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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 11/09/12

Friday, November 9, 2012

DIY HARRY POTTER BUTTERBEER!

   This was found at www.designdazzle.blogspot.com .  These would be great for children and adults at any party.



Making Butterbeer:




There are literally hundreds of recipes for Butterbeer on the Internet, but I tinkered around until I came up with one that is fast and easy, and doesnt' require any time at the stove, which is great because kids love to help make it!



Magically Easy Butterbeer Recipe:


Butterbeer:

2 liter cream soda

2 tablespoons Butter extract

2 teaspoons rum extract

*drop the extracts into the 2 liter bottle, put on cap and slowly rotate until combined.




Cream topping:

1 7oz container of marshmallow creme

1 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon rum extract

*add all items together in an electric mixer and combine until smooth.





Pour the butterbeer into a glass, drizzle with the cream topping, and enjoy!

A GREAT SUGAR COOKIE RECIPE SO YOUR COOKIES KEEP THEIR SHAPE!

   This recipe was found at www.sweetopia.net .   She's always got great ideas and knows what she's talking about.  A great blog for anyone wanting to get the best they can out of their cakes, cookies and how to decorate them with smashing results.




polar bear decorated cookie



As I mentioned earlier, I've been playing around with some of my 'go-to' sugar cookie recipes – a few of the main ones being Peggy Porschen'sand the NFSC (No Fail Sugar Cookie) recipe (from cakecentral.com), to come up with my own combination. The latter two are still favourites for me, but now I've got a third choice. This is what I've come up with (please also see notes at the bottom of the recipe):

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups butter (at room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp vanilla)
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


Instructions:

1. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed. (Use the paddle attachment). Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.
Over mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough. If you'd like a light and fluffy cookie, that's ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking; not ideal if you'd like the cookie to hold its shape.

2. Add eggs slowly and mix. Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.

3. Cut open your vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out. Add to mixing bowl. Alternatively, add liquid vanilla extract. Stir briefly.

4. Sift your dry ingredients together. (Flour, baking powder and salt).

5. Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl. Place a large tea towel or two small tea towels between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won't escape. Mix on low speed for 3o seconds. Remove the tea towels and observe the dough mixing; when it clumps around the paddle attachment it's ready. It's also important at this stage not to over mix the dough (the glutens in the flour develop and the dough can become tough).

6. Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper. Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

7. Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Re-roll scraps and repeat.

8. Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again. They will then hold their shape better when baked.

9. Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.

10. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown. The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.

11. Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!

DIY STAR WARS SNOWFLAKES!! WITHOUT USING THE FORCE!


   With winter upon us, we thought it would be fun to share a fun project of ours with you: snowflake designs with a Star Wars twist.
   Last year’s wild success with our original designs prompted us to spend some time this year polishing those designs and coming up with some new ones. We had so much fun in fact that there are 19 new designs altogether.

Directions

  1. Click Diagram link to download the PDF
  2. Print the PDF
  3. Cut the circle out
  4. Fold the diagram. We found doing a accordion fold worked better for us.
  5. Cut the grey area out (you may need an Exacto knife for some of the designs)
  6. Unfold and hang!

Individual Diagrams

Stormtrooper - Star Wars Snowflake

Stormtrooper

Boba Fett - Star Wars Snowflake

Boba Fett

Darth Vader - Star Wars Snowflake

Darth Vader

Clone Trooper - Star Wars Snowflake

Clone Trooper

Han Solo - Star Wars Snowflake

Han Solo

T-47 airspeeder - Star Wars Snowflake

T-47 Airspeeder

Imperial logo - Star Wars Snowflake

Imperial Logo

Rebel logo - Star Wars Snowflake

Rebel Logo

Republic logo - Star Wars Snowflake

Republic Logo

Additional Diagrams from Full Collection

X-Wing starfighter - Star Wars Snowflake

X-Wing Starfighter

TIE Fighter - Star Wars Snowflake

TIE Fighter

Star Destroyer - Star Wars Snowflake

Star Destroyer

Millennium Falcon - Star Wars Snowflake

Millennium Falcon

Princess Leia - Star Wars Snowflake

Princess Leia

Eta-2 interceptor - Star Wars Snowflake

Eta-2 Interceptor

Death Star - Star Wars Snowflake

Death Star

Clone Trooper 2 - Star Wars Snowflake

Clone Trooper 2

DIWALI!!

