Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Read about the history and see some lamps from the Craft's Museum's Collection

By Crafts Museum

Cotton Kerchief with Indian playing card 'Ganjifa' motifs.Crafts Museum

Diwali: A short history

Festival of lights, Diwali is glittering, auspicious, and full of vigor. India celebrates this enchanting festival in several ways, symbolizing new hope over despondent forces and triumph of good over evil. 

The festival is a culmination of several small festivities and celebrations spread over at least five days. This is in accordance with the Hindu lunisolar calendar and the position of the moon. It is believed that Diwali was initially celebrated as a harvest festival, signifying the last harvest before the onset of winter. Diwali is particularly marked with wearing new clothes, exchanging gifts, decoration of the house after cleaning, making rangoli, illuminating homes with deepam, candles, lamps and lighting firecrackers.

Dancing Ganesha SculptureCrafts Museum

No festival puja in India begins without praying to Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles. Even the sthapathies of Orissa begin carving the figures of the deities only after they have prayed to lord Ganesha after fasting for a day in selfprification. 

Ganesh Puja is the first puja before beginning the ‘Devi’ puja on the Diwali evening.

Nritya Ganapati or dancing Ganesha, is one of the thirty-two forms of Ganesha. Representing the relaxed and enjoyable form of the lord, this eight handed Ganesha is seen dancing with his hands in various mudras. 

Flanked by his vahana, the rat (or Mooshika named Kroncha) on his right and a devotee on his left, standing atop pedestals with lotus designs. 

A group of musicians is seen behind overhead. Such figures are used to decorate the entrances of the house because usually, dancing figure of Ganesha is avoided to be kept at the home-shrine as opposed to a sitting or standing one

Diwali falls on the ‘Kartik Amavasya’, the darkest night or Amavasya (New Moon) of the month of Kartik. It is believed to be the most significant day of the entire month and Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on this night as a symbol of prosperity, wealth and abundance. People often keep their windows and doors open in the night to welcome her into their homes. In some parts of India, goddess Kali is worshipped on this night.

Lamp stand (Deep lakshmi)Crafts Museum

Deepa Lakshmi

Deepam stand in form of celestial female holding a lamp-bowl (Diya) is popularly termed as Deepa Lakshmi. Commonly used during Diwali and other auspicious occasions, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity holds the lamp bowl or ‘Diya’ in her hands in the gesture of ‘anjali’ symbolising the offering of the flame of 'divine light'. 

Panchdipa GajalakshmiCrafts Museum

Panchdipa Gaja Lakshmi

This is a lampstand in the form Panchadipa Gajalakshmi, where Lakshmi, the godess of light and wealth, is depicted riding an elephant(or gaja), along with five lamp bowls (panchadipa) and bearing a Kalasha or pitcher for oil on her head. 

Cast by the Dhokra technique, the symmetrical composition of this lampstand together with its decorative danglers is an ideal ritual accessory for worship and hence, it is also used during Diwali to light ‘Diya’ in celebration.

Deepam (Leaf Shaped Diya)Crafts Museum

Deepam: Leaf shaped Diyas

These are leaf shaped brass Deepams with scallop detail used for 'puja' and are prevalent in South India. These have a pointed V-shaped tip, where the wick is placed and lit and can be used used during festivals such as Diwali. 

Panch PradeepCrafts Museum

Panchpradeep

Panch (five) Pradeep is a beautiful five diya holder, used to offer light during aarti. Long handle is held in hand and waved in a clockwise direction in front of the deity while chanting mantras/religious songs or saying an ‘arti’.

Elephant with small diyaCrafts Museum

Elephant with small diya

Painted elephant with a small diya on its head and a circular howdah like projection at the back. Used for decoration during Diwali celebration.

Jagar diya standCrafts Museum

Jagar diya stand:

This diya stand has an extended pedestal, that aids in holding and placing the lamp. It seems to have a ‘fish’ mouth in the front and a small fish tail in the back. The fish mouth acts as the base for the wick tip that is lit, making it suitable for puja.

Credits: Story

S.K. Jha, Senior Director 
Nidhi, Deputy Director 
Ms Geeta Khanna
Ms Princy Rana

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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