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Bhayya Duj

The festival of Diwali is not complete without yet another festival, known by the name of "Bhayya-Duj" in the Hindi-speaking belt, "Bhav--Bij" in the Marathi-speaking communities, "Bhai Phota" to the Bengalees and in Nepal by the name of "Bhai-Tika". It is observed on the second day following Diwali or the new moon. As the legend goes Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yami on this particular day. She put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and led him with special dishes and both of them together ate the sweets, talked and enjoyed themselves to their heart's content, while parting Yamraj gave her a special gift as a token of his love and in return Yami also gave him a lovely gift which she had made with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister will never be thrown. That is why this day of Bhayyaduj is also known by the name of "Yama-Dwitiya" Since then this day is being observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It became also imperative for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhayya-duj.

Kali Puja

Also falls at this time, widely celebrated in Bengal. Diwali, a diminutive form of Deepavali, etymologically means a row of lights ('Deep'-light and 'Avali'-a row). Hence it is festival of lights. Marked mainly by four days of celebration it certainly illumines the country in its brilliance and brightens all with its joy. Diwali is a pan-Indian festival. It is celebrated on a grand scale in almost all the regions of India and is looked upon mainly as the beginning of New Year. As such the blessings of Lakshmi, the celestial consort of Lord Vishnu, are invoked with prayers. Even people of Indian origin in countries like Kenya, Thailand, Trinidad, Siam, Sri Lanka and Malaya celebrate this festival but in their own ways.

Diwali is a time to lit up 'diyas' in and around the house, and kindle the dark, moonless night-sky with dazzling display of fireworks. It is times for rejoice, time to go berserk. It is also a time to put on new things, time for exchanging gifts and greetings and wishing each other. It is time for the children to seek the blessings of the elderly and for the elderly to bless the children profusely.

Diwali is also time of transition from darkness unto light - the light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds and which brings us closer to divinity. And hence it is time to keep at bay all parochial interests and fling open all the doors of our mind so that it is a-washed thoroughly by the lights of joy and righteousness.

In each of the simple traditions and rituals at Diwali there is a tale of significance and credo. Apart from the celebration of Rama's return to Ayodhya, historically too, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival.

Diwali that is the 15th day of the month of Kartik is a holiday and is celebrated with fervor and gaiety. Being a New Year day all financial transactions remain closed on this day. Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day.

In North India on the day of the Diwali the children emerge, scrubbed clean to get into their festive attire, and light up little oil lamps, candles and agarbathis the wherewithal for setting alight crackers and sparklers.On this day there is a traditional practice, especially in Maharashtra, of taking bath before sunrise with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders.

In South India the day is celebrated in a unique way. People wake up before sunrise prepare blood by mixing Kumkum in oil and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.

The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of obeisance to the heavenly for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and fame. According to one belief, the sound of fire-crackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the crackers kill a lot of insects, found in plenty after the rains.

The tradition of gambling on Diwali also has a legend behind it. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuing year.