THE FIVE DAY FESTIVAL
Diwali is celebrated for five days, each day having it's own significance, rituals and myths.
The First day is called Dhanteras or Dhantryaodashi, which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The word "Dhan" means wealth. This day has great importance for rich community. It is believed that sixteen year old son of King Hima according to his horoscope was doomed to die on the fourth day of his marriage by a snake-bite .So, on that particular fourth day of his marriage his worried wife lighted innumerable lamps all over the place and laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband's boudoir. And she went on telling stories and singing songs through the night. When Yam-the god of death arrived there in the guise of a Serpent the dazzle of those brilliant lights blinded his eyes and he could not enter the Prince's chamber. So he climbed on the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat their whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he quietly went away. Thus the wife saved her husband and since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of "Yamadeepdaan" and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yam, the god of Death.
The Second day is called Narka-Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali that falls on the fourteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The legend related to this day is about the King Bali of the nether world that mighty power had become a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a small boy visited him and begged him to give him only that much land which he could cover with his three steps. Known for his philanthropy King Bali proudly granted him his wish. So with his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second step the earth and asked Bali where to keep his third step. Bali offered his head and putting his foot on his head Vishnu pushed him down to the underworld. But for his generosity Lord Vishnu allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of love and wisdom.
The Third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of Lakshmi-Puja, which is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. This day is also known by the name of "Chopada-Puja". The day of Lakshmi-Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya. It is believed that on this auspicious day Lord Krishna discarded his body. One more interesting story related to this day is of a small boy called Nichiketa who believed that Yam, the god of Death was as black as the dark night of amavasya. He on this day met Yam in person and was puzzled seeing Yam's calm countenance and dignified stature. Yam explained to Nichiketa on this day of amavasya that by only passing through the darkness of death, man sees the light of highest wisdom and then only his soul can escape from the bondage of his mortal frame to mingle with the Supreme Power without whose will nothing moves in the world. And then Nichiketa realised the importance of worldly life and significance of death. Nichiketa's all doubts were set at rest and he whole-heartedly participated in Diwali celebrations.
The Fourth day is called Padwa or VarshaPratipada that marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day. Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. As per Vishnu-Puran, the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honour of Lord Indra and worshipped him after the end of every monsoon season. But one particular year the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in terrific anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. But Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan Mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella. This day is also observed as Annakoot and prayers are offered in the temples.
The Fifth and final day of Diwali Festival is known by the name of "Bhaiya-Dooj" This day is observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It is believed that on this day Yamraj -the god of death visited his sister Yami and she put the auspicious till on his forehead, they ate talked and enjoyed together and exchanged special gifts as a token of their love for each other and Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister on this day will never be thrown. Since then it became imperative for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhaiya Dooj.