As there is a lot of cultural diversity in India, Diwali is celebrated in a decidedly different way in different parts of the country. Tamil Nadu too has its own unique way of celebrating Diwali, and it is most charming while at the same time remaining true to the national sentiment of Diwali. That is the beauty of India, while the festival remains the same in some aspects; it is completely different in others.
In Tamil Nadu, Diwali is celebrated in the month of Aipasi (thula month) 'Narak Chaturdashi' thithi, preceding amavasai. The Diwali preparations begin in full force the day before when the oven (chula) is thoroughly cleaned, smeared with lime and decorated with four or five dots of red kumkum paste. It is then filled with water for the next day’s oil bath as per the custom followed in much of the country. The house is washed and colorful Diwali Rangolis are made at the entrance to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi. In the Puja room, betel leaves, betel nuts, plaintain fruits, flowers, sandal paste, kumkum, gingelly oil, turmeric powder, and scented powder are kept ready for the Puja. Crackers and new dresses are placed in a plate after smearing a little kumkum or sandal paste.
Diwali Traditions in Tamil Nadu
The Diwali day begins with everyone in the family taking an oil bath before sunrise, a custom arising from a belief that having an oil bath in the morning on the day of Diwali is equivalent to taking bath in the Ganges. Before the bath, elders in the house apply gingelly oil on the heads of the younger members. For those hailing from Tanjore, the custom is to first take a small quantity of deepavali lehiyam (medicinal, ayurvedic paste) after the oil bath and then breakfast. Often sweets are eaten after wearing new clothes. In almost all houses, items like ukkarai, velli appam, idly, chutney, sambhar, omapudi, boondhi are prepared. For lunch, jangri, pathir peni, or one variety of the poli are made.
Diwali celebrations in Tamil Nadu
Crackers are usually burst only after the bath. Meanwhile, kuthu vilakus (oil lamp) are lit in the Pooja room. Mats or wooden planks are placed facing east. After naivedhya (offering to the Gods) of the items, a plaintain fruit is given to each member of the family followed by betel leaves and betel nuts. Those who have to perform 'pithru tharpanam' will have a second bath perform the tharpanam and don't eat rice at night.
Though, Tamil Nadu celebrates Diwali in a decidedly distinct manner, many familiarities are observed, like the sweets, crackers, new clothes and the joyous spirit of this wonderful Festival of lights.