Deepavali or Divvela Panduga (Festival of Lights) is a very popular festival and is celebrated throughout the Indian Continent. The reasons for the celebration vary from nationality to nationality and region to region. In Andhra Pradesh this festival is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over evil when Lord Krishna, with the help of his wife Satyabhama, destroyed Narakaasura, a demon king, and established his rule, the law and order and saved women from the Narakaasura’s custody.

According to Vaishnavism, Lord Vishnu is the supreme and only God Almighty that creates and destroys this whole world periodically.  The Lord himself incarnates now and then to establish the law and order on this earth.  At the beginning of the creation, the Earth was completely covered with water.  Lord Vishnu became a wild Boar to lift the mother Earth from water so that terrestrial life could be created.  During this process of lifting, the Earth gets excited and gives birth to Naraka.  Because he is the son of Lord Vishnu and Mother Earth, he is invincible.  Further, Lord Vishnu gives him a supreme weapon, Naaraayanaastra and blesses him that except his mother nobody else could kill him in any way!  Naraka makes Pragjotishapuram his capital and rules over Asuras, near Himalayas.  Emperor Naraka rules his Asura Empire for several Yugas (eras), until lord Vishnu comes down to earth in the form of Vaasudeva (Lord Krishna) in Dwapara Yuga.

Over a period of time, Naraka becomes a very arrogant demon. He abducts 16,000 girls and women from all over the world and also from the world of gods.  Fortunately, it was the time of Lord Krishna.  Learning about the Naraka’s cruel actions, Satyabhaama, the incarnation of mother Earth and wife of Lord Krishna, suggests to the Lord that they should destroy Naraka and release the abducted women.  Lord Krishna summons his vehicle Garuda, the divine Eagle and flies with his wife Satyabhaama to Pragjotishapura.  In the battle, Naraka employs the supreme weapon given to him by his father Lord Vishnu (Lord Krishna).  Bound by his blessing, Lord Vishnu becomes unconscious to let Satyabhaama, mother Earth, deal with her son.  Enraged Satyabhaama summons her powers and kills Naraka.  Thus, Lord Vishnu establishes the Dharma (law and order), by destroying his own son, Naraka, who deviated from the right path and became a menace to the rest of the world.  (Mighty Lord Krishna gets to marry the freed 16,000 women! Satyabhama doesn’t object, because these are in addition to eight wives he already has.)

That day is known as Naraka Chaturdasi, because that was the Chaturdasi (fourteenth day) of the fortnight that ends with Amavasya (New Moon Day). All through this fortnight, people decorate their homes with oil lamps  (electric lights, nowadays) and on the Amavasya (dark night) celebrate the victory with fire works. This dark night of Amavasya is known as Deepavali (rows of lights), because every household lights up rows of lamps. The dark night becomes a brightly-lit night with rows of lights everywhere and fire works.

On the day of Naraka Chaturdasi, religious Telugus wake up early in the morning and take special ritual showers. They wear new clothes on Naraka Chaturdasi and Deepavali. Parents invite their daughters and sons-in-law to their home and present them new clothes.  Deepavali is the most exciting festival of all because of the fireworks. The fireworks industry is a huge industry providing employment to a lot of people. In cities like Khammam, the streets of rich merchants and businesses are worth visiting to see the display of fireworks.

For merchants and business communities through out the Indian Union, Deepavali is worship of Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, and  is the beginning of a New Year.  They settle their accounts and open new books. Every nationality in India has its own reasons for this Deepavali celebration! But, the underlying theme is the victory of good over evil and spiritual enlightenment.  This year Deepavali is celebrated on November 7th.

Happy Deepavali,
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, 11/06/1999

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