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Thursday, November 8, 2007


Diwali in Nepal
Surrounded by majestic Himalayas, Nepal, is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society and the only Hindu Kingdom of the world. Hindus in Nepal celebrate the Diwali festival with bright lights, gift exchanges, fireworks, and elaborate feasts to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of light and wealth. Various houses and shop front in Katmandu, Nepal, displays the bright lights typical of Hindu communities during Diwali.

Diwali is celebrated here with the usual Hindu festivities and rituals. Diwali in Nepal is known as Tihar. Just like most places in India Diwali is celebrated here to honor the goddess of wealth and god of prosperity-Lakshmi and Ganesh respectively. The festival here continues for five days. Every day has its special significance. The first day is dedicated to cows as they cook rice and feed the cows believing that goddess Lakshmi comes on cows. The second day is for Dogs as the Vahana of Bhairava. Preparation of delicious food especially meant for the dog is a typical characteristic of the day. Lights and lamps are lit to illuminate the entire surrounding and some of the specialty items are prepared to mark the third day of the festival. Fireworks, Lamps and crackers are widely used. The fourth day is dedicated to Yama, the Hindu God of Death. He is prayed for long life. The fifth final day is Bhhaya Dooj dedicated for the brothers who are wished long life and prosperity by their sisters.

Lakshmi was the daughter of the sage Bhrigu and took refuge in the ocean of milk when the gods were sent into exile. Lakshmi was reborn during the Churning of the Ocean. As soon as the gods saw Lakshmi, they all fell in love with her beauty. Shiva claimed Lakshmi as his wife, but since he had already taken the Moon, her hand was given to Vishnu, whom Lakshmi herself preferred.

Lakshmi is the goddess of light, beauty, good fortune and wealth. While Laxmi is generally worshiped to achieve success, she does not reside long with anyone who is lazy or desire her only as wealth.

Steps of Lakshmi Pooja
Spread a new cloth on a raised platform: Place a handful of grains in the center and, on this, place a kalash (pitcher) made of gold, silver, copper, or terracotta. Fill three-fourth of the kalash with water and place a betel nut, a flower, a coin, and some rice grains in it. Arrange five kinds of leaves or mango leaves in the kalash . Place a small dish on the kalash and fill it with rice grains. Draw a lotus with turmeric powder ( haldi ) over the rice grains and place the idol of goddess Lakshmi over it, along with coins.

Place the idol of Ganesha: In front of the kalash, on the right (South-West direction), place the idol of Ganesha. Also place ink and books related to your business or occupation on the platform. Light a lamp and begin the puja by offering haldi, kumkum, and flowers to the platform on which the kalash is placed. Then offer haldi, kumkum, and flowers to the water that is to be used for the puja. Invoke the river goddesses to be part of this water.

Invoke goddess: Lakshmi by reciting the Vedic mantras addressed to her. One can also recite the mantras mentioned in the Puranas or simply take some flowers in your hands, close your eyes, and think of goddess Lakshmi being showered with gold coins by two elephants standing on either side of Her and chant Her name. Then offer the flowers to the idol.

Place the idol of Lakshmi: Place the idol of Lakshmi in a plate and bathe it with water, panchamrit (a mixture of milk, curd, ghee or clarified butter, honey, and sugar) and then with water containing some gold ornament or a pearl. Wipe the idol clean and place it back on the kalash. Alternately, you can just sprinkle water and panchamrit on the idol with a flower.

Offerings: Offer sandal paste, saffron paste, perfume ( itr ), haldi, kumkum, abeer, and gulal to the goddess. Offer a garland of cotton beads to the goddess. Offer flowers, especially the marigold flowers and leaves of Bel (wood apple tree). Light an incense stick and dhoop. Make an offering of sweets, coconut, fruits, and tambul. Make an offering of puffed rice and batasha. Pour some puffed rice, batasha, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds over the idol. Safe where you keep money and jewelry; Worship this safe as a symbol of Lord Kuber.

Aarti: Finally, perform the aarti for goddess Lakshmi. Always remember that She abhors loud noise. So the aarti should be accompanied only by a small bell. Do not clap hands, as is the practice when performing aarti for other gods. A peaceful and sublime atmosphere should prevail during the pujan. Do not light crackers while the puja is on or immediately after it.

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