Deepavali is celebrated for three days, as Naraka Chaturdasi, Lakshmi Pooja and Bali Padyami. It is said that Ugadi is feast for food and Deepavali is feast for bath.(Undu Ugadi, Mindu Deepavali). Naraka Chaturdasi is the day on which Krishna killed the demon Narakasura and gave him Moksha. At the time of death he desired that the people should celebrate it as a festival, in view of his past misdeeds. It has now remained as practice to have an oil bath before sunrise on the Naraka Chaturdasi day, amidst fire works. The previous day (Thrayodasi) is known as Neeru Thumbuva Habba, when all the water carrying and boiling vessels are cleaned well in the evening, decorated with mango leaves, flowers, Shanka, Chakra, and Namam. Presently water geysers or boilers are given the pride of place. The entire Pooja is in the name of God Krishna, who saved the world from Narakasura. It is usual practice to make Kolakatte or Kadubu for Pooja. After the early morning bath, everyone wears new dresses. The whole day is celebrated with grandeur, fireworks and meeting relatives. In the night Oil lamps are lit inside and outside the houses, to denote arrival of brightness after death of Narakasura. It will be a sight and Heaven on Earth, when lamps are glowing on both sides of the street.
On the next day which is New moon day(Amavasya), business community performs Lakshmi Pooja in the establishments, and open new account books for the New Year. They distribute Sweet packets to associates, friends and relatives and celebrate with fireworks.
Mahabali, who was pressed down to Pathala Loka, in Vamana Avatara, comes to visit his citizens on this earth, once every year, on Balipadyami day, which is the third day of Deepavali. Citizens have made it a practice to Welcome Bali in grandeur with sweets, lamps, new dresses, and fire works, as Bali gave away everything to god as gift. It is also customary to recite Vishnu Sahasranamam in the evening after lighting lamps all over. Mandyam Iyengars of Bharadwaja Gothram celebrates only Balipadyami.
You would have observed that men and women are blessed before oil bath, by application of a few drops of oil, by elder women in the family. The person is made to sit on a platform, which is decorated with Rangoli designs, lamps on both sides. The person is applied Kumkum on the forehead, handed betel leaf, nut, and arathi is done. The elderly lady will take the oil cup and dip a flower bud in it and apply drops of it on the inside of the left arm, chanting names of men or women of great achievement.
Enney Shatsram:(Pooja for Oil Bath):
For men the names of Seven achievers to be recited are as follows :
” Ashwthamo, Balir Vyaso, Hanumanshcha, Vibhishanaha,
Krupaha Parashuramashcha,Saptaite Chirangivinaha”
For women the five names are as follows:
“Ahalya, Draupati, Seetha, Tara, Mandodari Tatha,
Panchakanyaha Smarennithyam Mahapataka Nashanam”
Reciting as above, the oil from drops set on the arm, is taken in the fingers by the lady and applied to the head, cheeks, shoulders, waist, knees and feet, repeated three times. It is Ashirvadam for the youngster to live long and prosperously.
Uthana Dwadasi (Thulasi festival): This festival falls on Karthika Shudha Dwadasi, in the month of Alpisi. The Thulasi plant is considered to be a very sacred plant and the leaves of Thulasi is used as garlands in Vishnu temples. It is believed that God can be propitiated by offering a single Thulasi leaf, which is available even to the poorest among the poor. There is a well known Mythological story “Sri Krishna Thulabharam”, of how a single leaf of Thulasi tilted the balance, when the entire wealth of Sathyabhama, could not out weigh Sri Krishna. Thulasi leaves have many medicinal properties and is also used as a herb in cooking, in many parts of the world.
The Pooja to Thulasi plant in the Brindavan, is usually performed in the evening on that day, in presence of invited ladies. A twig of the Gooseberry tree (Nellikkai or Amla) with a few fruits, which represents Sri Krishna, is set by the side of the Thulasi plant, in the well decorated Brindavan. This is considered to be the wedding of Krishna and Thulasi. Lamps made out of five gooseberries are lit in front of the Brindavan and oil lamps are lit all over the house, and Arathi is performed to Thulasi. The Pooja ends with distribution of betel leaf, nut and fruits to the invitees.
Yanai Pandigai (Vishnu Deepam): This festival is on the Poornima day (Full moon day) of Karthihai month. The practice is to hand make a couple of small elephants out of wet clay, decorate it suitably, including Namam, and arrange it for Pooja. It gives an opportunity to exhibit all the other collection of elephants made of silver, bronze, wood, marble, etc. Food for the elephant will consist of Dosa, appam, green grass, banana, raw rice, piece each of coconut, jaggery, sugar cane, and a coin. Lamps in different shapes are lit around the elephants and all over the house. Women (in traditional Madishar sari) and girls in the family, go around this, three times, spilling drops of coconut water and milk and ending with Arathi. The arrangement will be kept for three days and ladies are invited to attend Pooja on these days. Ladies will fast in the evening. Mandyam Iyengars consider this festival as very important and it is performed in a grand manner. Saying goes that “Karthihaiyo Kalyanamo”.
In the first year after wedding, this festival is performed with more zest with Arathi to the new bride, in the in-lawsâ€™ house.
On the last day the Elephants are immersed, in a river or tank, with plain curd rice plastered to its tummy. It is customary to prepare four varieties of rice preparations like Kadambam, Ogare, Sakkare Pongal or Ksheerannam, Dadhiyodhanam(Curd rice) on this day. With these, people go to the water front in groups and enjoy it as a picnic, after the immersion. After the immersion and extinguishing of the lamps, the days following are considered inauspicious, till arrival of Thai masam(Sankranthi).
The festival is also known as “Karthikai Deepam”, in some parts. The following are the Slokas recited at the time of Deepa Pooja, for future prosperity.
1. Deepaha Paapaharo Nrinaam, Deepa Aapannivarakaha,
Deepo Vidatthe Sukrutam, Deepaha Sampath Pradaayakaha,
Devanaam Thushtino Deepaha, Pitruunam Preethi Daayakaha,
Thasmaath Deepo Gruhe Poojitaha, Gruhasthai Shubhameepsubhihi.
2. Deepaan Aaropayed Vishnoho Mandiredhyanthare Bahihi,
Sarvapaapa Vishuddhatma Vishnuloko Mahiyathe.
3. Deepam Jyothi Parabramha, Deepam Sarva Thamopaham,
Deepena Saadhyathe Sarvam, Sandhya Deepam Namosthuthe.
Significance: It is believed that Gandhari, mother of Kauravas, performed Pooja to the royal and solid gold elephants, to exhibit her power and riches, ignoring to involve Kunti, mother of Pandavas, for the ceremony. Arjuna observing his depressed mother, brought Iravatha (Devendraâ€™s royal white elephant) to earth, through a ladder made with his arrows. Kunti performed Pooja happily. As a mark of this we perform Pooja to a clay elephant.