Festivities cut across boundaries to move on from small villages to the big towns, for almost a month before Deepawali. Sales of expensive silk saris, jewelery and ornaments, household goods go up. From the poor to the rich, everyone indulges in shopping for the biggest shopping spree of the year. Sweets, which are an integral part of any festival in Andhra Pradesh, are prepared in homes as well as bought from shops for exchange. This festival is full of messages depicting one or more aspects of human life, relationships or ancient traditions.
Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi: Observed two days before Diwali, Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi signifies the importance of money in our life. We cannot move not even inch without money. Everybody knows that without money, it is very difficult to survive. Thus for attaining money, people to pray Lord Kubera on the day of Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi. This day is also known as Dhana Trayodasi or Dhanteras.The Lord of finance is Kubera. Thus, if devotees pray sincerely on the Dhana Trayodasi with utmost faith, one need not worry for finance. The Kubera Mantra is recited on this day. The mantra is:
"Om Yakshaya, Kuberaya, Vysravanaya, Dhanadanyathipatiye, Dhana Dhanya Samruthideye, Dehi Dapaya Swaha"
On the day of Asweyuja Bahula Trayodasi, the devotee has to place the Kubera Yantra or Photo in the Pooja room. At the outset, one has to pray the Lord Vigneswara and then start performing pooja to the Lord Kubera and seek his blessings. One has to place Honey, Jaggery and Dry dates before the photo or Yantra and light the lamp with pure ghee.
On Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi, all businesspersons whitewash their shops and close their accounts. They worship goddess Lakshmi and the accounting books with coins. Some organise a doll show also. Lamps are lighted and placed at the entrance after dusk in order to combat untimely death.
Dhanatrayodashi: Dhan means wealth and trayodashi is the 13th day of the weaning moon in the month of Ashwin. Thus, on the day of Dhanatrayodashi all the sources of wealth are worshipped. Apart from this, Dhanatrayodashi is taken as a day to learn from the experience of one's past deeds and pay homage to memory of ancestors from whom one inherits these traditions.
The farmers worship their cattle and their weapons. Women buy something in metal especialy silver, good for the house. On this day, doorways are hung with torans, garland made of mango leaves and marigolds and decorated with Rangolis drawn to welcome guests.
On this day, Dhanvantari, the God of health and welfare is worshipped by performing acts such as cleaning the entire house, buying new clothes, new vessels etc. Shri Dhanvantari is worshipped on this day because this is the day that he arose from the ocean during the famous Samudra Manthan. The God of Health is worshiped first because Hinduism gives tremendous importance to physical well being.
Yamadeepdaan: Dhanteras is also known as Yamadeepdaan and lamps are kept burning through the night in reverential adoration to Yama - and prayers offered to him to keep away death and despair. A very interesting story about this day is attached to the sixteen year old son of King Hima. As per his horoscope he was doomed to die by a snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage.
On that fateful fourth day of his marriage his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband's palatial room and lighted infinite numbers of lamps all over the place. After all these, she went on telling stories and singing songs so that her husband is not able to sleep.
When Yam, the god of Death arrived there appearing in form of a Serpent his eyes got blinded by the dazzle of those brilliant lights and he could not enter the Prince's chamber. So he climbed on top of the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat there whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he quietly went away.
Thirteen lamps made of wheat flour and lit with oil are placed outside the house, facing southwards (direction of Lord Yama), in the evening. A lamp is never kept facing southwards except on this day. Then, reciting the following mantra one should offer obeisance: "I offer these thirteen lamps to the son (Lord Yama) of the Sun deity (Surya), so that He liberates me from the clutches of death and bestows His blessings."
Narkachaturdashi: Celebrated as the second of the auspicious Deepavali days, Narkachaturdashi originates from days of Lord Krishna. God Yama is also worshiped on this day to get over the fear of demon Narakasura. Lamps with four wicks are lighted at various places. People make an effigy of Narakasura, carry it to the outskirts, and burn it. Later, they take bath and burst crackers. This is the day of Narakasura's death and hence a celebration for all.
There are many popular stories associated with this day, but the most widely accepted one is that of Satyabhama (Krishna's wife) and Narakasura. Narakasur was a demon king, ruling Pragjothishyapur, a southern province in the present day Nepal. He gained a boon from Brahma that he shall die only in the hands of a woman. Armed with the boon, he became a cruel king. Narakasura was infamous for his wicked ruling and high disregard for gods and women.