  













   The ancient festival of Diwali has been celebrated for ages in India and annual celebrations are still held each year all over the country with great flourish, enthusiasm and gaiety. Traditionally believed to be a a Hindu festival of wealth and prosperity, it is amazing to see how Diwali has become an occasion for all Indians irrespective of their status and castes. Know how Diwali is celebrated all over India. If you like our article on Diwali celebrations around India, Celebrated with great excitement and grandeur, Diwali or Deepavali is one of the prime Hindu festivals that unites the whole of India. Know about the different ways in which this sparkling festival is celebrated in different parts of the country.


North India 


   According to the great Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’, Diwali is believed to be the time when Lord Rama defeated and killed the evil King Ravana and after passing a period of of fourteen years in exile returned to his capital Ayodhya (in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh) on a new moon day of the Kartik season with wife Sita and brother Lakshman. This homecoming of Lord Rama was celebrated with lights, fireworks, bursting of crackers and merriment. The tradition continues to this day in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and the surrounding areas where huge effigies of Ravana are burned symbolizing Lord Rama's vanquishing of the demon king. The Diwali night, in these areas, is a night of fireworks with sparklers and crackers of all types burnt throughout the night. The idols of Goddess Lakshmi, the symbol of wealth and prosperity and Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, are worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day. Most of the temples dedicated to the worship of Lord Rama or Krishna celebrate Diwali with great piety and eagerness. 















Eastern India 


   In the eastern region of the country, Diwali is celebrated with great fanfare. In Orissa, oil lamps, candles and lanterns are lit and placed in rows around individual homes. Crackers are burst, sparklers lighted and gifts and sweetmeats distributed by people across the state. The celebration here is almost like anywhere in India save for one ritual that calls upon the spirits of the family's forefathers. A primitive custom in this festival includes burning of jute stems to light up the dark path that the spirits of the ancestors supposedly take to go back to heaven. Most of the houses are brightly lit and the doors and windows kept open to welcome Goddess Lakshmi, who is supposed to visit every home during this time and ignores all places that are kept dark and abandoned.
   In West Bengal, Lakshmi puja is celebrated earlier than the Diwali celebrations and the deity celebrated on this occasion is the fierce Goddess Kali. "Kali Puja" or the worship of Goddess Kali is what makes the celebration in this part of India a unique one. In Kolkata, the capital of the state, as well as in all the other parts of West Bengal, the nights of "Kali Puja" are marked by high festivities that consists of activities similar to other regions like bursting crackers, holding dazzling fireworks display, lighting rows of candles and diyas around individual homes, painting colorful patterns at the doorstep, dressing up in new apparels and paying a visit to friends and relatives. Across the state, makeshift structures called pandals, made of articles as bamboos and cloth, are erected that house idols of Goddess Kali for the two days of celebration. The actual worship of the deity is, however, done only for one night during this festival. It is also believed that it is the night of the 'Pitripurush' (ancestors) and lamps are lit on long poles to guide their souls on this night. But the practice is more common in rural areas of Bengal than in cities like Kolkata. 




Western India 


In the western states of India, Diwali is a four-day festival, the preparations for which begin at least 15 days in advance. The markets liven up almost a whole month in advance for Diwali shoppers and the shopping frenzy peaks with the advancement of the occasion. On the night preceding Diwali, Gujaratis start celebrations by creating designs depicting images associated to the festival like deities, sun and flowers from natural powder colors (called "Rangoli") in their verandas. Images of small footprints are also drawn over individual doorsteps which is supposed to be a way of inviting Goddess Lakshmi to the house.













   On the first day, Narakchaturdashi, fruits are smashed and crackers burst to symbolize the killing of the evil demon Narakasur. On Lakshmi Pujan, the second and most important day of Diwali, Hindu homes all over the western region of India worship the idols of Lord Ganesh (deity of auspiciousness and wisdom) and Goddess Lakshmi (deity of wealth and prosperity) or symbols of them like currency notes and gold. The third day, Padawa, is considered to be one of the most auspicious days of the year in states like Maharashtra, and is held to be propitious for beginning any important task. This is the day for shopping, lighting diyas (earthen lamps) and performing tilak ceremony. In Gujarat, this is the New Year day when people visit each other to wish a new beginning. Bhau Beej is the last day of the festival that signifies sibling bonding and the celebrations during this day is quite akin to Rakhi, another great Indian festival standing for the brother-sister relationship. Unlike Raksha Bandhan however, which is a day dedicated to brothers, Bhau Beej is dedicated to sisters. 




