Diwali is a major festival of Tamil Nadu and is widely celebrated and observed in this southern state of India. The celebrations for Diwali or Deepavali as known in Tamil Nadu, are similar to celebrations in the rest of the country; with high spirits, frivolity, fun and fervor.
Deepavali is celebrated on Narka Chaturdashi, like most states of South India, a day before Diwali is celebrated in North India. It is celebrated to honor Lord Krishna and his wife Satyambha s victory over the demonic King Narkasura who had created havoc and turmoil and subjected the people of his kingdom to several atrocities. This day signifies the victory of good over evil, the conquest of spiritual light over spiritual darkness, the enlightenment and renewing of ones life and soul.
In preparation for the festival of lights, people start cleaning their houses nearly a month in advance. Houses are repainted and whitewashed; many people consider it a good time for renovations. On the first day – Dhanatrayodashi, new things are bought for the houses, decorations, clothes, utensils, jewelry and several other household appliances. A day before the festival, a big oven or container is cleaned thoroughly and then rubbed with the lime and then four to five dots of kumkum is applied on it in preparation for the next morning’s oil bath.
Narka Chaturdashi on the second day begins with people rising at dawn and taking elaborate baths with special scented oils and Ayurvedic pastes that is massaged and applied before a bath. In some families, elders apply oils on the heads of the youngsters of the family. This process is followed with regard to the belief that it is equivalent to bathing in the holy river of Ganga. After a bath, there is tradition to adorn new clothes and have something sweet. Before breakfast, there is custom where most people eat a special Ayurvedic medicine called Deepavali Lehiyam, prepared especially for this festival. The medicine is made of herbal ingredients and is good for digestion especially during an occasion where feasting and rich foods are a considerable part of the festivities. Families visit temples or offer prayers in their homes to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
Some of the Diwali favorites in Tamil Nadu are ukkarai, velli appam, idly, chutney, sambhar, omapudi, boondhi, jangri, pathir peni, or one variety of the poli, all or almost all of these dishes are prepared in almost every Tamil family. Crackers are burst after the baths, and then wooden planks and mats are set up facing east. During the preparations, kuthu vilaku (lamp) is kept lit in the worshipping room or temples in the houses. After the food (naivedhya) is offered to the gods, fruits, betel leaf and betel nut is distributed to every member of the family.
Those members of the family who perform the Pithru Tharpanam – prayers to the ancestors of the family, have a second bath before the procession and do not eat rice that night.
Tamil Nadu follows tremendous traditions and rituals individualistic to their culture and religion. Diwali is time for combining all the fun and festivities with religious proceeding significant to culture of Tamil Nadu. Shopping is a bliss during the festival, shops have tremendous sales and Diwali offers, firecrackers stalls are set up in nearly ever corner of market places. Sweet shops experience a boon during the festival season, as sweets are a very big part of Diwali celebrations and gifting.