That the five-day fiesta Deepawali is round the corner is evident when the Kumbhars in Kumbharwada, near Mukherjee Chowk, begin to make earthen ‘diyas’ and the markets are abuzz with shoppers.
The day that ushers in the festivities is Dhanteras that falls two days before Diwali and is a celebration of prosperity and good fortune.
Dhanteras is considered a highly auspicious day for ‘Muharat’ of new houses and shops. ‘Akhandjyot’ for three days is lit. In the evening goddess Laxmi, old coins and ornaments are worshipped. Getting money is considered to be good but not so incurring expenses. First of all Laxmi Pujan used to be performed in the stores of the royal palace. The Maharana would go to Mahalaxmi Mandir in Bhatiyani Choutta for Darshan.
Various temples spread all over the city, celebrate Diwali in their own way. Mahalaxmi Mandir situated at Bhatiyani Chouta between Jagdish Chowk and Gulab Bagh and built by Maharana Shambhusingh about 400 years ago when he returned from a battle, is thronged by lakhs of devotees during Diwali festival. Built with white stone and exquisitive glass work, the temple was given the present form by Maharana Jagatsingh and was then handed over to the local Shrimali Samaj as Mahalaxmi is the Kuldevi of this community. There are special celebrations from Dhanteras to Annakoot. Dhanteras begins with early morning ‘abhishek’ and the ‘poshaks’ offered by the devotees are changed four times. Devotees keep coming till midnight. Similarly, on Roop Choudas there is early morning ‘Pujan’ and ‘aarti’ and dresses are changed four times during the day. The ‘darshan’ in Sinha Lagna on Diwali midnight is considered to be most auspicious and brings prosperity in the family. On Annakoot, ‘prasad’ is prepared in huge quantity and offered to Mahalaxmi while the doors are closed. For the next three days, it is distributed among devotees.
On Diwali Udaipurites are naturally in a mood to make merry. All the ‘bazars’ in the town get a facelift. The multicoloured rustling buntings, resplendent festoons, and myriad tiny bulbs of innumerable hues give the market a sort of other worldly look. The houses are spruced and whitewashed. Ladies beautify their homes with rangoli mandanas, the folk craft of making various designs at the threshold of the house on the doors and walls using red sand and white lime paste. Every festival has designs unique to it. The design of Laxmiji ka Mandana includes images of oil lamps at the top followed by the designs of coins and propitious feet of Laxmiji. To save time and labour stencils are also used nowadays.
Laxmi and Ganesh puja is performed in the evening when tiny clay Diyas are lit to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. Bhajans in her praise are sung and traditional sweets are offered. In some houses Lord Dhanwantari is also worshipped reverently.
On a board made of mango wood a Swastik is made with turmeric and a Supari that is considered to be a form of the Lord is also placed. Then the whole family worships it. Lighting a ‘diya’ made of wet flour and putting it on some grain at the entrance of the house, is believed to please Lord Yama, and thus give long life and prevent untimely death. To appease Kuber, the god of wealth, a ‘deepak’ is lit in the main ‘puja’ of the house.
It is believed that on this day as a result of ‘Samundra manthan’, Dhanwantari, the god of health, emerged from the ocean with a pot of elixir. So the festival has been named also as Dhanwantri Jayanti. To keep good health, he suggested several measures such as waking up before sunrise, brushing of teeth, daily bath and exercise, proper clothes, remembring one’s Ista , favourite god, and adequate sleep. Among measures for mental health are sharing social responsibility whole heartedly, be non-violent, truthful and generous, not being greedy, be respectful towards elders and indifference to sensual pleasures.
To capitalize on the tradition of buying utensils and items such as gold, silver, diamonds, electronic goods etc. on this auspicious day, the markets come out with lucrative schemes. Dealers of electronic items offer prizes through lottery. Combo offers provide rebate on buying two or more things. Rate concessions and reduced making charges are provided by jewellers. As people like to purchase new vehicles, automobile companies offer free gold coins, free registrastion or insurance and warranty for longer periods. Clothes can also be bought at lower prices. No Diwali is complete without fireworks. So they are in great demand. The trend of buying eco-friendly crackers made from recycled paper that have low decibel and emit less smoke is catching up. In additton to traditional sweets made with ‘mawa’, those using dry fruits are also becoming popular.