Southern India 


 In Southern India, Diwali is is celebrated in the Tamil month of aipasi (thula month) 'naraka chaturdasi' thithi, preceding amavasai. Naraka chaturdashi is the main day of the Diwali celebrations in this area. The preparations begin the day before, when the oven is cleaned, smeared with lime, religious symbols drawn on it and then filled with water for the next day's oil bath. Individual homes are washed and decorated with kolam designs (akin to rangoli patterns in North India). Firecrackers and new apparels are kept on a plate to be used on the following day. On the morning of Naraka chaturdashi, the actual celebrations begin with an early morning oil bathe before sunrise. Afterwards, sweets are eaten and new clothes worn.    A unique Diwali custom in Tamil Nadu is the once-in-a-lifetime event, Thalai Deepavali, when newly weds spend their first diwali after marriage in the bride's parental home. The newly married couple, after taking blessings from the elders, burst the first crackers of the day and thereafter pay a visit to the temple, get gifts of clothes and jewellery, savor the sweets reserved for them and receive blessings of elders for a happy married life. In this joyful occasion the groom's parents and relatives also come down to join in the celebrations. 
   In Maharashtra, Diwali is celebrated over a span of four days. The first day, Vasubaras, is celebrated by performing an Aarti (prayer with songs) of the cow and its calf- which represents the love between a mother and her baby. The next day is Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanteras, a special day for tradesmen and business people for new account books are opened by them after a worship of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi. On the third day, Narakchaturdashi, people get up before sunrise and take a bathe after rubbing scented oil on their body. After this, the entire family visits a temple and offers prayers to their God. Following this, everyone feasts on Faral, a special Diwali preparation consisting of delicious sweets such as "karanji" and "ladoo" as well as some spicy eatables like "chakli" and "sev". The fourth day is Lakshmi pujan day, a new moon day, the dark night of which is illuminated by lamps and fireworks. In every household, an idol of Goddess Lakshmi and items of wealth like currency and jewellery are worshipped. Friends, neighbours and relatives are invited over and celebrations are in full swing. 

















Rural India 

   In the rural regions of India, the Diwali celebrations, apart from its other significances, also stand in for harvest celebrations. In villages across the country, Diwali is the time that farmers celebrate with joy and offer praises to God for granting them a good crop. In the morning, variously colored Rangoli or Kolam designs denoting shapes as the footsteps of Goddess Lakshmi are drawn at individual doorsteps and also all over the houses to usher in wealth, fortune and prosperity. Idols of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day. At dusk, the real jubilations begin. Tiny earthen lamps and candles are arranged all over individual huts in rows and create a beautiful sight to behold. People wear new apparels, burst firecrackers and light sparklers, visit the places of their relatives and friends to wish them on the occasion of Diwali and exchange gifts. All this illumination and fireworks, joy and festivity, symbolize the triumph of divine forces over those of wickedness, or rather - of good over evil.




 Diwali is the biggest festival of India. However, it has great fanfare in other countries as well, where non residents have introduced them, and are present in large numbers. Check out the following countries where Diwali is celebrated. 



Diwali Around The World

   Diwali celebration is contagious and is picking up across the globe, wherever there is a strong Hindu and Sikh population. The event signifies the defeat of the evil, and marks the Hindu new year. It is also a time for token spending, to welcome the new year with decorating the house, new clothes, and performing pujas at the local temples.


North America or USA

   Diwali is a Hindu and Sikh festival, and the biggest one in India. However, most in America would not know about this festival, and neither is it a holiday there. On the Diwali day, considering it falls on a weekday, some Hindus will go to temples after office in the evening. However, the celebration is always on the oncoming weekend, when the community will meet in a pre-designated hall, for the celebrations.
   Another reason that the festival has gone primarily unnoticed is because the stringent laws on fireworks in the US.

