Diwali and Kali Puja
Diwali is one of the Indian festivals celebrated all over India, with equal enthusiasm and zeal. The word 'Diwali' is the abbreviation of the Sanskrit word 'Deepavali', which means 'rows of lights'. One of the major Hindu festivals, it is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over the evil, when Lord Rama defeated Ravana and rescued his wife Sita from his custody. It is predominantly a five-day festival, with a number of customs and rituals followed during each day. People prepare themselves for the festival weeks ahead, by cleaning and decorating their premises.
According to the Hindu calendar, the festival of Diwali is celebrated on the new moon day that marks the end of Ashwin and beginning of Kartik month. Celebrated with full of energy and fun by people of every religion, the magical effect of Diwali creates an atmosphere of joy and festivity. Innumerable lamps are lit on the roofs and windowsills of the houses, thus, giving a divine look to the whole scenario. It is said that Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, roams the earth on this day and enters the house that is pure, clean and brightly illuminated. Therefore, people, before exchanging gifts and bursting crackers, offer prayers to the deity.
Young and old, men and women, all dress up in new clothes on this day to illuminate their home with diyas. The deities of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshiped on Diwali, after which, the people share sweets and gifts with their relatives and friends. Fireworks, which attract the kids the most, form the highlight of the festival. The festive mood extends to the couple of days following the main day of the festival. Deepawali symbolizes the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. It is the celebration of victory of good over evil - and the glory of light.
On the day of Deepawali, and the night, when the whole of India is immersed deep in the festive spirit and worshipping goddess Laxmi, another festival and celebrations for it take place with as much spirit and joy. This festival is Kali Puja. Dedicated to the worship of the first of the ten incarnations of the goddess Durga, Kali, the festival falls in the month of October or November, and is celebrated on the new moon night of Kartik Amavasya in the Hindu month of Ashwin, according to the Bengali calendar. Although the festival is more ornately celebrated in the states of West Bengal, Orissa, and Assam; devotees of Goddess Kali from across the country perform the puja in their own ways. It's believed that worshipping Goddess Kali frees one from the evil, both within and the world outside. For this reason, many a believers, together, seek blessings from the Goddess on this day.
Devotees from all over, specifically Bengalis, Oriyas, and Assamese set up idols and images and idols of Goddess Kali, along with those of Lord Shiva's at their homes and pandals. Also, in numerous temples and shrines dedicated to Goddess Kali, the celebrations and the ritual takes place, throughout the night till dawn. It is prescribed for the worshipper to carry on the puja from night till morning, by continuously reciting the mantra. Before the puja commences and till the time it goes on; firecrackers, magic shows, and theatre goes on for the people to engage in. Sights of devotees' homes, pandals, and temples adorned with eye pleasing decorations are common. Lights, candles, and diyas; can also be commonly seen on and around this day. Read this section to learn more about the various aspects related to one of the most popular of Goddess worship festivals in Bengal.