. A son-in-law is the husband of the
daughter and both the daughter and the son-in-law
are very dear to people. Therefore the daughter who
got married recently and went away to live with her
husband is invited to her parent's house on the
festival days. It is customary to send our son to the
daughter's house to invite the couple to the festivals.
The couple is treated as lovingly as possible and they
stay in the house for a few days. They are offered
every luxury that is available and grand dinners are
arranged for them. Variety of sweets are either made
at home or bought from the market to give to the
couple. The couple takes part in the Gow Puja, the
Dhanalakshmi Puja, the Festival bath and the lighting
of fire-works in as equal enthusiasm as the in-laws.
The daughter especially enjoys her stay in her
maternal home very much and she would go back to
her husband's house with loads of gifts, wads of
currency notes and many packets of eatables.
The Shops and Establishments Puja is observed on
the day following the Balipadyami.
The shops are decorated on this day and business is
stopped for a few hours in the evening. A portrait of the
goddess                 
Dhanalakshmi is placed on a high stool and garlanded.
An oil-lamp is placed on one side and incense sticks
are lighted. Naivedya in the form of sweets is kept
nearby. A coconut is brought and placed on the stool.
A koythi (a sturdy sickle) to break open the coconut is
also kept near the coconut. A banaana phonno is kept
near the coconut. A phonno of banaana is a bunch of
five banaana fingers.
An aarathi is readied with a matchbox placed nearby.
Oil is poured in the aarathi plate and a wick is placed
in it with one end sticking out for lighting. A jaagate and
a conch is arranged to produce appropriate music for
the Puja. Soft music is played either on the radio or on
a CD player. A line of small flags and ticker tapes is
hung overhead from corner to corner in the room.
Balloons are blown in and hung on the walls and other
furniture as a decoration.
   Two well-grown banaana plants are placed on either
side of the shop. A line of mango leaves is hung across
the front door. Bunches of mango leaves are hung on
either side of the top of the front door. All these
decorations give a festive look to the shop and anyone
visiting would realize that there is a celebration going
on in the shop.
   It is important to get prepared for the arrival of many
guests who expect either a piece of sweet or a gift on
this occasion. A priest might be invited to perform the
Puja. At the designated time, say at 7 p.m. the priest or
the manager/proprietor of the shop would begin the
Puja. He would first offer Archana prayer, then break
the coconut and break the tips of the banaana fingers.
He will pick a flower and show it to the goddess's
portrait and then drop it in the Naivedya box. Then he
will light the aarathi wick by lighting with the
matchstick. The he will raise the aarathi and wave it
repeatedly in front of the portrait. The priest would
have a small jingle bell in his other hand. The priest
keeps ringing the jingle bell constantly as he waves the
aarathi.         
Meanwhile two of the shop assistants would produce
the music by playing the jaagate and the conch. Once
the aarathi waving is completed the priest would give
the manager/proprietor the first Naivedya in a tray.
He will also place in the tray, the broken coconuts,
the banaana phonno, some flowers and a bit of
sandalwood paste, which he brings with him. He will
apply the sandalwood paste to the forehead of the
manager in the form of a naama (broad line in the
middle of the forehead from the root of the nose to
the top of the forehead). The priest would place a
spoonful Thirtha (consecrated sandalwood-scented
water) into the out-stretched hand of the
manager/proprietor, from a small pot he brings with
him when he comes to perform the Puja. This Thirtha
is to be sucked into the mouth and swallowed by the
devotee. After this everyone attending the Puja would
get the Thirtha, the Naivedya and a little bit of
sandalwood paste for applying on his forehead in the
form of a naama. He would receive a gift if the
shopkeeper were prepared to give a gift to each of
the attendees.
  Most of the merchants treat the Shops and
Establishments Puja as the first day of their new
financial year. Therefore they buy all the necessary
files and account books and write the names on the
first page. An Om figure or the word SRI is also
written on the front of the books and files. Kumkum
and Haldi marks are made on them. A Swastika mark
is also made.
  The Swastika mark was in use in Hitler's Germany
and it has been associated with fascism all over the
world since the end of the World Was II. But in India it
is a sacred mark drawn on walls of temples, Mathas,
and other religious places. It is also drawn on either
side of the platform on which a deity is placed in the
god-room in the house, and on the opening pages of
the account books of merchants.