   However, things are set to change after President Obama has observed Diwali in 2011. Very soon, we may have more and more Americans, who will know about the event.








Ankita Lokhande wishes Happy Diwali










United Kingdom

   Outside India and Nepal, Deepavali is probably received with maximum fanfare in Britain, owing to the rich Indian population in the island. Leicester sees more than 35,000 people attending the event on Belgrave road and in the thick of the asian community. Hindu new year is commemorated with fireworks, fanfare, distribution of sweets and gifts, and wishing one another 'Happy Diwali!'
   In London, the celebration is official too, with the Mayor himself inaugurating and presiding over the show at Trafalgar Square. In 2011, the celebrations were on a Saturday, starting on 2pm and ending at 7pm. The programme spanned vegetarian food courts, free distribution of sarees, garba dance and a variety of mixed entertainment and religious performances.
   Local Indian Hindus and Sikhs visit Laxmi temples and Gurdwaras to worship. Burning of incense sticks and distribution of sweets, with attire of traditional Indian clothing is common.



New Zealand

   Auckland and Wellington sees the maximum funfair of Diwali celebrations in New Zealand, as the Asia New Zealand Foundation oversees it. These places also have the maximum concentration of Hindus. Celebrations are always on the weekends following the event. The programmes are marked with Indian performers and artists flown from India, and performancesranges from sand sculptures to classical dances to puppet shows.
For more information, you can visit their page at 





Guyana 

   Guyana, formerly known as British Guiana, is located on the northeast coast of South America. Guyana is 82,978 square miles in area and has a population of about 7,70,000. Hindus constitute 33% of Guyana's total population. The Co-operative Republic of Guyana in Southern America celebrates Diwali according to the Hindu Solar calendar. The day of the festival is declared as a national holiday in the official calendar of Guyana. The tradition of celebrating the festival is believed to have been brought to Guyana in the year 1853 by the first indentured people from India. The legends related to the festival are similar to that of India. The celebration of the festival includes, distribution of sweets, illuminating the inside and outside of the house, exchange of greetings, cleaning of houses and wearing of new clothes. The celebrations hold special significance for the people of Guyana. The distribution of sweet signifies the importance of serving and sharing whereas exchange of greeting cards denotes the goodwill of each other. The sweets distributed mainly consist of pera, barfi, and kheer. The tradition of wearing new cloth for the people of Guyana is significant especially in this festival. They believe that wearing new cloth is the symbol of healthy souls in healthy bodies. Cleaning of their homes and keeping them well illuminated in and outside is a practice meant to illuminate the road for Goddess Lakshmi so that while goddess Lakshmi visits their home she faces no problem of light as the diwali night is regarded as the darkest night of the year. 
















 Indonesia 

   The name Indonesia came from two Greek words: "Indos" meaning Indian and "Nesos" meaning islands. The majority of population follows Islam. Hindus constituent about 2% of Indonesia's total population. However, the Indonesian island of Bali is famous for celebrating the festival of Diwali, as a majority of the population here is that of Indians. It is one of the most revered festivals of the locals here. The celebration and rituals of the festival is mostly similar to that celebrated by their counterparts in India. 



Malaysia 

   Fascinating in its diversity, Malaysia has many mesmerizing charms and attractions. With a population of about 20 million, comprising of a harmonious multi-ethnic mix of Malays, Malaysia promises a colorful potpourri of cultural traditions. Most are based on the various religious practices, beliefs and traditions influencing the costumes, festivals, ceremonies and rituals. The Hindu community of Malaysia constitutes about 8% of its total population .The community celebrates Diwali as a symbol of triumph of good over evil. The Malaysian people call diwali as Hari Diwali. This festival is celebrated during the 7th month of the Hindu solar calendar. The south Indian traditional of oil bath precedes the festivities. The celebration includes visits to temples and prayers at household altars. Small lamps made from clay and filled with coconut oil and wicks are a common sight to signify the victory of Lord Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, over the demon king Ravana. Diwali is celebrated almost all over the Malaysia except in Sarawak & Federal Territory of Labuan. 



