Over the centuries, Diwali has become a national festival that’s also enjoyed by non-Hindu communities. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.
Diwali is all about lampshades emitting lights from every house, giving and receiving of sweets and wishes, and enjoying the early morning bath known as abhyang snan. From the second day till the fourth day of Diwali, Balipratipada, abhyangsnan is daily recommended to obtain the spiritual benefits of the Diwali festival.
Abhyangsnan has a specific procedure and it must be followed to obtain its benefits.
One must wake up before sunrise and massage the entire body with a scented oil and let the oil get absorbed for half an hour. Aromatic oils have calming effects on the mind. The aroma helps to rejuvenate mood by reducing the level of stress. Before bathing, one must apply uptan. It acts as a natural scrub. All the ingredients in this natural scrub have ayurvedic properties. Uptan is considered extremely beneficial for the skin. It leaves skin smooth and baby soft. The granules in the scrub help to get rid of dead skin. The natural scrub contains ingredients like sandalwood, camphor, manjistha, rose petals extracts, orange skin and turmeric. Soap with rose or sandalwood aromas are mainly used while bathing on this day.
Significance of Abhyangsnan during Diwali
Narakchaturdashi is one of the most important days of Diwali. It is believed that on this auspicious day lord Krishna killed the demon called Narakasur. This day signifies the victory of good over evil. The death of the king of demons, Narakasur is celebrated by bursting crackers.
The early morning bath is of significance because the holy water symbolises the end of the evil powers. Since abhyang snan is taken before the sunrise it is considered as holy as taking bath in the river Ganges.
Other benefits of Abhyangsnan is that applying oil retains elasticity, warm water is auspicious and pleasing to the body, bathing after an oil massage retains only the required amount of oiliness that the skin and hair require. The spiritual benefits of the practice is that by applying oil to the body, particles of Energy spread in the body of the person through the skin pores, by applying uptan mixed with oil, vibrations of Energy are generated in higher proportion in the body of person and by abhyangasnan, vibrations of Chaitanya are generated in a higher proportion and are also emitted into the atmosphere.
The Benefits of Abhyangasnan is mentioned even in books such as in Astanga Hridaya by Vagbhata application of oil on the body is recommended on a daily basis and it claims that this retards ageing, fatigue, improves vision, renders nourishment and provides good sleep.
According to Charaka Samhita by Agnivesha “ As a pitcher by moistening with oil, skin by pressing with oil and axis with lubrication become strong and jerk-resistant, so by oil massage the body becomes firm, smooth skinned, free from disturbances of Vata and tolerant of exertions and exercise”
Diwali festival falls during the winter season and the book Astanga Hridaya also explains the benefits of Abhyangsnan during winter, “During this period, as the duration of night is long, one feels hungry in the early morning itself. So, after attending the primary requisites, the following regimes are logically adhered to oil embrocating, oil application on head, body massage with palms with oil prepared by drugs which pacify vata.”
After the abhyang snan, women draw rangolis outside the house and place diyas and lampshades which signify the arrival of the festival.