Last night was Dipavali, also called Diwali. (This post is a day late due to non-cooperation of the Internet.) This festival honors Mahalakshmi, who is personified as the Goddess of wealth and good fortune. She bestows both inner and outer affluence on devotees of her consort, Lord Vishnu. The real significance of Dipavali is concerned as much with inner fulness relating to the development of higher states of consciousness (enlightenment) as with physical wealth and abundance.
Mahalakshmi day is a day for celebration and feasting, happy family gatherings, giving of gifts and sweets, forgiving all offenses, start of fiscal year for the business people of India, and lighting lamps to shine throughout the night. This is the night when Sri Sukta is recited and Lakshmi Puja is performed to promote wealth and affluence for everyone in the world. All of India is vibrant with celebration and happy feelings on this night. The tradition is to light little ghee lamps (diyas) and put them around the home, though strings of lights and other lighting displays have also become very popular. Many people set off fireworks, so the sky is lit up with beautiful displays for hours. There are also an incredible number of firecrackers being set off, and in some places the noise is literally deafening.
This spontaneous little shrine was right in the middle of an intersection. It wasn’t along a main road, of course, and traffic consisted mainly of pedestrians and motorbikes, but it was really rather curious. Someone put a light and then other women started putting lights and making little offerings of puffed rice. Definitely a woman’s thing. No men contributing their lights. Why there? Know knows? Still, it was a beautiful little celebration in the midst of the mad rush of last minute shopping, for this is the day when people buy new clothes, new cars and new items for the home. It has, unfortunately, become rather like Christmas in the US, with the commercial aspect gaining a bit too much prominence.
Today, the day after Dipavali, is celebrated as Govardhan Puja in many parts of India, especially where Krishna is most revered. It celebrates Krishna’s raising of the Govardhan Mountain to save his kinsman and the cowherds from the torrential floods. This is also a day when cows are honored as a source of good and sattwa for the world. They are decorated and fed special, delicious food, and puja is done for their welfare.