 Mauritius

   Mauritius is an island in the Indian Ocean that lies to the east of Madagascar. This beautiful landmass is full of picturesque landscapes and enchanting spots. Mauritius accounts a 63% of Indian majority of which 80% follow Hinduism. Hence, celebration of almost all the Hindu festivals in this island is a common phenomenon. In Mauritius, Diwali celebration is an age-old tradition. It holds special significance for the natives, who believe that Diwali has been celebrated even long before the return of Lord Rama from 14 years of exile and his coronation as the king. The festival is marked by lightening of earthen lamps in rows making images out of the rows. Lakshmi is worshipped as the goddess of wealth and crackers are burnt to scare away evil spirits. 

















 Nepal 

   Nepal is a landlocked country nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. Nepal, a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society is the only Hindu Kingdom of the world. Diwali is celebrated here with the usual Hindu festivities and rituals. Diwali in Nepal is known as Tihar. Just like most places in India Diwali is celebrated here to honor the goddess of wealth and god of prosperity Lakshmi and Ganesh respectively. The festival of light falls in the months of October or November on the day of Amavasya - the darkest day of the year. The festival here continues for five days. Every day has its special significance. The first day is dedicated to cows as they cook rice and feed the cows believing that goddess Lakshmi comes on cows. The second day is for Dogs as the Vahana of Bhairava. Preparation of delicious food especially meant for the dog is a typical characteristic of the day. Lights and lamps are lit to illuminate the entire surrounding and some of the specialty items are prepared to mark the third day of the festival. Fireworks, Lamps and crackers are widely used. The fourth day is dedicated to Yama, the Hindu God of Death. He is prayed for long life. The fifth final day is Bhhaya Dooj dedicated for the brothers who are wished long life and prosperity by their sisters. 




South Africa 

   South Africa is located at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. The South African culture is a mix of variety of cultures. Asians in South Africa constitute two per cent of South Africa's population, and most are of Indian origin. Indians in South Africa are descended from indentured labourers who were brought by the British from India in the 19th century, mostly to work in sugar plantations or mines (especially, coal) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and later also from traders who emigrated to South Africa. A decade prior to the colonization by the United States of America, the nation had the largest immigrant Indian community in the world. Interestingly, Indian South Africans form the largest group in the world of people of Indian descent born outside India. At present, South Africa has almost one million immigrant Indians most of whom are concentrated in the eastern regions of Natal and Transvaal of the country. About 65% of Hindus, 15% of Muslims and 20% of Christians live in this area. Due to the majority of the Hindu population, a number of Hindu festivals are celebrated here. Naturally, Diwali also holds an important place in the festival calendar of the region. The celebration is more or less same to that in India. A new book on Indian indentured labourers reveals that the 2007 Diwali Celebrations in South Africa marked the 100th year of celebrations of the festival in the country.
















Trinidad and Tobago 

   Trinidad is the most southern of the Caribbean islands, lying only seven miles off the Venezuelan coast, is one of the most exciting, colorful islands of the West Indies. Considered as the land of the Humming Bird, Trinidad and Tobago has a good number of Indian population. For that reason, Hindu festivals, customs, traditions and observances forms an integral part of the society, which comprises the unique beauty of the twin island state. The Diwali celebration has a unique flavor here in the Caribbean island nation. Here 43 per cent of the 1.3 million populations are ethnic Indians. The Diwali celebrations are usually marked as an occasion to unify the nation that consists of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians. The festival day is regarded as a national holiday. The festival is also marked by scores of functions besides the usual rituals of the festivity. The functions and celebrations also have an official imprint as the Ministers of the Government also participate in the celebrations sometimes. The belief behind the festival is same as of India, which is, prevalence of good over evil. The celebrations continue for over a week and the headquarters of the National Council of Indian Culture at Diwali Nagar becomes the focal point.



12 reasons to celebrate Diwali



1. Goddess Lakshmi’s Birthday

On this very Diwali day, the Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi is said to have been incarnated from the depth of the bottomless ocean. The Hindu scriptures tell us that both Devas(gods) and Asuras (demons) were mortal (Mrita) at one point of time. Seeking a deathless condition (Amarattva), they churned the ocean to seek Amrita, the nectar of immortality (an event mentioned in the Hindu scriptures as "Samudra-manthan"), during which a host of divine celestial objects came up. Prime among these was Goddess Lakshmi, the daughter of the king of the milky ocean, who arose on the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month. She was subsequently married to Lord Vishnu on the same darkest night of the year and brilliant lamps were illuminated and placed in rows to mark this holy occassion.
   Hence the association of Diwali with Goddess Lakshmi and the tradition of lighting of lamps and candles during the festival. To this day, Hindus celebrate the birth of the goddess Lakshmi and her marriage to Lord Vishnu on Diwali and seek her blessings for the coming year.
 



