Sri Nihar Ranjan Acharya, Director, TRUST
This is one of the most popular festival of India, otherwise called the festival of lights. It is also one of the most eagerly awaited festivals in our country. Business men and commercial establishments, consider it as an opportunity to boost their sales and increase profits, while individuals use the ocasion to celebrate life and strengthen relationships. It is a great opportunity to experience the joys of growing up and get acquainted with all types of fire crackers. It comes in the Hindu pair month of Ashwin-Kartik, as per the lunar calendar and corresponds roughly with either October or November depending upon the movement of the Sun and the Moon and their relative positions in space and time.
In fact, Deepavali is a Sanskrit word which is a combination of two words viz. ‘Deepa’ and ‘Avali’. ‘Deepa’ means lampa nd ‘Avali’ means a row. So, Deepavali is literally a row of lamps. Today, in many Western Countries Deepavali or Diwali has become famous as the ‘Festival of Lights’. Hindus string lights around their houses and temples. Deepavali is always celebrated on the new moon night at the end of the month of Aashwna. There are many stories connected regarding the origin of this famous festival. But, as far as my knowledge on Vedic Philosophy is concerned, I would prefer to connect it to the Nava Ratri and Vijaya Dashami Festivals. After Ravan was killed on the 10th Lunar Day (Vijaya Dashami), Sri Ram returned to Ayodhya, the then Capital of Bharat (India), on the following new moon night (amavashya). Deepavali comes exactly twenty days after Vijaya Dashami. Since there is no moon on that day of victory over the demon King Ravan, the residents of Ayodhya are said to have illuminated the city by placing lamps on their homes and surroundings to greet their Lord Sri Ram. This is one of the oldest Hindu Festivals occuring in the month of Kartik, which Northern India commemorates the return of Sri Ram to Ayodhya after a long excile of 14 years. It also marks the beginning of the New Year and is celebrated with the lighting of lamps.
Some context of Vedic Philosophy (Mahabharat) also says Southern India honours this as the day Lord Sri Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. Sri Krishna accompanied his beloved wife Satyabhama, in battle. Together they subdued King Narakasura and freed the prisoners who were mostly women. Deepavali celebrations in the North also honour Sri Krishna who protected the citizens of Gokul from torrential rains under the Govardhan Mountain. So, the people of Gokul celebrated it with much enthusiasm and excitement. Deepavali inherited from that. In Western India the celebration is in honour of the day King Bali who gave away his kingdom and went to rule the nether-world (Patal) as odered by Lord Vishnu.
For Jains, Deepavali has an added significance. Lord Mahavira attained the Eternal Bliss or Nirvana this day. The Sikhs have always celebrated Deepavali as they are mostly fun loving people. Its significance increased when, on this day the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargovind was freed from captivity of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, along with 52 Hindu Kings.
Buddhists from India and Nepal honour Emperor Ashoka who on this day, adopted Non-violence (Ahimsa) became influenced from Goutam Buddha’s teachings.
Goddess Lakshmi, (from the Sanskrit word ‘lakshya’ which means ‘aim’) is invoked for blessings to restart our worldly and spiritual accounting. Prayers of thankfulness, (Lakshmi Puja), are offered for future prosperity by people of all faiths. Lakshmi Puja is another common factor in Deepavali celebrations which binds the people of the Indian subcontinent and now globally.
Diwali traditionally marks the beginning of the New Year for Hindu businesses and the last harvest of the year before winter. Many close their books and open new accounts with prayers for success and prosperity. Symbolically it is a new start — forgive and forget — in all aspects of life including relationships with family and friends. It is the time for community and family celebration with prayers through puja, of togetherness, of sharing all resources, of food and gifts.
Today, Deepavali/Diwali is enjoyed by most Indians, regardless of faith – globally. Everyone celebrates it through festive fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing of sweets and worship as is customary for each religious and/or non-religious group. No house is too big or too small for illumination. Artisans of all faiths, including Muslims and Christians, participate in making the lamps, fireworks and sweets.
While the story behind Diwali varies from region to region, the essence is the same – to illumine the insight as the Vedic hymn goes Asato Ma Sad Gamaya, Tamasho Ma Jyotirgamaya, Mrutur Ma Amrutam Gamaya (Lead us from unreal to Truth, from darknes to light and from death to immortality). Deepavali unifies every religion, every home and every hearts and India transcends into a land of myriad lamps. May the spirit of Diwali bring joy, health, wealth, prosperity, peace and enlightenment to all human beings despite of their colour, caste, religion, faith or whatever whatever!
As burning crackers is a threat to environment, I would suggest this Deepavali burst your ego, not crackers.
(Views are the own words of the writer. For any clarrification, please contact writer at his mail id. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Ph.8895180621)