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Significance, History and Myths Behind Diwali

Diwali is the joyous celebration of the triumph of good over evil. It is the popular belief that the fireworks that add splendor to the festivities actually reduce the evil to ashes. The uniqueness of Diwali is that it harmonizes five varied philosophies, with each day assigned to commemorate a special thought or idea. According to a legend, which is also taken to be a history of Diwali, the world celebrates Deepavali as the day the goddess stopped dancing after her battle with Mahishasura. The festival begins with Dhanteras, which is the celebration of the birth of goddess Lakshmi from the bottomless ocean. The second day is “Narak Chaturdhashi”, which commemorates the felling of Narakasura by Satyabhama with the help of Indra. This is again another view of history of Diwali. Some also believe that the second day is dedicated to Bali the generous king, who returns to his kingdom amidst celebrations. The most famous legend behind the celebrations of Diwali is about the prince of Ayodhya, Lord Shri Ram Chandra, his defeating Ravana and his return from exile by lighting lamps on this darkest night of the year.

This view of history of Diwali is corroborated by the epic Ramayana . The fourth day of Diwali is devoted to Govardhan Pooja which celebrates Krishna’s feat of lifting the Govardhan hill on his little finger. People organize a special pooja on this day. The five day festival is wrapped up by “Bhai Duj”, the time to honor the brother-sister relationship. We {link} at The Holiday Spot bring you all the interesting stories related to the Festival of Lights that has its root in the Indian mythology.

Below we give the seven different histories for Diwali, as per Indian mythology.

The Story of Rama and Sita: Lord Rama was a great warrior King who was exiled by his father Dashratha, the King of Ayodhya, along with his wife Sita and his younger brother Lakshman, on his wife’s insistence. Lord Rama returned to his Kingdom Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, in which he put an end to the demon Ravana of Lanka, who was a great Pundit, highly learned but still evil dominated his mind. After this victory of Good over Evil, Rama returned to Ayodhya. In Ayodhya, the people welcomed them by lighting rows of clay lamps. So, it is an occasion in honor of Rama’s victory over Ravana; of Truth’s victory over Evil.

The Story of King Bali and Vamana Avatar (the Dwarf): The other story concerns King Bali, who was a generous ruler. But he was also very ambitious. Some of the Gods pleaded Vishnu to check King Bali’s power. Vishnu came to earth in the form of a Vamana (dwarf) dressed as priest. The dwarf approached King Bali and said “You are the ruler of the three worlds: the Earth, the world above the skies and the underworld. Would you give me the space that I could cover with three strides?” King Bali laughed. Surely a dwarf could not cover much ground, thought the King, who agreed to dwarf’s request. At this point, the dwarf changed into Vishnu and his three strides covered the Earth, the Skies and the whole Universe! King Bali was send to the underworld. As part of Diwali celebrations, some Hindus remember King Bali.

The Defeat of Narakasura by Lord Krishna: Lord Vishnu in his 8th incarnation as Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura, who was causing great unhappiness amongst the people of the world. Narakasura was believed to be a demon of filth, covered in dirt. He used to kidnap beautiful young women and force them to live with him. Eventually, their cries for rescue were heard by Vishnu, who came in the form of Krishna. First, Krishna had to fight with a five-headed monster that guarded the demon’s home. Narakasura hoped that his death might bring joy to others. Krishna granted his request and the women were freed. For Hindus, this story is a reminder that good can still come out of evil.

Krishna and the Mountain: In the village of Gokula, many years ago, the people prayed to the God Indra. They believed that Indra sent the rains, which made their crops, grow. But Krishna came along and persuaded the people to worship the mountain Govardhan, because the mountain and the land around it were fertile. This did not please Indra. He sent thunder and torrential rain down on the village. The people cried to Krishna to help. Krishna saved the villagers by lifting the top of the mountain with his finger. The offering of food to God on this day of Diwali is a reminder to Hindus of the importance of food and it is a time for being thankful to God for the bounty of nature.

Sikh Festival Diwali

In Sikh perspective, Diwali is celebrated as the return of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji from the captivity of the city, Gwalior. To commemorate his undying love for Sikhism, the towns people lit the way to, Harmandhir Sahib (referred to as the Golden Temple), in his honor.

Jain Festival Diwali: Among the Jain festivals, Diwali is one of the most important one. For on this occasion we celebrate the Nirvana of Lord Mahavira who established the dharma as we follow it. Lord Mahavira was born as Vardhamana on Chaitra Shukla 13th in the Nata clan at Khattiya-kundapura, near Vaishali. He obtained Kevala Gyana on Vishakha Shukla 10 at the Jambhraka village on the banks of Rijukula River at the age of 42.

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Bali History and Culture

While there is debate about Bali’s prehistoric history, there is ample proof of a well developed Megalithic culture. Nevertheless, good documentation about Balinese culture does not begin to emerge until the 8th or 9th century A.D. At this point the Balinese had already begun to practice various forms of Buddhism imported from India and there is evidence of Hindu influences as well. From the 10th to 11th century, Hinduism continued to merge with local customs. Through intermarriage, Javanese culture began to permeate royal court life and later spread to the villages.

The Hindu Majapahit Empire of Java conquered Bali in the 14th century. (The Majapahit imposed a caste system on Bali with themselves on top and the original inhabitants of the island on the bottom.) By the beginning of the 16th century Bali became a sanctuary for Hindus forced out of an increasingly Islamicized Java. As the Majapahit Empire crumbled, there was a huge influx into Bali of Javanese noblemen and craftsmen.