2. The Legend of King Mahabali

    The Bhagavata Purana (also known as Srimad Bhagavatam), the most sacred Hindu text, reveals how on a Diwali day Lord Vishnu, in his fifth incarnation as Vaman-avtaara, rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali during the Treta Yug. Bali, or rather King Mahabali, was a powerful demon king who ruled the earth. Powered by a boon granted to him by Lord Brahma, Bali was invincible and even gods failed to defeat him in battles. Although a wise and perfect king otherwise, Mahabali was violent in his ways with the Devas (gods). On their insistence, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a short Brahmin and approached Bali for some charity. The righteous and benevolent King couldn't refuse the Brahmin's offer and was tricked into giving up his kingship and wealth (of which Lakshmi is said to be the Goddess). Diwali marks this overcoming of Mahabali by Lord Vishnu and this is another reason why Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on Diwali.
   In Kerala, the festival of 'Onam' is celebrated around the month of August to mark this legend.
 















3. The Killing of Narakasura

   The Bhagavata Purana tells us about Narakasura, an evil demon king who had managed to acquire awesome powers. Unrivalled in prowess, he conquered both the heavens and earth and was tyrannical in his reign. Addicted to power, he even stole the earrings of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess, and usurped some of her territory. When Lord Vishnu was incarnated as Krishna in the Dwapara Yuga, he killed Narakasura on the day preceding Diwali and rescued 16,000 women whom the demon had imprisoned in his palace. The deliverance from the terrible Narakasura was celebrated with much grandeur, a tradition that continues to this day.   However, another version of the story credits Lord Krishna's wife Sathyabhama as the one who eliminated Narakasura. It is said that Narakasura could only be killed by his mother Bhudevi and as Satyabhama was an incarnation of the same Bhudevi, she only could kill him. Before death, however, Narakasura realized his mistake and requested a boon from Satyabhama that everyone should celebrate his death with colorful light. To commemorate his death, the event is celebrated in some parts of India as Naraka Chaturdasi, two days before Diwali day.   



4. The Return of the Pandavas


   The great Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’ reveals that it was ‘Kartik Amavashya’ (the new moon day of the Kartik month) when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice (gambling). The five Pandava brothers, their mother and their wife Draupadi were honest, kind, gentle and caring in their ways and were loved by all their subjects. To celebrate the joyous occassion of their return to Hastinapura and to welcome back the Pandavas, the common people illuminated their state by lighting bright earthen lamps everywhere. And the tradition is maintained to this day. 














5. The Victory of Rama

    The great Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’ describes how Lord Ram (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the Treta Yug) conquered Lanka after vanquishing the evil King Ravana and after passing a period of of fourteen years in exile returned to his capital Ayodhya on a new moon day of Kartik with wife Sita and brother Lakshman. To celebrate the homecoming of their beloved king, the people of Ayodhya burst crackers, lit up their houses with earthen lamps (diyas), and decorated the entire city in the grandest manner. Year after year this homecoming of Lord Rama is commemorated on Diwali with lights, fireworks, bursting of crackers and merriment. The festival gets its name Deepawali, or Diwali, from the rows (avali) of lamps (deepa) that the people of Ayodhya lit to welcome their King.     



6. Coronation of Vikramaditya

   It is also said that Vikramaditya, the legendary Indian king famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity was coroneted on the Diwali day following his victory over the Sakas in 56 BC. This was marked by a grand celebration which is still maintained annually. One of the greatest Hindu monarchs, Vikramaditya ruled the greatest empire in the world from modern-day Thailand in the east to the borders of modern-day Saudi Arabia in the west. Diwali, thus, apart from being a religious festival also has a historical association. 