The day after Dhanteras is called Narakchaturdasi as it is said that Lord Krishna had slayed the demon Narkasur on this fateful day. It is also called Roop Chaturdashi as it is believed that anyone who wakes up in the wee hours, bathes and offers prayers to the goddess Tulsi by lighting a Diya before her, gets enticing beauty, both physical and spiritual. Square shaped oil Diyas are lit in front of the houses as it is believed that ‘Pitras’ visit homes on this day. Doing so also pleases Yamraj. In some homes Sundarkand and Hanuman Chalisa are recited as it is believed that Anjali gave birth to Hanuman on this day. The day is also called Choti Diwali as it precedes the big Diwali day.
On Kartik Amawasya, there used to be a feast by the Maharana in the morning. A ‘Durbar’ was held in Naginavadi in the afternoon. The Maharana used to wear special dress and ornaments. He worshipped goddess Laxmi. There was parade by horses and a programme of music played on musical instruments. The Hatsaal of Rajmahal was lit up with ‘Diyas’. Courtiers present in Darikhana were given sugarcane. After bidding forewell to courtiers, the Maharana would perform the ritual of Heed-sichwana with his relations in the Janana Mahal. Sugarcane was sent to be houses of Sardars and Umraos who were not present in the court. They were also sent to the Resident in case he was present in the capital. As per tradition the Maharana sent ‘Diyas’, oil and cotton to some employees for illumination at home. Picchola lake was also lit up by floating Diyas.
Diwali is a busy day for Udaipurites. They get up early and have a bath. Women get busy giving final touches to decoration and making colorful ‘rangolis’. ‘ Bandanwars’ are hung on the front door. Special dishes are a part of the sumptuous lunch. Preparations are made for the big evening ‘Pujan’ in which lotus flowers, especially red ones, are used. Families get together to perform Laxmi ‘Pujan’ with deep reverence in the evening or night during an auspicious period. After this ‘Diyas’ are put at different places. Then it is time to fire crackers and greet and meet relations and friends. A visit to watch the decorated markets is also common. On this day, it is a tradition to start business with new account books.
A new change that is related to accounting by shopkeepers is the use of computers with the result that the paper made Khatabahi has become obsolete. According to the Khatabahi makers in Bada Bazar, the quantity of their product has gone down considerably. After the initial investment in the purchase of a computer, its use saves a lot of time, money and energy. Earlier one Muneem, accountant, was needed by one firm but now a single computer trained person can complete the work in a couple of hours every day and then move on to the next shop. This work is being done mostly on the basis of annual contract. Now in most cases Khatabahi is purchased only for purpose of performing a ritual on the occasion of Diwali.
In the temples the old traditions are still followed religiously but this ancient festival that started in the time of Lord Ram has seen several changes in the way it has been celebrated. In the fast changing scenario of Diwali in Lake City, the scintillating glow of the earthen ‘diyas’ is being replaced by small electric bulbs of different colours. Due to the diminishing demand of ‘diyas’, the potters of Kumharwada area of Udaipur who used to get busy weeks in advance of Diwali in making ‘diyas’ and earthen pitchers are having a rough time and are on the point of starving. Out of dozens of families of Kumhars there is only a few engaged in this profession now. The new generation is moving on to other means to earn a living. The cost of the raw materials is rising fast. The sand used in making ‘diyas’ is of a special type and is procured from distant places such as Nathdwara and Vallabhnagar. One tractor costs about Rs. 4000. The price of wood used for baking the pots has also gone up considerably. And as a result of all this, the old tradition of using ‘diyas’ on Diwali is dying fast.
During the reign of the Maharanas, on the day following Diwali was celebrated Khenkhara. A huge figure of Jalandhar Daitya made with bamboo wood would be set up in Chougan. It was stuffed with firecrackers, covered with paper and then painted. In the evening the Maharana would go to Chougan to watch the elephant fight. Then the figure of the Daitya was burnt. Outside the Toranpol of Rajmahal, on the floor were made Goverdhan with cowdung that was crushed by the cows of the Janani Diyodi.
On Annakoot, Goverdhanpuja is performed to commemorate Lord Krishna’s lifting of Goverdhan Parvat on his finger and worshipping it. Outside the main gate of the house, a figure of Goverdhan is made with cowdung and worshipped with water, ‘roli’, ‘moli’, grains, curds etc. Cows are worshipped reverently. A whole lot of dishes are prepared and offered as Bhog. In temples Chappanbhog is offered to the Lord and then distributed as Prasad. Later in the day, people meet their relatives and friends and wish them Happy Diwali and a prosperous year ahead.
On the last day of the five-day fiesta is celebrated Bhai Dooj, an occasion to strengthen the brother-sister bond. Sisters invite their brothers to their homes, put ‘Tilak’ on the forehead, and offer severel tasty dishes and get gifts from brothers. It is believed that Yama, the god of death, visited his sister river Yamuna and blessed her by granting a boon that whoever visits his sister on this day would be freed from the fear of Yama. In Kayasth homes, Chitragupta from whom this community traces its origin is worshipped with great devotion. They also worship Kalam and Dawat on this day.
