The Dev Deepavali (‘The Diwali of the Gods’ or ‘Festival of Lights of the Gods’ is the festival of Kartik Poornima celebrated in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. It falls on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Kartika (November – December), and takes place fifteen days after Diwali.
The steps of all the Ghats in Varanasi on the riverfront of the Ganges River, from Ravidas Ghat at the southern end to Rajghat, are lit with more than a million earthen lamps (Diyas) in honour of Mother Ganga, the holy river Ganges – its presiding Goddess. The gods are believed to descend on Earth to bathe in the holy Ganges on this sacred day.
The festival is also observed as ‘Tripura Purnima Snan’.
During Dev Deepawali, houses are decorated with oil lamps and colored artistic designs outside the front doors. Firecrackers are burnt at night, processions of decorated deities are taken out into the streets of Varanasi, and oil lamps are set afloat on the river.
Crowds gather to watch the riverside festivities.
The main rituals performed by devotees consist of Kartik Snaan (taking a holy bath in the Ganges during Kartika) and Deepdan (offering of lighted oil lamps) to Mother Ganga in the evening. The Ganga Aarti is also performed in the evening Deepdan everyday in Varanasi.
Besides a religious role, the festival is also the occasion when the martyrs are remembered at the Ghats by worshipping Ganga and lighting lamps watching the Aarti. This is organized by Ganga Seva Nidhi when wreaths are placed at Amar Jawan Jyoti at Dashashwamedh Ghat of Varanasi.
The wreaths are also placed at the adjoining Rajendra Prasad Ghat by police officials of the Varanasi District, 39 Gorkha Training Centre, 95 CRPF Battalion, 4 Air Force Selection Board, 7 UP Battalion of NCC (Naval), and Benares Hindu University (BHU).
The traditional last post is also performed by all the three Wings of Indian Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air force), followed by a closing ceremony, where sky lamps are lit. Patriotic songs, hymns, and Bhajans are sung and the Bhagirath Shourya Samman awards are presented.
The festival is a major tourist attraction, and the sight of a million lamps (both floating and fixed) lighting the Ghats and river in vivid colors have often been described by visitors and tourists as a truly breathtaking sight.
On the night of the festival, thousands of devotees from the holy city of Varanasi, surrounding villages, and across the country gather in the evening on the Ghats of the Ganges to watch the Aarti. The local Government makes several intensive security arrangements to ensure law & order during the festival.
Apart from the Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, all buildings and houses are lit with earthen lamps in the evening. Nearly 100,000 pilgrims visit the riverfront to watch the river beautifully glitter with brightly lighted oil lamps.
The Aarti is performed by 21 young Brahmin priests and 24 young women. The rituals involve chanting hymns, rhythmic drum beating, conch shell blowing, and brazier burning.
Boat rides (in boats of all sizes) along the riverfront in the evening are popular among tourists, when all the Ghats are lit with lamps while the aarti is being performed.
Ganga Mahotsav is a tourist-centric festival in Varanasi, which is celebrated over five days every year, starting from Prabodhani Ekadashi to Kartik Poornima during the months of October and November.
The festival showcases the rich and glorious cultural heritage of the most ancient city of Varanasi. With its message of faith and culture, the festival features popular cultural programs, classical music, a country boat race, a daily Shilp Mela (Arts and Crafts Fair), Sculpture displays, and Martial Arts.
On the final day (Poornima), which coincides with the traditional Dev Deepawali (Light Festival of the Gods), the Ghats on the Ganga River glitter with more than a million brightly lit-up earthen lamps.