Addicted to power, he defeated Lord Indra (king of gods) and stole the earrings of Aditi (the heavenly mother goddess). Aditi was a relative of Satyabhama. When she heard of the injustice being done to women in general by Narakasura and his behaviour with Aditi, she was enraged. Satyabhama went to ask Lord Krishna, permission to wage a war against Narakasura, Krishna not only agreed, but also offered to drive her chariot in the Warfield.
On the day of the war, both the armies fought bravely and the war continued for some time. Satyabhama fought Narakasura bravely, but she was no match to his trained war wisdom. After some days, when Narakasura got a chance, he took an aim at Krishna, hurting him lightly. Krishna fainted and made Satyabhama furious. She doubled her attack on the demon king and killed him finally. Her victory on Narakasura translated into freedom for all his prisoners and honoring of Aditi.
To announce the death of Narakasura, Krishna smeared the demon's blood on his forehead and returned the very next day along with Satyabhama to his kingdom. On their arrival, preparations were made to cleanse Krishna of the demon's blood. At dusk, the whole city was lit with lamps and fireworks were displayed to rejoice in peace after the death of the demon king. Thus, came Narakachathurthasi as a celebration of the death of the evil king.
Kaumudi Mahostavam: In the olden days of South India, Deepavali was once called as 'Kaumudi Mahostavam'. In those times the kings used to supervise the festivities of Diwali during the nights. The rituals and customs of those days are still followed such as black gram leaves are eaten even today. Lamps are distributed. Late in the night, women bring out their household weapons like dustpans, mops, etc, to drive away 'Jyesthadevi', the Goddess of penury.
It is believed that on Amavasya (no moon day), Goddess Lakshmi is present in sesame oil, and Gangadevi is present in all wells, lakes, and ponds. Sesame oil is used for taking bath. Plants like Uttarani, Anapa and Prapunnatamu are circled around the head before taking bath. Yama is worshiped facing South. It is believed that this helps in combating untimely death and in giving peace to the departed souls. In the evening, lamps are lightened almost everywhere in the town including the temples, hills, graveyards, etc.
Bali Padyam / Bali Pratipada: Balipadyami or Bali Pratipada is the day on which 'Bali' is worshiped. Following Deepavali, there is a story behind celebrating this festival. When Vishnu was born as vamana (the dwarf), he crushed Bali into the under world. Then Prahlada, the grandfather of Bali pleaded Vishnu to pardon Bali. Then Bali was made the king of the under world. On Bali's request, Vishnu granted a boon that people on earth would remember him and would worship him. That is the reason for Balipadyami. On that day also people burst crackers and celebrate in the name of Bali.
There is also a story to tell that on Balipadyami 'Gambling' (Judam) should be played. Once on this padyami day, Shiva and Parvathi played the dice game. Shiva lost to Parvathi. Kumaraswami then played dice with Parvathi and won. Then Lord Ganesh played with Lord Kumaraswami and won. Since then, it has been customary for the family to be involved in gambling on this day. Farmers celebrate this day in a different way. They perform puja to cow, and is known as Gouramma puja.
Divvela Panduga / Divili Panduga: Divvela Panduga, the Festival of Lights is a very popular festival and is celebrated throughout the Indian Continent. In Andhra Pradesh this festival is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over evil when Lord Krishna, with the help of his wife Satyabhama, destroyed Narakaasura, a demon king, and established his rule, the law and order and saved women from the Narakaasura's custody.
Divvela panduga is also known as Naraka Chaturdasi, because that was the Chaturdasi (fourteenth day) of the fortnight that ends with Amavasya (New Moon Day). All through this fortnight, people decorate their homes with oil lamps and on the dark night of Amavasya is celebrated with fire works. The dark night becomes a brightly-lit night with rows of lights everywhere and fire works.
On the day of Divili Panduga, religious Telugus wake up early in the morning and take special ritual showers. They wear new clothes on this day and parents invite their daughters and sons-in-law to their home and present them new clothes. For merchants and business communities of Andhra Pradesh, Divvela panduga is worship of Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, and is the beginning of a New Year.