  The files and books should be all new stationary for
use in the coming financial year. They are placed in
front of the portrait of the goddess. The cash box is
also placed nearby.
   The government of India has enacted a law, which
prescribes the financial year to be from April 1 this
year to March 31 next year. Therefore the practice of
treating the Shops and Establishments Puja as the
first day of the financial year by the merchants has
been hit badly. The Puja is now performed but the
books that are kept in the Puja are the ones, which
have been in use since the 1st of April of the current
year.
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Devendra had a brother by the name of
Vaamana. Vaamana was a short man, an
ascetic but very intelligent. There is a
saying, which goes like this: Kullanige
entu buddhi. Kulla is Kannada word for
short man. Entu is eight. Buddhi is
intelligence. Kullanige entu buddhi means
a short man is eight times intelligent than
others. Vaamana was a short man but he
was eight times intelligent than others.
He decided to trick Bali into losing his
land without a fight. It was on a padyami
day that Bali was performing a Yajna (a
fire in which offerings are made to God).
He was giving away gifts to who ever
came asking as part of the Yajna. He
would give whatever one asked.
Everyone who asked Bali for a gift would
ask for land, jewelry, cattle etc. They
would not ask Bali for things that would
embarrass Bali. But Bali kept giving away
most of whatever he had with him.
Vaamana came to this Yajna of Bali and
asked for land, which he would cover
with just three steps.
         Bali's Guru Shukracharya detected
that Vaamana was an unusual candidate
for gifts and that Vaamana has come to
the Yajna with some ulterior motive to
harm Bali.
SHUKRAACHARYA WARNS BALI
explain to him his impression of Vaamana and his
opinion about him. He advised Bali not to grant
Vaamana any gift. But Bali will have nothing of it. He
would cover with his three steps. Vaamana drew a map
on the ground shaped like the world and the Universe.
He marked separately the kingdom of Bali and rest of
the Universe, on the map. Then he said to Bali that
now he is taking the three steps and took one step
across the kingdom of Bali and the second step across
the Universe and asked Bali to tell him where should
he put his third step.
        Bali was not in a position to argue with Vaamana,
because he had realised the futility of owning and
fighting for kingdoms. He was seeking peace of mind.

        Bali could have rejected the contention of
Vaamana that he has to give his kingdom and the
universe to Vaamana because Vaamana covered only
the land occupied by the map on the ground. By giving
that much land covered by the map on the ground, Bali
could have satisfied the condition of the deal. But Bali
did not do that.

        Bali was becoming more and more philanthropic
in his outlook and wished to free himself of problems of
administration of a vast kingdom. He found an answer
to his question as to how he can get away from all
these problems he is facing in the administration of his
empire. He told Vaamana to step on his head to place
his third step, and so Vaamana did. Even the person of
Bali was gifted to Vaamana in this exercise.
Vaamana did not want Bali to live within the reach of
his brother Devendra to whom he is going to hand over
the land acquired in this deal. He suggested to Bali to
go and live in Paathala Loka where Kubera would
welcome him and looks after him for the rest of his life.
Bali soon packed his bags and left for Paathala Loka
with his immediate family and a few of his servants. He
carried bare minimum things in his bags. But the
citizens of Daithya Loka got very much disappointed at
the turn of events.
They decided to observe one day in the month of
Karthika in memory of Bali. Thus the festival of
Balipadyami was born. As for Vaamana he rose to the
status of one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, the
Vaamanaavathaara (Vaamana-avathaara)
         Balipadyami is celebrated with much enthusiasm
in some parts of India with dance, music, and other
cultural programmes, but most of the people give
respect to Bali by lighting as many lamps as possible
around their houses. People light as much fire-works
as possible on this day and again in the night.
Crackers, flower pots, rockets and other fire-works light
the sky and keep making so much noise as to sound
dreadful. Some of the crackers are so loud they scare
the children very much. There is also air-pollution
because of the smoke that follows every cracker that is
lighted. Every rocket that is fired into the sky carries
dense smoke into the atmosphere.
Valure of Money
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