Deep­avali – the fes­ti­val of Lights :

A TO Z INDIA - - Festivel - - Sri­vatsa

In­dia is a land of fes­ti­vals where you will see at least one ma­jor fes­ti­val each month. Deep­avali (or Di­wali) which lit­er­ally means “rows of lamps” is one of the four main fes­ti­vals of In­dia. Through­out the world, all Hin­dus cel­e­brate Deep­avali or Di­wali with great pomp and en­thu­si­asm.

The cel­e­bra­tion of Di­wali lasts six days, be­gin­ning on the 12th day of the month of Kar­tik (as per the North In­dian lu­nar cal­en­dar). The day be­fore Di­wali, in or­der to evoke the grace of God, women fast. It is not that God wants you to go hun­gry or takes plea­sure in your suf­fer­ing – the prin­ci­ple is that you gain only by giv­ing up. That evening, devo­tees worship Go­mata (the cow) and her calf and feed them spe­cial food. Women pray for the wel­fare of the en­tire fam­ily. This holy day is called Va­sub­aras.

The first of­fi­cial day of Di­wali falls on the 13th of Kar­tik. Peo­ple set about clean­ing houses and shops, and dec­o­rat­ing doorsteps and court­yards with ran­goli or multi-coloured de­signs. They pur­chase gold or­na­ments, new ves­sels, clothes, and other such items. Devo­tees arise early in the morn­ing be­fore sun­rise and take oil baths. If pos­si­ble, they wear new clothes. In the evening, peo­ple worship coins rep­re­sent­ing wealth. Fam­i­lies dec­o­rate houses and court­yards with lanterns giv­ing a warm glow to the night. This day of cel­e­bra­tion is called Dhantray­o­dashi or Dhanteras.

The sec­ond day is called Naraka Chatur­dashi. Peo­ple take an oil bath in the early morn­ing and then in the night they light lamps and burn fire­crack­ers. Peo­ple visit their rel­a­tives and friends, ex­chang­ing love and sweets.

On the third day, peo­ple worship Lak­shmi, the God­dess of wealth. Peo­ple dec­o­rate their houses with lit lamps and lanterns to wel­come Lak­shmi into their home and hearts. On this day busi­ness­men close old ac­counts and open new ac­counts. The earth is lit up by lamps and the skies are coloured by the multi-hued lights of fire­works.

In North In­dia, the Go­vard­hana Puja oc­curs on the fourth day of Di­wali. Devo­tees in the North build large mounds made of cow dung, sym­bol­is­ing Go­vard­hana – the moun­tain that Kr­ishna lifted up with his fin­ger to save the vil­lagers of Vrin­da­van from rain – and dec­o­rate and worship them. North In­di­ans ob­serve this day as An­nakoot, or the moun­tain of food.

The fifth day of the fes­ti­val called Bhaiyya Dooj cel­e­brates unique and fun cus­toms. Ev­ery man dines in his sis­ter’s house, and, in re­turn, presents her with gifts. North In­dia calls it Yama Dwitiya. Thou­sands of brothers and sis­ters join hands and have a sa­cred bath in the river Ya­muna.

The Leg­ends

Dhanteras : The scrip­tures men­tion the di­vin­ity called Dhan­van­tari emerg­ing from the churn­ing of the ocean hold­ing a kalash (pot) filled with Am­rit (am­brosia). Due to the fact that Dhan­van­tari, who re­vealed the sci­ence of Ayurveda to the world, first man­i­fested on this day, all over In­dia, doc­tors fol­low­ing the Ayurvedic sys­tem of medicine or­gan­ise joy­ful cel­e­bra­tions dur­ing the an­nual Dhan­van­tari fes­ti­val.

