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 fourth day of Diwali.
Balipratipada is observed on the first day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha Ekadashi) in the lunar month of Kartik (Oct – Nov) to commemorate the defeating of the demon king Bali by Vamana, fifth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu.
In Tretayuga, there was a generous king named Bali who was tyrant, yet an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. He started conquering everyone with his powers and was ready to defeat Indra’s world. When Indra pleaded Vishnu to save his reign, the Lord incarnated as a poor dwarf Brahmin – Vamana and went to visit Bali.
The generous King asked what the Brahmin wanted and Vamana humbly replied that he wanted only the land that could be covered with his three steps. The king laughed and agreed to his request not knowing the consequences that would follow. Vamana took a colossal form and covered the Earth and sky in his two steps and asked Bali where to rest his third step.
The king realized his mistake and understood that the mendicant Brahmin was Lord Vishnu himself and bowed his head down for the third step. Thus the king was absolved of his sins and attained liberation. However, as the king was more attached to his people, he requested Lord Vamana if he could visit them once a year. Pleased with his honesty, Lord Vishnu granted him the wish.
Three Auspicious Days
King Bali asked Vishnu that the Lord’s three steps be represented by three days of the year as the king’s reign. Those three days are Chaturdashi (14th day) and Amavasya (New Moon day) of the dark fortnight in the lunar month of Ashwin (Sep – Oct) and Pratipada (1st day) of the bright fortnight in the lunar month of Kartik (Oct – Nov).
Rituals on Balipratipada
On this occasion, images of King Bali and his Queen Vindhyavali are drawn on the floor with five different colors and rangolis are also drawn with rice powder. Then they are worshipped by offering meat and liquor. To commemorate the generosity of Bali, clothes and lamps are donated to the poor and needy.
The day is begun with an early morning ablution with an oil massage (abhyangasnan). Women show lit lamps in front of their husband’s faces. Huge feast with delicacies is served for the afternoon. People wear new clothes to relish the ceremony.
There is also a custom of worshipping the Govardhan Mountain on this day. A small mountain of cow dung is made, with durva grass (Bermuda grass) and flowers tucked into it. Images of Sri Krishna, the cowherds, Lord Indra, cows and calves are arranged alongside and worshipped. A procession is also taken out.
According to Vikram calendar, this day marks the beginning of the New Year.