Every year in October and November, Hindus all around the world celebrate Diwali, or Deepavali—a festival of lights that dates back more than 5000-7000 years. Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is one of India’s and Hindus’ most celebrated festivals. It’s also one of the most anticipated events in the Indian subcontinent. Businessmen and commercial institutions see it as a chance to enhance sales and earnings, while individuals utilise it to celebrate life and develop connections. It is a wonderful opportunity for youngsters to enjoy the delights of growing up while also being acquainted with various sorts of firecrackers. According to the lunar calendar, it occurs during autumn in the Hindu month of Ashwayuja (also known as Ashwin or Aippasi) and correlates roughly with either October or November depending on the movement of the sun and moon and their respective locations in space and time.
There isn’t just one reason to celebrate the five-day celebration, as there is with many Hindu holidays. According to Pankaj Jain, anthropology, philosophy, and religion professor at the University of North Texas, the ancient holiday is related to many legends in religious scriptures, and it’s hard to determine which came first or how long Diwali has been celebrated.
Many of these legends are about how good triumphs against evil. A popular Diwali storey in northern India is about King Rama, one of the avatars of the deity Vishnu. When a wicked king in Lanka (which some link with Sri Lanka) kidnaps Rama’s wife Sita, he “assembles an army of monkeys” to rescue her, according to Jain. He claims that the monkeys “build a bridge from India to Sri Lanka, and they invade Sri Lanka and release Sita and murder that terrible king.” “Millions of lights are stretched out throughout the city Ayodhya simply to assist them to come back home, just to welcome them,” Rama and Sita say as they return to the north. Lighting lights has long been a traditional method for Hindus to celebrate Diwali.
In the south, Diwali is commonly associated with a narrative about the Hindu god Krishna, a separate avatar of Vishnu, who liberates 16,000 women from another wicked ruler. The New Year coincides with Diwali in the western state of Gujarat (there are numerous New Years throughout India), and Diwali is connected with petitioning the goddess Lakshmi for wealth in the next year. Many people trade presents and monies throughout the celebration.
THE ANCIENT HISTORY BEHIND DIWALI
“Deepavali” means “a row of lights” in Sanskrit. Its roots are shrouded in tales and stories from ancient India. It was supposed to have started as a harvest festival. It was intended to either honour the harvest or the ancestors who had passed on to the ancestral world. Vedic people believed that after death, souls who were not destined for freedom ascended to the ancestral world in the moon through the way of ancestors (pitrmarg). People may have held candles, lamps, and torches towards the sky on that day in the belief that it would assist them to ascend to the ancestral realm because the route was not as brilliant as the sunny path of the immortals (devayana).
The event is mentioned in the Padma and Skanda Puranas. The lights that were lighted that day, according to the latter, represented facets of the Sun. Diwali is connected with numerous ancient stories, including Nachiketa’s ascension to heaven, Rama’s triumph over Ravana and return to Ayodhya to ascend the kingdom, the homecoming of the Pandavas from exile, and Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon Narakasura. People in Kerala believe that on this day, the demon king Bali, who was granted redemption by Vishnu, visits the earth to check how people are enjoying the festival. People also think that on this day, Goddess Lakshmi visits her followers’ houses and blesses them. As a result, individuals strive to keep their houses clean. Outside of India, communal festivals are prevalent.
We have evidence that Diwali celebrations in India are a very old ritual that is still practised today. A Sanskrit drama called Nagananda, written during the reign of Harsha, describes how it was celebrated with lights and how newlywed couples got presents on that day. Another text, Kavyamimansa, written in the ninth century, describes how dwellings were whitewashed and adorned with lights. According to Al Beruni, a Persian historian who visited India in the 11th century, Hindus celebrated Deepavali on the New Moon day in the month of Kartika. Diwali is celebrated not just in India, but also in other nations where Hindus live, such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius.
Whatever the practice, we may sense its powerful link with the greatest of our ambitions and deepest yearnings in a world rife with the forces of ignorance, misery, and war. In many respects, it is a ritual put in action that characterizes our innate desire for things that are brilliant and lovely, as wonderfully stated in the Vedic song “tamasoma jyotirgamaya” (From darkness unto Light). It symbolizes our divine essence and reminds us of our primary obligation to follow the path of light and achieve emancipation.
While the origins of this enigmatic Hindu celebration are unknown, Maha Lakshmi, the goddess who represents all the good elements of life and the divine component of prosperity and plenty, is presently adored as its major deity and the main object of adoration. The event is truly a celebration of riches and plenty in which people from all walks of life, rich and poor take part. Goddess Maha Lakshmi is linked to a variety of tales and celestial beings. Diwali signifies the brilliance and richness of life and happiness in its full grandeur, just as she represents universal health, riches, happiness, triumph, courage, facility, fertility, harmony, beauty, joy, and enlightenment.
Many Hindus consider Diwali to mark the start of a new year. Historically, it symbolizes the start of a new fiscal year for traditional Hindu companies. Diwali, as the name implies, is celebrated with lights and lamps, music, and a happy celebration. People see the event as a chance to start again, to rekindle hopes, and to explore new connections, possibilities, and chances. The festival allows our senses to enjoy themselves as well as our brains and hearts to feel the joys of life, belonging, love, and global brotherhood.
As the festival approaches, people’s minds are filled with memories of former Diwali’s, as they anticipate yet another thrilling and happy event to celebrate life and kinship. When the day breaks and the night fall, the earth dons a gleaming garment. Homes and streets are illuminated up with the brilliance of lights and lamps, while bursts of light from firecrackers flood the sky and the mid-region as if to express thanks and encourage the heavenly beings of those planes to join in the celebration and give their blessings.
On the night of Diwali, streets and public areas throughout India (and numerous other countries) become crowded with adults and children alike, as well as the echoing sounds of firecrackers. People of various backgrounds assemble in streets, public areas, lawns and front yards, housetops, or in front of their own homes to watch the celebration of joy and god’s victory in the brilliance of auspicious lights. It’s as though mortal humans on Earth have discovered a means to demonstrate their rejection of evil and dedication and commitment to Dharma, virtuous living, responsibility, morality, and all the beautiful things that life and divinity signify.
However, Diwali is more than just a festival of lights where money is worshipped and people gather to revel in vanity and ostentation. The celebration has traditionally been a ritual worship of light and divinity to demonstrate human loyalty to gods rather than demons. It entails devotees performing a series of complicated rituals for five days in a row to express thanks to gods for their services and to discharge their responsibilities to them through prayers and sacrifice offerings. Only the lights that are lighted on Diwali night are part of their contributions. As a result, celebrating Diwali with lights and firecrackers is solely heavenly worship, in which discipline, trust, and sincerity are essential.
Holy Hindus can use the occasion to focus their attention on their gods and conduct devotional service through karma yoga (the yoga of action) with detachment among distracting celebrations and worldly pursuits. People clean and decorate their houses and prepare for family gatherings during Diwali. Nowadays, the start of the Diwali season is marked by a surge in purchasing, gambling, and gift-giving. Because Diwali is an auspicious holiday, many initiatives are centered on it.
BY – NAMRATA AHUJA