On Annakoot day and different days after it, Chhapan Bhog is prepared in several temples of Udaipur and devotees throng them for ‘darshan’ and ‘prasad’.
Now on Diwali, Udaipurites are able to buy pure sweets through group sharing system. A number of societies are formed in the town. They decide to get sweets made in bulk and supply them cheaper than the market price. The raw material is bought in bulk at wholesale price. Cooks are engaged at reasonable labour charges. Sweets are prepared under the supervision of some experienced members of the societies. Orders from customers are booked about 10 days in advance. Fifty percent of the amount is to be paid in advance. Looking to the adulteration of ‘mawa’ it is not used in any sweet. Some of the societies use their profit for the benefit of poor children by helping them in their education and providing winter clothes.
There is a sea change in the way people greet each other on the occasion of Diwali. When people lived in small places, they were able to wish others easily. When distances increased greeting cards were used for the purpose. In some cases they were made at home that showed creativity and individuality. But now even printed greeting cards are going out of fashion. So much so that some shops at Chetak Circle have stopped selling them. According to a bookseller in Bapu Bazar, there is a big variety of greeting cards on the internet that people send to others on whatsup. They are received instantly. Whatsup groups exchange greeting cards. Buying cards from the market and sending them takes more time and money. Moreover, there is a risk of their being delivered late.
With great enthusiasm is celebrated Annakoot in Shrinath Mandir, Nathdwara. Motimahal is attractively decorated. The cows from Nathuwas are decorated and brought to the Mandir. The ‘gwalbal’ dressed in fascinating traditional clothes go round the temple singing Heed songs. They tease the cows by sounding the Kumpi. The cows run after the ‘ gwalbals’ but stop suddenly so as not to hurt them.
A heap of 150 maunds of cooked rice and other dishes is placed in Doltibari. and offered to the Lord and ‘arti’ is waved. At noon the door of ‘Nakkarkhana’ is thrown open and the Lodabhils rush to loot the food. This is done as these tribals had helped Maharana Rajsingh in protecting the idols in Nathdwara and Dwarkadheesh when they were in danger of being destroyed by Mughals.
To crush the Goverdhan Parvat made with cowdung a cow Chandrawati is brought from Nathuwas Gaushala. Chandrawati is a decendant of the cows of Nandbaba in Vrindavan. It is believed that doing her ‘parikrama’ is as fruitful as Giriraj Parikrama in Mathura and by merely touching her one can get rid of several diseases.
In Ghasiar Mandir are worshipped the cows decorated with Mehandi etc. The Bhil mela on this occasion is also a big attraction.
In Charbhuja Mandir in Rajsamand district the idol is dressed and decorated in different ways all through Diwali festival. It is dressed up as ‘gwal’ on ‘ Khenkara’. From Dhanteras to Khenkara devotees come to the temple with Diyas that makes the temple glittering. Singing and dancing with the sound of Thal and Madal, Adiwasis in large number come to the temple for ‘darshan’ and ‘Prasad’.
The Sikh community in Udaipur celebrates Divali enthunsiatically as on this day Guru Hargovind Singh reached Harmindar Saheb with 52 rulers who he had got released from the Mughal ruler Jahangir. The construction of the famous Golden Temple at Amritsar started on this day.
On this day the incarnation of Vaman sent away king Bali and freed people from fear. On Kartik Amawasya, Lord Krishna went out to graze cows for the first time and this event was celebrated by people by lighting lamps. The Lord left for Gokuldham on Diwali. It is the coronation day of Emperor Vikramaditya. On this day Rajsuya Yagna was performed by Dharmaraj Yudhisthir. Emperor Ashok launched his victory campaign on this day. For Jain community it is a big day as Mahavir Swami left his physical body on this day. Mahirshi Dayanand also left for his heavenly abode on Diwali. Swami Ramtirth was born and died on this day.
It is really heartening that Udaipurites have a caring and sharing attitude towards their less privileged brethren. Groups of people, young and old, men and women, meet patients in hospitals, visually impaired, mentally weak and physically handicapped children, children living in slums, those living in orphanages, old age homes, or prisoners in jails and the like to cheer them and give them gifts of various kinds.
The five-day long festival brings joy and happiness and the celebration strenghtens bonds between families and people of different sects and communities.
- Rajendranath Purohit And Dr. S.K. Jugnu