Considered as one of the three most holy days of the Hindu Calendar, Bali-prati-padā falls on the Kārttika śukla-pratipad (first day of the bright fortnight of the month Kārttika, generally in November). It is also one of the three days of the Dīpāvalī (also spelt as Divālī) festival, the festival of lights. It was on this day, according to the Hindu mythology, that Bali, the emperor of the asuras or demons, was conquered by Lord Viṣṇu and was granted several boons since he was a great devotee.
Worship of an image of Bali along with that of his consort Vindhyāvalī, is an important item of the festival, especially for kings. Gifts given on this day produce manifold results.
Worship of cows and bulls as also the hill Govardhana (See ANNAKŪṬA.), tying of the Mārgapālī (lit., protectress of the road) or a rope of kuśa grass between a pole and a tree across a road and passing under it, and playing dice, are some of the items generally observed during this festival. A paurāṇic story of the game of dice between Śiva and Pārvatī seems to be at the back of this practice of dice-play. Hence the name ‘Dyūtapratipadā’ also for this day.
Sometimes, a ceremonial tug-of-war is also arranged in front of a temple or the palace, between the princely class and the commoners, the latter always ‘winning’ at the end! Occasionally, images of Agni and Brahmā are established on a ratha or chariot and worshipped. The chariot is then drawn round the streets of the town. Hence this festival is also called ‘Balipratipadā-rathayātrāvrata’.
See also DĪPĀVALĪ.