Indonesia’s wealth in spices, precious stones, gold and other exotic items have attracted traders for centuries. The islands in the Indonesian Archipelago were natural way stations on the trade routes between the Middle East, India and China. The Balinese were never an active seafaring people. It was the Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Malays, Javanese and Bunganese who plied the trade routes. Later came the Portuguese, English and Dutch.

Bali has no naturally protected harbors and the coastline is notoriously perilous. Many coastal villages profited routinely by plundering shipwrecks. One such incident provoked the Dutch invasion of 1906, which was relatively late in their 300 years of colonial rule in Indonesia. Despite the bloody conquest, Balinese culture was relatively undisturbed for most of the years of Dutch occupation, partly because Singaraja, in the north of the island, was the only place that ships could anchor in relative safety and travel in the interior of the island was difficult. Ships from all over South East Asia stopped to exchange goods in Singaraja but for the most part, before the advent of airplanes, only the inhabitants of the north end of the island were directly exposed to foreign influences. Nevertheless, the Dutch did exploit the island vigorously, siphoning off essential resources through an efficient and clever system that used the local aristocracy to do their bidding. After the Dutch, Bali endured an era of Japanese occupation during World War Two and then became part of an independent Indonesia. Under Presidents Sukarno and Suharto political loyalties continued to shift the balance of power. Technically the aristocracy and the Brahmins (priestly caste) no longer “rule” but in practice they still enjoy a large measure of power and privilege.

The arrival, in the last few decades, of tourists, export industries and technology, have had many easily observed effects. The Balinese usually dress in Western cloths, they send faxes, roar down the streets on motorbikes and watch TV. But such changes can be misleading.

Beneath the Surface

Balinese reality is vastly more inclusive than Western consciousness allows. The Balinese have a word, “sekala,” for things which you can perceive with your sense of vision, hearing, smell or touch. There is another word, “niskala”, for “that which cannot be sensed directly, but which can only be felt within.” In the West, we only recognize sekala phenomena as “real”, but in Bali they make no distinction between the two.

Mystical forces, both malevolent and benevolent, occupy a central role in Balinese life. The principal Hindu-Balinese rituals and ceremonies are concerned with maintaining the balance between positive and negative forces. Demons and witches, called leyaks, are not creatures of fairy tales but dangerous and common menaces against which everyone must be on guard at all times. Objects and places which are considered inanimate in the West may be charged with mystical power and therefore very much alive to the Balinese. For this reason, they make offerings to many objects, including the tools used to make silver beads and the building in which the silversmiths work. Directions, numbers and dates can be charged with “kasaktian,” which means “magical power.” Every activity must be carried out with careful consideration and the Balinese often consult religious authorities for propitious dates for important events. The Balinese also accept dual realities, something may be true, but not true, and in certain circumstances they reject linear time.

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Bali Travel Offers Adventure, Wonder and History

The world is chock full of destinations that are all worthy of consideration when it’s time to make holiday plans. There are not many places, however, that can compare to a particular island in the Indonesian archipelago. Bali travel melds adventure, history and wonder into a single experience that is virtually certain to create memories to last a lifetime.

Located only a few hours away from Australia by plane, this unusual destination packs a great deal of fun into 5,632 square kilometers. Here holidaymakers will find weather that is perfect practically year round. With warm tropical temperatures ranging between 20 and 33 degrees Celsius no matter the time of year, visitors to Bali are often surprised to find sunny days dominate even in the thick of the rainy season.

When Bali travel is under consideration, potential holidaymakers will find these reasons tend to draw travelers from all over the world like moths to a flame:

– The outdoor splendor – Bali is famous for its breathtaking geography. The island is surrounded by warm turquoise waters that lap at white sandy beaches. From quiet lagoons just right for swimming and snorkeling to more “active” beaches that call to surfers and adventure sports lovers, the waters here are ideal for year round fun. Whilst the beaches are certainly a draw, they are not the only outdoor wonder that awaits those planning Bali travel. This island is also famous for its lush tropical forests, active volcanoes, tiered rice paddies and incredible lakes and waterfalls.

– The history – Bali has a history that dates back thousands of years. Evidence of its most early inhabitants can be found in a variety of sites all over the island. From the temples in the Mount Agung complex to the wonderment of the Tanah Lot, visitors here will learn much about the peoples and cultures that have touched Bali throughout the ages. With its strong ties to the Hindu religion, holidaymakers will discover that many of the island’s most splendid outdoor attractions have also served as places connected deeply to religion through the ages.

– The culture – Balinese culture is known for its distinct arts, form of dance and cuisine. Those who plan Bali travel will find themselves arriving on a island that is known the world over for its welcoming hospitality and unique traditions.

– The adventures – Bali is one of the few places in the world where people can get up close and personal with gray monkeys, elephants and a variety of other tropical creatures all on a single vacation. If fauna doesn’t appeal, those on Bali tours will find that plenty of other adventures await. Bali tours can unlock adventures that are found nowhere else in the world. From Odyssey Submarine trips that take holidaymakers into the depths that surround the island to a trip to the 11th century Elephant Cave, there is no shortage of opportunities to do and see things that cannot be experienced anywhere else.

When an experience like nothing else is desired, Bali travel will deliver. Combining adventure, wonder and history, this legendary island offers holidaymakers an opportunity to explore paradise on earth.