Diwali is celebrated in five days.
In the Adi Parva of the Mahabarata, the Pandavas returned from the forest during Diwali time. Once more, the celebrations extended beyond the boundaries of India.
The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras.
The second day of Diwali is called Naraka Chaturdasi. It is the fourteenth lunar day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kartika and the eve of Diwali. On this day, Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura and liberated the 16,000 princesses which the demon held captive.
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(Disclaimer: The following article was compiled by our editors from various sources and reflects the common lore associated with Diwali. More research will have to be done to find scriptural references for these stories.)
The second day is Choti Diwali.
The first day of Diwali is called Dhanvantari Trayodasi, also Dhan Theras. It is the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksh (the dark fortnight) of the month of Kartika. On this day, Lord Dhanvantari appeared, delivering Ayurvedic medicine for mankind.
The Five Days of Diwali (Dipavali)
Diwali is a five-day festival. Anecdotes from the Puranas abound for each of the days. Diwali can be observed by illuminating hundreds of candles in different parts of the temple and offering various preparations of food to the Deity. This ceremony was observed by the inhabitants of Ayodhya while Lord Rama was in exile, away from His kingdom. The joyful day on which Lord Rama returned is observed as Diwali, or Dipavali (“dipa” means candles, and “vali” means numerous.) During a different era, this was also the day on which Lord Krishna performed His childhood pastime of breaking the pots of yogurt and letting Himself be bound by Mother Yashoda.
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This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations. On this day at sunset, Hindus bathe and offer oil lamps with prasada (sanctified food) to Yamaraja (the Lord of Death) and pray for protection from untimely death.
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This is the actual day of Diwali, the Hindu New Year, when worship unto Mother Lakshmi is performed. Hindus cleanse themselves and join with their families and their Pandit (priest) and worship the divine Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, to achieve the blessings of wealth and prosperity, and triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. This is also the day on which Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, having successfully rescued Sita and defeated the demon, Ravana. (See: “Origins of Diwali,” below.)