The Festive Days of Diwali

A beautiful collection of treasures outlining the different ways Diwali is celebrated across India.

By Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Display of fire-works (Late 17th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Diwali is one of the most celebrated festivals in India. Every region has different celebrations and rituals associated with this festival. However, crackers, lamps, rangolis, sweets and gifts are an indispensable part of celebrations everywhere.

Shree Rampanchayatan (Early 20th century) by Chitrashala Steam PressChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

According to a legend, Diwali is the day when Rama returned to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshman after 14 years of exile and his victory over Ravana. It is said that they were welcomed by lighting millions of lamps.

To commemorate this event, beautiful lamps are lit all over India, during Diwali.

Month of Kartika, Folio from Baramasa (18th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Month of Kartik

Diwali is celebrated in the dark half of the month of Kartik (November-December).

Poet Kesavdas says about Kartik:
Woods and gardens, rivers, earth and sky are clear and shining bright illuminated by lamps (of Dipavali festival). The days and nights are full of joy, and couples are gambling...

...The courtyards and walls of every house are decorated with colourful paintings of gods and goddesses. The whole universe is pervaded with celestial light. This is the month for earning merit by sacred baths, giving alms and worship of God.

Cow with its calf (20th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Day 1 - Vasubaras or Govatsa Dwadashi

Vasubaras or Govatsa Dwadashi marks the beginning of Diwali and is celebrated especially in Maharashtra. On this day in the evening, a cow and calf are worshipped by offering delicacies made of wheat. Cow is worshipped as Kamdhenu, one of the fourteen jewels that came out of Samudra Manthan (churning of ocean). 

She is a miraculous cow of plenty, fulfilling all wishes. Women observe a fast on this day for the prosperity and health of their children. In urban areas, women symbolically worship images of cow and calf.

Coin of Chandragupta II, Gupta Dynasty (375 – 414 CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Day 2 - Dhanteras

The celebration of Diwali begins with Dhanteras across most of India. This day is believed to be auspicious and hence people buy gold, silver or vessels of metal. It is believed that such new purchases bring prosperity to one's home.

Kubera (5th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Kubera is the God of Wealth and is known to shower riches on those who worship him. He is also said to be the guardian of the north. On Dhanteras, the festival of wealth, Kuber and Goddess Lakshmi, who symbolise wealth, are worshipped for prosperity, success and wealth.

Dhanvantari by Kishore GaonkarChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

On Dhanteras, Dhanvantari, the founder of Ayurveda and the physician of the gods is also worshipped. He was one of the fourteen jewels which came out during the Samudra Manthan

Dhanvantari emerged holding an amrut kalash (pot of elixir of immortality) in one hand, the sacred text of Ayurveda, leaves of medicinal herbs and conch shell in others.

Lamp (20th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Day 3 - Naraka Chaturdashi

According to legends, this is the day when Krishna killed the demon Narakasura. The day begins with a ritual bathing at dawn, followed by several other rituals. Kareet (a bitter berry) is crushed under the feet as a symbol of killing Naraksura. 

A variety of oil lamps are lit, houses are decorated with flowers and rangolis. Varieties of sweet and savoury delicacies are prepared and enjoyed with family and friends.

Kali (20th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)


The new moon day of Kartik is celebrated as Kali Puja in Bengal to commemorate the victory of Kali over the demon Raktabeej who had the boon of power of duplication as soon as a drop of his blood touched the Earth.

The Gods approached Durga to kill him. When Durga saw the demon duplicating himself in huge armies when her sword spilt his blood, she became enraged and took the fierce form of Kali. She slew the whole army and drank their blood. In the end, only Raktabeej was left whom she slew, drinking his blood till he became lifeless.

Kali (20th century CE) by Ravi Verma Press, LonavalaChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

According to legend, after this, Kali became mad with blood lust and started dancing the dance of destruction. She forgot that she had killed all the demons and continued to slay innocent people. Gods approached Shiva for help as only he had the power to stop Kali.

Shiva went and lay down among the corpses where Kali was dancing. When Kali stepped on Shiva, she realised her mistake and stopped her dance of destruction.

Lakshmi (20th century CE) by Ravi Verma Press, LonavalaChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Day 4 - Lakshmi Puja

The new moon day of the month of Kartik  is also the day of Lakshmi puja when Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped in the evening with great pomp and fervour. She is worshipped in every household and even in shops, factories and businesses houses.

Vamana and Mahabali (20th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Day 5 - Balipatiprada

According to a legend, Balipratipada commemorates victory of Vamana, the fifth incarnation of Vishnu, over the demon King Bali by pushing him to the nether world with his foot. While doing so, Vishnu gave him the lamp of knowledge to light up the dark underworld.    

He also bestowed Bali with a boon to return to his people once a year to light millions of lamps from this lamp to dispel the darkness of ignorance, greed, jealousy, lust, anger, ego and laziness and to light the light of knowledge and wisdom.    

Govardhandhari (19th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Govardhan Puja

On the first day of the Kartik month, the northern states of India celebrate Govardhan Puja. According to the story, the people of Vraja used to worship God Indra for rains. Krishna wanted them to realise that it was Mount Govardhana with its forests that attracted the rains. He, therefore, persuaded the people to worship Mount Govardhana instead of God Indra. 

Indra was enraged and showered torrential rains on Vraja to avenge his humiliation. However, Krishna lifted up Mount Govardhana on his little finger and sheltered the people with their cattle under it.

Govardhandhari Krishna (18th Century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Devotees offer Annakuta, mountain of food, metaphorically representing the Govardhan mountain to Krishna as remembrance of Govardhan Lila.

56 types of meals (Chappan bog) are prepared for this purpose. In some parts of India, miniature mountains of cow dung and mud are created and worshipped.

Aratika (Early 20th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)

Day 6 - Bhaubeej

Bhaubeej or Bhai Dooj is observed on the second day of Kartik month celebrating the faith, respect, and love between sisters and brothers. After Rakshabandhan, this is another festival of the year that celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers.

According to one legend, this is the day when Krishna visited his sister Subhadra after his victory over demon Narakasura.

Yama (20th century CE)Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)


According to another legend, Yamuna, goddess of the river observed a fast for her brother Yama, king of the land of Dead. Yama was unable to visit his sister’s house despite several invitations from Yamuna. At last he was able to make a visit, for which Yamuna prepared many delicacies and decorated her house. 

Yama was delighted by this and said she could ask for anything. Yamuna asked for a boon that the brothers who visit their sisters on this day and eat food prepared by them will not meet untimely death. Hence, Bhaubeej is also observed as Yama Dwitiya.

Qilla (21st century CE) by Pratiek Aroskar, Siddharth Waingaonkar and Ravindra ChafeChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)


A popular tradition in Maharashtra and North Karnataka is the creation of mud forts around the festival of Diwali. The Qilla is a simulation of mighty fortresses built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who was known for his warfare. The Qilla models appeal to everyone for their intelligent designs and children spend hours making them.

Credits: Story


Manisha Nene (Director, Collection)
Vandana Prapanna (Senior Curator)
Divya Pawathinal (Assistant Curator, Non-Indian Antiquities)
Satata Mondal (Curatorial Assistant)
Urvashi Jhangiani (Digital Media Manager)

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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