deepavali

Deepabali, the festival of lights, is uniquely celebrated in Orissa. It has its own charm and style. It is marked by calling spirit of ancestor by lighting a lamp inside an earthen pot tied to a pole erected in front of the house. Rows of oil lamps, candles and lanterns adorn the thresholds of all houses. Crackers are burst; sweet meals are relished and distributed. It could be similar to Diwali Festival anywhere else in India, to save one small ritual.

Deepabali has many legends and religious accounts to it. In Tretaya Yuga the Lord Ram killed the demon Ravana on Vijaya Dashami (Dussehera) and on “Kartik Amavasya” his 14 years of exile completed and he backed to Ayodhya with Sita, Laxman and Hanuman. To mark this historical day the devotees of Ramachandra, celebrate the very day with Lights and crackers. It is also a ritual that calls upon the spirits of the family’s forefathers. Lights and diyas are lit to signify the driving away of darkness and ignorance, as well as the awakening of the light within ourselves.

On the eve of Deepabali, all the family members remain present at their homes. They draw rangoli in the shape of sailboat on the ground in front of their house. The sailboat has seven chambers and each chamber holds special significance. They are filled with items like cotton, salt, mustard, asparagus root, turmeric and a wild creeper. However in the central chamber, prasad is placed and over which a diya of a jute stem with cloth wick is lit. This marks the beginning of puja. All the members then hold a bunch of jute stick in their hands and lit them from the fire from main diya i.e. the diya kept over prasad and raise the bunch towards the sky chanting the following verse.

Maa Kali is the fearful and ferocious form of the mother goddess Durga. Kali is also called Shyama Kali who is the first of the 10 avatars (incarnations) of Durga. Kali puja is performed on the night of Kartik Amavasya, which falls in the month of October/November. Kali Puja is performed essentially to seek protection against drought and war, to be blessed with general happiness, health, wealth, and peace. It is observed to diminish the ego and all negative tendencies that hinder spiritual progress and material prosperity. As Kali puja is a tantrik puja so it is performed only at midnight on Amavasya (new moon night). The main purpose of the puja is to seek the help of the goddess in destroying evil – both in the outside world and within us.

The mythological background of observing Kali puja is that long ago the demons, Shumbha and Nishumbha disturbed the peace of Indra, the king of gods. After extensive and endless battles, the gods lost hope and the demons became stronger and stronger. The Gods took refuge in the Himalayas, the home of Lord Shiva and Parvati. The Gods sought protection from Goddess Durga, i.e the Goddess of Shakti. Kali was born from Durga’s forehead as “Kala Bhoi Nashini” created to save heaven and earth from the growing cruelty of the demons. Along with Dakini and Jogini, her two escorts, she decided her way to end the war and kill the devils.

There was chaos all around. After slaughtering the demons, Kali made a garland of their heads and wore it around her neck. In the bloodbath, she lost control and started killing anyone who came on her way. The Gods started running for their lives. The only source of protection seemed to be Lord Shiva, Durga’s consort. Seeing the endless killing, Shiva devised a plan to save the world. He laid down on the path of the rampaging Kali. When the goddess unknowingly stepped on him, she regained her senses. Kali stuck out her tongue in astonishment, and put an end to her homicidal rampage. Hence the common image of Kali, with her tongue hanging out, actually depicts the moment when she steps on the Lord and repents. That historic day is celebrated ever since.