Oil Bath and Anusandhana Rituals during Diwali- Significance and Importance

Anusandhana in Deepavali Rituals – Jala Poorana and Diwali oil bath ritual
oil-bath
During Diwali on the 4th day of Diwali or the Narak Chaturdashi or Roop Chaudas, we have head bath with scented oil. The most important ritual of the Naraka Chaturdashi is, people wake up early in the morning (before sunrise) or during moon-rise, apply ubtan (made up of til oil, herbs, flowers as well as some crucial elements) on their body and take holy bath or Abhyang Snan. It is considered that someone who fails doing such ritual at this special occasion goes to the hell. The day is also popular as Kali Chaudas, Choti Diwali, Roop Chaturdashi or Roop Chaudas.
How to observe the ocassion- Diwali oil bath ritual

The water is filled into the container and Ganga Puja is done on trayodashi evening. Ganga represents purity. Here we need to remember that it is not Ganga who herself gives the purity. It is the attribute of Vishnu. Specifically one should think of Trivikrama, whose toe nails were responsible for the release of Ganga from the upper world. Such Ganga who washed the feet of Vishnu when flowing down got her purity by that very act of washing Vishnu’s feet. Now a days, there is no provision to “fill” the bathing container per say. The tap water flows directly into the geyser. But that need not be the reason to skip Ganga Trivikrama Puja. Here too one can just think and say the names of Trivikrama and Ganga. She is bestowed with the power of cleansing the sins of those who merely chant her name.


Gangaa gangeti yO brooyaat
yojanaanaam shatairapi
muchyate sarva papebhyo
vishnulokam sa gacchati

The very next day – in the wee hours of morning one gets a bath with oil massage and ubtan. This bath is just not byUbtan- Diwali 2016 the mere application of oil on the body followed by hot water bath. That would be just too bland. One has to remember to bring water in a small vessel (the one that was worshipped and filled the previous night) and oil and place them in front of Lord. Then do a mangalarati to Lord. Such worshipped oil has the presence of Lakshmi in it. Lakshmi herself is the abhimani deity of knowledge (jnaana). Ganga is the abhimani for purity (paavitrya).

The underlying reason for taking the oil bath. It is to celebrate killing of Narakasura and freeing of 16108 princesses from his prison. The princesses are originally agni putras – sons of fire.

  • Narakasura represents the ajnaana – who causes the bondage (prison) for the princesses – the agni putras.
  • All those desiring the knowledge of agnimeeLe (viz. Vedas) are agni putras (all of us). Such knowledge comes our way through Lakshmi who is especially present in the oil used in the bath.
  • This bath of jnaana (oil) coupled with the purity of our heart, mind and acts (water) is what Krishna will use as the tools to take us from bondage (bandha) to liberation (moksha).
  • Even when dissected in isolation, the act of Narakasura itself concludes similarly. As we know, Krishna fought Narakasura with his bow Sharnga (even though he was killed by chakra). Atharvanopanishat says
pranavo Dhanuh Sharohyaatmaa brahmatallakyamuchyate |
apramattena veddhavyam sharavatnmayop bhavet ||


Oil bathMeaning: The Pranava is bow. (Pranava or Aum is the crux of all Vedas. It has 3 parts – a, u ma. Accordingly there are 3 Vedas. The bow also has 3 parts. Such Pranava is the mechanism to reach the target – the Pranava Pratipaadya – the one extolled by Vedas i.e. Vishnu himself.) The arrow is the individual soul. The God is the target to shoot at. Just as one applies the arrow into the bow, one should apply oneself into Vedas and aim at the God. Just like the arrow strikes the target (but never becomes target by itself), the individual soul gets into the God (moksha), but remains distinct from it (no aikya).

Thus, a deep philosophical thought centered around Vishnu, liberation and its mechanism exists in the ritual of Naraka Chaturdashi. One just needs to start seeing it that way. Then the ritual itself (be it oil massage or bathing) becomes the conjugative instrument to connect with the Lord – the medium for anusandhana.

Additional thoughts around oil bath anusandhana- 
  • Oil Massage is not a one-time application. It is repetitive in nature. Again and again until the body absorbs it as much as it can. The oil of jnaana is also not a one time reading. It is applied again and again (Avartana) until the soul absorbs it and allowing its manifestation – the ever blissful nature of the soul concealed by several layers of ignorance and bondage.
  • The virtuous of the world rejoiced when Narakasura was killed and the imprisoned princesses were liberated. They celebrated with fireworks (ulkaa). The practice continues till date. The lighting of fireworks represents the manifestation of bliss. Just watch an innocent child lighting fireworks and then jumping around at the sight of its burning. Although all activities of ours are with a purpose, the act of rejoicing by jumping around (even adults do sometimes) by lighting fireworks is plainly the manifestation of the bliss and an activity without any reason. Similarly the liberated souls rejoice without any reason for their act – but as a pure by product of manifestation of their unadulterated innate bliss in moksha.
  • Trivia: Dhanvi, one if the names in Vishnu Sahasra Nama means the one with the bow. It is the 77th name in VSN. 7 + 7 = 14. One of the rare occasions Krishna used bow was against Narakasura later killing him which came to be known as Naraka Chaturdashi – the 14th day of Ashwija Krishna Paksha.
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