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Diwali(Festival of Light)
Bhai Beej  

The second day of the New Year, Kartik Sud 2 (29/10/00) is known as 'Bhai Beej' and 'Yamdwitiya'.

Once Yamunaji, the manifest form of river Yamuna, invited her brother Yama Raja and his attendants to have a meal at her home. However, work prevented him from accepting her invitation. Finally on Kartik Sud 2, he was able to visit her. She welcomed him warmly by performing his pujan with sandalwood paste, exotic perfumes and rich garments. She then served him sumptuous food in a golden dish.
After the meal, Yama Raja reciprocated his sibling love by gifting her expensive garments. He then requested her to ask him for a boon. She asked, 'Every year on this day you should have a meal in my home. You should also release all those who are in Yampuri (Hell). And to those who have food at their sister's on this day, you should grant happiness.'
Granting her boon, Yama Raja replied, 'Those who bathe in the Yamuna, appease the 'pitrus' (ancestors), have food at their sisters' and perform their pujan will not arrive at my gates.'

By serving food to her brother, a sister strengthens the sibling bond. Therein she also imbues him health and longevity. As for her, the scriptures ordain that she shall not become a widow. Those who do not eat at their sister's home on this day lose all the 'punya' accumulated during the past year and experience misery. Those who do not have a sister, may have a meal at a cousin's house or that of a friend's sister.

Therefore a woman invites her brother to have food and consolidate the sibling bond. The sentiments are similar to 'Raksha Bandhan', when a woman visits her brother to tie a 'Raksha' (rakhi).

  Labh Pancham  
The final festival during the Diwali period is Labh Pancham on Kartik Sud 5 (1/11/00). It is also known as 'Laakheni Panchmi' and 'Saubhaagya Panchmi.'

Those who have not performed Sharda Pujan on Diwali, perform pujan of their new ledgers today and ritually open their shops and businesses. In the days following Diwali including today, people visit friends and relatives, to renew solidarity. Sweets and other items are offered to guests, symbolically 'sweetening' relations.

'Labh' means benefit. People today usually wish for material 'labh' such as: a good job, good in-laws, riches and so forth. Yet the scriptures and sadhus inform us that the greatest 'labh' is human birth itself. With this one should endeavor for God-realization. Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami has revealed the glory of associating with sadhus ('Sant Samagam') in his 'SwaminiVato':
'If one possesses as many 'Chintamanis' - wishing gems, as there are stones, and as many 'Kalpa Vruksh' - wishing trees, as there are on Mt.Girnar, even then one would be better off burning them in order to do 'Sant Samagam.'
The scriptures define 'labh' as:
Laabhasteshaam jayasteshaam kutasteshaam paraajayaha,
Yeshaam indeevarashyaam hrudayastho janaardanaha.
i.e. He is the true beneficiary and the truly victorious, who has installed the consort of Lakshmi, God, in his heart.

Diwali then, is a festival of inner enlightenment. It is an occasion to eradicate one's inner darkness, by renouncing any addictions, bad habits and 'doshas' - base instincts, by obeying the Shikshapatri and the God-realized sadhu. One then becomes 'Brahmarup' and is subsequently graced with the ultimate enlightenment - Parabrahman.

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© 1999, Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swaminarayan Aksharpith