Diwali in Karnataka is celebrated with tremendous gusto and eagerness. Celebrated over a span of five days, Diwali is a time for festivities, rituals and worship of a number of events signifying and highlighting the religion and customs of Karnataka. Diwali is called Deepavali in Kannada, literally meaning “Rows of Light”.
In North India, Diwali is celebrated to commemorate Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya with his brother Lord Lakshman and his wife Sita after 14 years of exile and killing and triumphing over the demon King Ravan of Lanka. The point of Deepavali is to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, and no matter what the celebrations or the reason for celebrating this festival are, the message remains the same all over the country. Deepavali in Karnataka and everywhere else is celebrated to venerate the victory of good over evil, to honor the inner light over darkness, and realization of inner peace and serenity. The legends associated with Deepavali are many, but the essence and the significance of Diwali remains the same no matter the legend. Every state celebrates this festival based on one legend or the other.
Karnataka celebrates Deepavali for reasons different from the North Indian States. Dhanteras is the first day of celebrations and Karnataka celebrates a day before and after Deepavali – the last day of Ashwin and the first day of Kartik as Narkachaturdashi and Bali Pratipada respectively. Narkachaturdashi celebrates the death of the evil king Narakasura at the hands of Satyambha, Lord Krishna’s consort. Bali Pratipada is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali and is related to the legend of Lord Vishnu and King Bali.
The third day of Deepavali is known as Kaumudi Mahostavam, Balindra Pooja, Karthigai Deepam or Thalai Deepavali in Karnataka. The traditions and customs followed on this day are similar to that of north India. People clean their houses; decorate it with diyas and lamps, and burst firecrackers. On the morning of Deepavali, a tradition called Tailabhyanjana is followed. People put oil on their scalp and their bodies as a part of this ritual, before taking their customary baths. New clothes are worn, sweets are prepared and distributed as holy offering and Lord Vishnu’s victory over King Bali is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor. The time for celebrations is usually early morning or late nights, for it is at this time the lights of the lamps and the effect of the firecrackers can be experienced at its best.