7. The Enlightenment of Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Diwali also marks the auspicious occasion when on a new moon day of Kartik (Diwali day) Swami Dayananda Saraswati, one of the greatest reformers of Hinduism attained his nirvana (enlightenment) and became Maharshi Dayananda, meaning the great sage Dayananda. In 1875, Maharshi Dayananda founded the Arya Samaj, "Society of Nobles", a Hindu reform movement to purify Hinduism of the many evils it became associated with at that era. Every Diwali, this great reformer is remembered by Hindus all over India. 



8. The Enlightenment of Vardhamana Mahavira 

For Jains, Diwali commemorates the enlightenment of Vardhamana Mahavira(the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankaras of the Jains and the founder of modern Jainism) which is said to have occurred on Oct. 15, 527 B.C. This is one more reason to engage in Diwali celebrations for pious Jains and other than the purpose of commemoration, the festival stands for the celebration of the emancipation of human spirit from earthly desires.















9. Special Day for the Sikhs

 For Sikhs, Diwali holds a special significance for it was on a Diwali day that the third Sikh Guru Amar Das institutionalized the festival of lights as an occasion when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Gurus blessings. It was also on a Diwali day in 1619 that their sixth religious leader, Guru Hargobind Ji, who was held by the Mughal Emperor Jahengir in the Gwalior fort, was freed from imprisonment along with 52 Hindu Kings (political prisoners) whom he had arranged to be released as well. And it was also on the same auspicious occasion of Diwali when the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid in 1577. 



10. Goddess Kali

   Kali, also called Shyama Kali, is the first of the 10 avatars (incarnations) of Goddess Durga, Lord Shiva's consort. According to legend, long ago after the gods lost in a battle with the demons, Goddess Kali was born as Kal Bhoi Nashini from the forehead of Goddess Durga. Said to be a personification of Nari Shakti (female power), Kali was born to save heaven and earth from the growing cruelty of the demons. After killing all the devils, Kali lost her control and started killing anyone who came her way which stopped only when Lord Shiva intervened. The well-known picture of Ma Kali, with her tongue hanging out, actually depicts the moment when she steps on the Lord and repents. 
   That momentous day has been commemorated ever since and the main purpose of celebrating Kali Puja is to seek the help of the goddess in destroying evil both external and internal to us as also to get her blessings for general happiness, health, wealth, and peace.



11. The Harvest Festival

    Diwali also falls in the time of the Kharif crop, a time when rich rice cultivation gives its fruits. India being a agro-economic society, the significance of a rich harvest gives a new meaning to the celebrations.
















12. Hindu New Year day 

   Diwali is also the Hindu new year, Hinduism being the third largest religion of the world. It is at this time that Hindu businessmen offer pujas, start new books of accounts, and pay off all debts to start a new year afresh, a good enough reason alone to indulge in the festivities.



The Traditions and celebration


   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 a time 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, specially in Maharashtra, of taking a 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 healthwealth, 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.
















Other Traditions:
   Apart from the epical attributions Diwali is regarded as a pious day for other reasons as well.
   To the Jain's, Deepavali has an added significance to the great event of Mahaveera attaining the Eternal Bliss of Nirvaana.
   It is on the same day of Amavasya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, that leonine sanyasin who was one of the first to light the torch of Hindu Renaissance during the last century, passed into Eternity.
Swami Ramatirtha who carried the fragrance of the spiritual message of Hindu Dharma to the western world, also passed into eternity. The lights kindled on this day also mark the attempt of their followers to immortalize the sacred memories of those great men who lived to brighten the lives of millions of their fellow beings. The passage of these great men have indeed brought the national-cum-spiritual tradition of Deepavali right up to modern times.



History of Diwali






Ram and Sita



 



   Almost all the histories of Diwali point to the triumph of the Good over the evil, and the celebrations aftermath. The celebrations after the taming of the bad, have given rise to the festival of lights, Diwali. The most popular, and widely believed history is the returning of Lord Rama to Ayodhya, after He defeated the demon king Ravana, and returned home with his wife, Mata Sita. There are a few other beliefs too, regarding the festival's origin, the more popular ones being the defeat of Mahishasure and Naraka.
   Some history, however, is of a different view, namely origins from the beloved King Bali, Samudramanthan and Lord Indra's defeat.