Diwali means an Array of Lamps. This is one of the major festivals in the Hindu calendar. It occurs in October/November, and is spread over five days.
1. Dhanetras (Dhanatrayodashi) is the first day or rather the eve of the day on which the festival begins.
2. Narakachaturdashi which is also known as Kalichoudas or Bali Pratipada is the second day.
3. Lakshmi Pujan is done on the third day.
4. Govardhan Puja is performed on the fourth day in North India and Bhaiyadooj is the fifth day and the last day.
On this day, the people of North India buy gold and silver vessels, ornaments, etc., on Dhanetras. It is the day of Kuber and considered auspicious to buy some tangible goods.
On Narakachaturdashi, people take oil bath in the morning and the day passes on as just another day without any excitement.
Day Three-Lakshmi Pujan:
The actual festival of Diwali is on the evening of the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Kartik. The celebration starts with the performance of a puja to Goddess Lakshmi late in the evening at about 7:30 pm after Chaturdashi Tithi is over and Amavasya starts. On this day people offer sweets and snacks (specially prepared or purchased) to the goddess Lakshmi during the Puja. Even the new dresses are kept in the puja room and after invoking the blessings of the Almighty, the eldest member of the family distributes the clothes to others who accept them and offer respects to the elders. Earthen lamps (diyas) are lighted and kept in rows on the compound walls, terrace walls, etc. These are nowadays supplemented by electric (serial) lamps or candles.
In the evening all the members of the family come out in the open and start bursting crackers for about an hour or so until the stock lasts. Then they take sweets, eat sumptuous food and greet their relatives, neighbours, and friends. Exchanging of sweets and gifts is an indispensable part of Diwali.
Day Four-Govardhan Puja:
The fourth day of Diwali is devoted to Govardhan Puja(worship of Lord Govardhan Parvat). The story behind this day is that Lord Shri Krishna once performed the Govardhan Puja along with the people of Vraja for their protection from heavy rains. Since then, it has become a tradition for the Hindus to worship Govardhan Parvat to honour that first Puja performed by Lord Krishna on this day.
On Bhaiyadooj (Feast to brothers), women generally give gifts to their brothers. On this day, brothers and their families are invited for lunch. With a lot of rejoicing and gaiety, Bhaiyadooj marks the end of Diwali celebrations.