Five Days of Diwali
The main Diwali festival is a five day long ritual commencing with Dhanwantari Triodasi or Dhan Theras. Second day of Diwali is referred as Aswayuja Bahula Chaturdasi or Naraka Chaturdasi. It is the fourteenth lunar day (thithi) of the dark forthnight of the month of Kartik and the eve of Diwali. On this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and made the world free from fear.
Third day is Amavasya or the main Diwali. Worship of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, is performed as according to the Hindu mythology Lakshmi was incarnated on this day, the new moon day of the Kartik month.
Fourth day is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami or Bali Padyami. It is believed that Bali would come out on this day from Pathala Loka to rule Bhuloka as such a boon was given by Lord Vishnu. Goverdhan Pooja is performed on this day. The fifth or last day of Diwali is known as Yama Dvitiya or Bhai Dooj or Bhratri Dooj. This day is marked for the celebration of sister-brother relationship. On this day sisters put tilak on their brothers' forehead and pray for a long life for their dear brothers.
Day 1 - Dhanteras
The first day of Diwali is known as 'Dhanteras'. The word "Dhan" means wealth. People renovate, decorate their houses and workplaces on this day and make traditional 'Rangoli' motifs on the entrance, to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Lamps and candles are lit throughout the night. It is considered auspicious to buy gold and silver on this day. Many people opt for buying new utensils on this day. In Maharashtra, offerings of lightly pounded dry coriander seeds with jaggery are made to the Goddess. Rural people revere their cattle on this day and cows are considered especially auspicious.
This day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of Yamadeepdaan and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yama, the god of Death.
Day 2 - Nakra Chaturdashi
The second day is called Nakra-Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali. It is on this day that Lord Krishna returns from Pragyotishpur (Nepal) completing a journey where he killed the demon king Narakasur. To prove he was victorious in killing the demon, Lord Krishna returned home with the king's blood smeared on his forehead. To cleanse the blood and restore overall cleanliness, the womenfolk bathed the Lord in scented oils. Since then, the custom of taking bath before sunrise is customary in various parts of India. Since then, people take bath before sunrise, anoint themselves with oil and 'Ubtan' (scrub made up of gram flour and fragrant powders).
Bengalis believe that Goddess Kali killed the demon Raktavija on this day. On this day, people believe that the lighting of lamps expels ignorance and heralds a future full of joy and laughter. People illuminate their homes with diya, as to welcome the set the mood for celebrations in the following day. A general customs followed during the second day of Diwali is to burst crackers.
Day 3 - Lakshmi Puja
The third day is the main day of the Diwali festival. It is the most important day of Lakshmi Puja which is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. This day is also known by the name of Chopada Puja. Despite the fact that this day falls on an amavasya day it is regarded as the most auspicious.
Jains have their own religious significance of the day, because they believe that Lord Mahavir attained 'Nirvana' (or Eternal Bliss) on the day. Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the great saint who gave rise to Hindu Renaissance, also left the mortal world on this day.
On this day, people wear new clothes and share gifts and sweets with their friends and relatives. Women prepare delicacies and whole house is illuminated with 'diyas' and candles. Fireworks and crackers are the kids' favorites on this day.
Day 4 - Padwa or Varshapratipada or Govardhan Puja
It is the fourth day that marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya, initiating Vikram-Samvat from this Padwa day. Govardhan-Puja or Annakoot is also performed in the North on this day. To commemorate this day, people of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar build cow dung hillocks, decorate them with flowers and then worship them.
In the temples of Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are bathed with milk and adorned with precious clothes and ornaments. Then offerings of a large variety of delicacies are made to them. This day is looked upon as the most auspicious day to start any new venture.
Day 5 - Bhayya Duj
The 5th day or the last day of this festival is called Bhai Duj or Bhratri Dooj. On this day, sisters invite their brothers and their family to their homes and treat them with delicacies.
The day is observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers.