(Following is the description of Diwali & Lakshmi Puja given by John Murdoch in his book ‘Hindu and Muhammadan Festival’, 1904. The compilation was to help Christian Missionaries to propagate gospel among Hindu & Muslim women during the festivals, since it was otherwise difficult to interact with women. The work based itself upon a number of studies from the mid nineteenth century.)

 

Dipavali

(About October 20th)

Dipavali (Dipa, a lamp, and Avali, a row), “the feasts of lamps, is a festival on the new moon of Kartik, celebrated in honour of the goddess Kali, or Bhawani, who was formerly propitiated by human sacrifices, and of Vishnu’s victory over the demon Naraka. The festival, however, seems to be more peculiarly consecrated to Lakshmi, or the goddess of prosperity. The feast begins on the 13th day of Ashwin Vad, termed Dhanatrayodashi (from Dhan, wealth ; Trayodashi, 13th), and money-lenders now count their stores and perform puja to their wealth. It is celebrated for a period of five days, during which houses are cleaned, whitewashed, and illuminated ; a quadrangular floor, called Ranguli, is made in front of the house and painted with different coloured powders. Gambling is vigorously carried on, and is the chief recreation of the feast. All the treasure in the house is collected and worshipped under the name of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth ; a light is made and dedicated to Yama, the god of the infernal regions : and every preparation made for the succeeding morning. Fireworks, crackers, spouters, etc., are displayed. The 14th is Narak Chaturdashi (Narak, hell ; Chaturdashi, 14th), on which Vishnu is fabled to have killed Narakasura, a giant, and entered his city early in the morning, when the people illuminated the city and received him with great joy and acclamation ; and the women, having adorned themselves, went before him with lighted lamps. The Hindus keep this day to commemorate this great conquest. They get up early in the morning, fill the house with lights, rub their bodies with perfumed ointment, and bathe themselves with hot water. No member of the family is left unbathed, new clothes and ornaments are put on, and the children are decorated. This done, the mistress of the house performs a sort of ceremony called Arti, placing wicks either in silver or brass dishes, symbolical of the removal of all their difficulties, and of a happy year, when each male member makes her a present of money. Sweetmeats are distributed and friends are invited to dinner. The 30th Amavasya, or the last day of the moon, is the day of Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, the same as Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It is known by the name of Vahipulan, or the worship of the shop records. This day the Vikramaditya Samvat year ends. All the merchants close their accounts this evening. New journals, ledgers, and day books are brought and worshipped through a Brahmin priest ; new entries are made in the account-books; writers are sent to different shops with money to credit in their names on this auspicious evening ; Sarasvati is invoked to render the following year prosperous, and to be with them throughout it ; then the Brahmins are sufficiently paid for their labours, and the servants receive a present of money according to their rank.

Lakshmi Puja

(About October 27th)

This festival, in honour of Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu, and goddess of prosperity, takes place on the night of the full moon following the Durga Puja. The worship is generally performed before a corn basket painted red, filled with rice, decorated with flowers and covered with a piece of cloth. Sometimes, however, an image is made in the shape of a handsome female sitting on the water-lily holding a necklace in her left hand, and spreading out the right to bestow her blessing. The Hindus are very particular in worshipping Lakshmi, scarcely ever omitting to pay her due homage; and her favour, as being the giver of temporal prosperity, is sought more eagerly by them than that of such gods or goddesses as reward their votaries only in the next world. As Lakshmi is supposed during the night to pass over all who may be awake, it is usual for the people to sit up playing cards or amusing themselves in some way, so as to keep themselves awake.