Diwali or Deepavali in my state of Maharashtra is the most popular festival like most other states of India. This is the time when everyone is in their happiest best and awaits the festival of Diyas extending both the hands! This is especially true for those who are engaged in agriculture for their livelihood. My family and I, Saurabh Khillare, too switch to the festival mood during Deepavali.
Diwali is always celebrated on the no moon day during autumn i.e. the Indian month of Kartik. The festival normally starts three days before the no moon day but in Maharashtra it starts a day earlier. This day is celebrated as Vasu-Baras or the New Year day of the Marathi calendar. Married women are involved in this ceremony. They worship the cow and its calf to dedicate this day to the bond between a mother and her child. This day is known as Govatsa Dwadashi, and I have to look out for a cow and calf around the neighbourhood for my mother to pay her respects to as they are not easy to find in urban areas.
This is the day to pay your respects to the lord of wealth and prosperity. People are encouraged to make capital investments on this day. We follow the custom too and purchase gold and silver jewellery, and our family makes a trip to the neighbourhood jeweller. If we don’t have the cash to indulge in gold, the least we do is buy a single coin of silver.
This is the date just before Deepavali. Lord Krishna had killed the demon Narakasura on this day and hence the name. In Maharashtra, married women take a special spa-bath in the morning. They make a body rub with aromatic herbs and oils, sandalwood and camphor known as Utane. The aroma of this rub lingers throughout the day. It reminds me of my mother whenever I get that aroma. My mother would perform an Aarti of my father after her spa-bath. This is followed by a sumptuous lunch that the entire family enjoys.
The long awaited Diwali arrives. It is difficult to wait till it gets dark at night before we are allowed to set off the crackers to celebrate the festival of lights. The house is lit up with hundreds oil lamps. We stay awake till midnight to perform the ceremony of welcoming Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth to our homes. My mother and my sister take great pride to decorate the house with Rangoli (decorative patterns on the floor with coloured rice floor). The most intriguing decoration would be the pattern of footsteps drawn on the floor leading the Goddess of Lakshmi into our home. I remember going off to sleep late at night trying to visualize Goddess Lakshmi walking in while I am asleep.