Diwali: The Festival of Lights – Part 2
By Madhav Davé
NHSF (UK) Learning Team
The Diwali period includes a series of 8 joyful festivals. These festivals are:
- ‘Ramaa Ekadashi’ – 31st October 2013 (11th Aashwin)
- ‘Govatsa Dwadashi’ or ‘Vagh Baaras’ – 31st October 2013 (12th Aashwin)
- ‘Dhan Trayodhashi’ or ‘Dhan Teras’ – 1st November 2013 (13th Aashwin)
- ‘Kali Chaudash’ – 2nd November 2013 (14th Aashwin)
- ‘Diwali’ – 3rd November 2013 (15th Aashwin)
- ‘New Year/ Nutan Varsh’ (Gujarat) – 4th November 2013 (1st Kartik)
- ‘Bhai-Dhuj’ or ‘Bhai Beej’ – 5th November 2013 (2nd Kartik)
- ‘Labh Pancham’ – 7th November 2013 (5th Kartik)
3rd November 2013 (15th Aashwin)
Deepavali, also known as Diwali is commonly called the festival of lights. If there is one occasion which is joy and jubilation for one and all, it is Deepavali.
There are five origins to the auspicious celebrations leading up to and including Diwali:
- Lord Prthu extracted goodness from the Earth
- During the Samudra Manthan, the Goddess Lakshmi emerged from the ocean
- Lord Krishna vanquished Narakasura, releasing people from misery
- Lord Ramachandra returned to Ayodhya after his victory over Ravana in Lanka, ending 14 years of exile
- The Pandavas returned from their forest exile
On the first day of the celebrations, ‘Vagh Baaras’ or ‘Govatsa Dwadashi’, the cow and calf are offered worship because of their sacred position in Hinduism. King Prthu was a pious King and the son of an evil tyrant, King Venu. After years of torment, the Earth inflicted grave famine on the people, and King Prthu chased after Mother Earth, which metaphorically assumed the form of a cow, to protect his people from death and starvation. After negotiating with Her, King Prthu milked the cow, and thus Mother Earth granted us Her grains, water and other earthly valuables. This story can be found in the Bhagavatam, and explains the significance of the cow as a life sustaining form of the Earth.
On the next day, the emergence of the Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of virtue, wealth and prosperity during the churning of the ocean is celebrated as ‘Dhan teras’.
This is followed by ‘Kali Chaudas’ when the demon Narakasura was slain by Lord Krishna. The demon King of Assam in the East, Narakasura had stolen many celestial and divine objects. After imploring Krishna, the Gods had their prayers answered as Krishna attacked and defeated the demon, marching from Dwarka (Gujarat) in the West. Lord Rama was exiled from the North and defeated Ravana in the South, and so it can be seen that together they symbolise the unification of our motherland, Bharat.
Diwali and its significance
On the day of Diwali, Lord Rama returned to the capital of his Kingdom Ayodhya, after an exile of 14 years, thrust upon him by his step-mother Kaikeyi. He returned in triumph and glory after eliminating the demon Ravana hence the crackers and lights signify His victorious return and the triumph of good over evil. The people of Ayodhya were overwhelmed with joy, welcoming Rama through jubilation and illumination of the entire capital with lamps.
Diwali signifies the lighting of the inner lamp by instilling and welcoming Lord Rama within us. Developing virtues and vanquishing vice, adhering to the Truth, and seeking knowledge and devotion are all a part of the spiritual ideal. This is the lamp that we seek to light, and the outer celebrations are only a minute manifestation of that inner joy and warmth that glows eternally within.
Diwali is celebrated with much pomp and ceremony and is one of the widest celebrated festivals in the world. Diwali is known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ since people brighten their homes with uncountable lamps called ‘divas’. Towns and cities all over India are effulgent with light and joy expressing the mood of festivity. Even the humblest of huts will be lit by a row of lamps.
The floor, next to the entrance of people’s houses is decorated with ‘Rangoli’. A Rangoli is an intricate and artistic design or sketch, using coloured powder. It represents an auspicious welcome for Lakshmiji who visits people during Diwali to grant opulence and prosperity for the year to come.
Fire-crackers resound and light up the earth and the sky. The faces of boys and girls glow with a rare charm in their dazzling hues and colours. Illuminating lights – Deepotsavas – in temples, sacred places of worship and on the banks of rivers symbolize the scattering of spiritual radiance all round from these holy centres.
Captured by the wonderful sight of everybody adorned with new and bright clothes and houses decorated with the best of ornaments, the social mood is at its happiest. All this illumination and fireworks, joy and festivity, is to signify the victory of divine forces over those of wickedness.
People also carry out ‘Chopada-Pujan’ where books – especially new ledgers and academic books – are worshipped and blessed in the hope of a bright forth coming year.
Diwali radiates an element of happiness and cheerful spirit in all communities. Bearing seasonal, historical and of course spiritual significance, it is a festival glowing with splendour and delight.
To the Jains, Deepaavali has an added significance since the great Mahavira attained the eternal bliss of Nirvana. On this same day, Swami Dayananda Saraswati – the great Hindu sage who helped light the flame of the Hindu Renaissance – as well as Swami Ramtirtha, the phenomenal personality that carried the fragrance of Sanatan Dharma to the Western world, both left their bodies, merging into infinity.
It was also on Diwali that the sixth Sikh Guru Hargovindji reached Amritsar after his release from the imprisonment of Moghul ruler Jehangir.
Shubh Dipavali everyone! Jai Sri Rama!