Naraka Chatur­dashi : There is a legend about a king of PragJy­otish­pur, named Naraka­sura. He was a pow­er­ful king who mis­used power to ha­rass his sub­jects. Sri Kr­ishna de­stroyed this op­pres­sive

asura king on this day. Un­justly im­pris­oned peo­ple cel­e­brated their free­dom with friends and fam­ily. The cit­i­zens cel­e­brated their de­liv­er­ance from Narka­sura’s reign by light­ing lamps. Sri Rama : Deep­avali falls on a no-moon day – in fact, the dark­est day of the year. The il­lu­mi­na­tions and fire­works, joy and fes­tiv­i­ties, are to sig­nify the vic­tory of di­vine forces over the pow­ers of dark­ness. On Deep­avali day, tri­umphant Sri Rama is said to have re­turned to Ayodhya af­ter de­feat­ing Ra­vana, the asura king of Lanka. God­dess Lak­shmi Devi: The Pu­ranas say that it was on this day that God­dess Lak­shmi, who emerged from the churn­ing of the ocean of milk (Ksheera Sa­gara), married Lord Vishnu, the repos­i­tory of all di­vine qual­i­ties. Go­vard­hana Puja : In or­der to shel­ter the gopis and gopas and their cows from the tor­ren­tial rains sent by In­dra, Kr­ishna lifted a hill near Mathura called Go­vard­hana with his fin­ger and shel­tered all the peo­ple for a pe­riod of seven days un­der it. By then In­dra saw Kr­ishna’s great­ness and asked him for for­give­ness.

Bhaiyya Dooj : The river Ya­muna and Yama, the God of Death, were brother and sis­ter. As they grew up they went their dif­fer­ent ways. On this day Yama sup­pos­edly vis­ited his sis­ter Ya­muna, who in her joy at see­ing her brother af­ter such a long in­ter­lude set up a feast for him. Pleased, Yama granted her a boon. He de­clared that ev­ery man that re­ceives a ti­lak or ver­mil­ion mark on the fore­head from his sis­ter and presents her with lovely gifts on this day would at­tain higher worlds. The mes­sage of Deep­avali : The tra­di­tional name of In­dia is Bharata and In­di­ans are Bhara­tias – or ‘those who revel in light’. Dur­ing the night of Deep­avali, the myr­iad lit­tle clay lamps (diyas) seem to silently send forth the mes­sage of Deep­avali: “Come, let us re­move dark­ness from the face of the earth.”

The dharma of fire is the same wher­ever it is: in a poor man’s house, in a rich man’s house, in Amer­ica, in Antarc­tica, or in the Hi­malayas. It gives light and heat. The flame al­ways points up­wards. Even if we keep the lamp up­side down, the flame will burn up­wards. The mes­sage is that our mind should be fo­cused on the At­man, the Self wher­ever we are. The lamps re­mind us of our dharma to re­alise our di­vine na­ture.

“The Self is pure con­scious­ness which is self­lu­mi­nous. The cog­ni­tion of all ob­jects arises from the light of pure Con­scious­ness.” -says Bhri­hadaranyaka Upan­ishad One lamp can light sev­eral oth­ers. You can even light an­other 1000 lamps, and still, the flame and the light of the first lamp will re­main as it is. By be­com­ing man­i­fold, the light looses noth­ing. The lights of Deep­avali rep­re­sent Brah­man and cre­ation. It con­veys the mes­sage of the mantra:

“OM Pur­na­mada Pur­nami­dam Pur­naat Pur­na­mu­dachy­ate Pur­nasya Pur­na­ma­daya Pur­nameva­sishy­ate”

The rows of lamps teach yet an­other im­por­tant les­son of unity. The light that shines forth from the Sun, the moon, the stars, and fire is all the same. To see and recog­nise that one light, the light of con­scious­ness, which is man­i­fest­ing and pul­sat­ing in and through all of the cre­ation is the goal of life. Thus, recognising all of the cre­ation to be an ex­pres­sion of your true Self, spread the light of love and compassion.

The lights of Deep­avali are dis­played at the en­trance doors, by the walls of houses, in the streets and lanes. This means that the in­ner spir­i­tual light of the in­di­vid­ual must be re­flected out­side. It should ben­e­fit so­ci­ety. Passers-by may thereby be pre­vented from stum­bling on their way to reach their des­ti­na­tion.

Feed­ing empty stom­achs, light­ing blown-out diyas and bring­ing light to those whose lives are in dark­ness is the true spirit of Deep­avali. This is true prayer.

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