Diwali, the festival of lights is celebrated for four consecutive days - the thirteenth day as Dhanatrayodashi, the fourteenth day as Narak Chaturdashi and the new moon day or Amavasya as Lakshmi Pooja of the dark fortnight of Ashwin (Sep – Oct) and the first day of the bright fortnight of Kartik (Oct – Nov) as Balipratipada. Following article illustrates the celebrations on the first day of Diwali.
Vasubaras or Govatsa Dwadashi
According to legend, during the epic event of Samudra Manthan (churning of the Milky Ocean), five wish-fulfilling cows emerged out of the cosmic ocean, of which the divine cow named Nanda was one. Since then, Cows are offered high religious importance as a mode of worshipping the Divine Cow Nanda. On this day, married women or Sumangalis observe partial fasting with only one meal and worship an embellished cow and a calf either in the morning or in the evening.
On this day, disciples worship their Guru or teacher. Although both the above rituals fall on the same day, they are different festivals altogether.
Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanteras
This festival is celebrated on the first day of Diwali. Dhan or Wealth is the feature by which life runs smoothly and successfully. This day is very important to businessmen, who offer their prayers to their treasures. This day marks the commercial year for them till next year’s Diwali.
Dhanvantri – God of Health, is invoked on the first day of Diwali to bestow us Abundant Health. Lord Dhanvantri is one of the 24 incarnations of Lord Vishnu, who is depicted with four hands, each hand holding a Sudarshan Chakra, Conch, Jalouka (leech) and a pot of Amrit (Nectar). He is the founder of Ayurveda and on his birthday he is revered by Ayurvedic doctors. On this day, small pieces of neem leaves and sugar are offered as Prasad (offering) to the gathering. This has great importance as neem fruit is believed to have been originated from the Divine nectar or Amrit. Lord Dhanvantri bestows one with longevity. Chewing 5 to 6 neem leaves daily will ward off any illness and bless you with a hale and healthy life. It is also believed that praying to Dhanvantri before the intake of medicines will enhance its effectiveness.
How to prepare Neem leaves Prasad
- Few neem flowers
- 10-12 tender leaves of neem
- 4 spoons soaked chana dal or soaked chana (Bengal gram)
- 1 spoon honey
- 1 spoon jeera (cumin)
- Pinch of Asafoetida
- Mix all the above ingredients in a bowl, add salt to taste and then grind it to a soft paste. Offer it to God and after Pooja distribute it to everyone.
YamadipadanOn this day, Lord Yama, God of death is worshipped to prevent untimely or unnatural death. Light 13 lamps made of wheat flour or clay, flame facing southwards (not the usual direction of lamps). Do aachman – pour water from left hand to right hand with a spoon and drink that water. Recite deshkaal and take sankalpa (resolution). Offer flower to each of the 13 lamps and place the lamps outside the house facing south direction. After placing the lamps, pray as follows – ‘I offer these thirteen lamps to the son of the Lord Surya (Sun) so that he liberates me from the clutches of death and bestows his blessings.’ If you cannot perform these rituals, you can just place the lamps and offer the above mentioned prayer to Lord Yama.