By Ashok Vyas
Deepavali means as the word suggests, ‘row of lamps’ or continuity of light. This series of lights has many dimensions. Each one of us has personal stories associated with the glitter and glory of this festival of light tucked at the back of our minds. These memories rekindle a composite mood to celebrate and help in refreshing the spirit of newness.
There is a special magic in festivities associated with Deepavali. We are eager to get rid of the unwanted and embrace newness. The collective enthusiasm to clean the house creates the right ambiance to invoke Lakshmi ji, the goddess of wealth.
We celebrate Deepavali to mark and commemorate the arrival of Lord Rama at Ayodhya after a 14-year exile. The joy of the arrival of ‘maryada purushottam’ Rama was celebrated by lighting ‘Diyas’ in those times. Imagine the sight of ‘rows of lamps burn with Ghee’ on the houses across Ayodhya, a beautiful sight with a sense of joy and gratefulness. While we invoke that spirit on this day, it is a way to focus and imbibe values shared through the life of Lord Ram, the incarnation of all-pervading Vishnu. Interestingly, Lord Ram is not worshiped on Deepavali, the new moon day of the Kartika month, Amavasya.
So each lamp gets an opportunity to spread its light in the backdrop of darkness and make a statement of light. Our sages have inspired us to make our lives a means to radiate light. In fact, most of the festivals are designed to invoke and be one with the divine. The opportunity to expand by expressing creativity and artistic vision is unique in Diwali.
You will find the tradition of ‘Rangoli’ still practiced by some households. The arrangement of colors brings joy and happiness. The cleanliness of the home is conducive to peace and harmony. The idea of collectively celebrating festivals by sharing sweets and gifts brings satisfaction by strengthening bonds of relationships.
This festive mood is sustained by eating sweets and burning firecrackers. This day is like giving a determined push to do more and embrace growth. It is not just the newness of clothes and arrangements at home, it is also an excuse to realign priorities and realize a vision of vastness.
Lakshmi Pujan is the key element of Deepavali. This day is a confluence of several references from Puranas. While most of us are familiar with the reference to the arrival of Lord Ram, some of us probably don’t recollect the reference to ‘Samudra Manthan’ – the mythological churning of the ocean to obtain nectar. This churning of the ocean was undertaken as a gigantic project, which also necessitated the help of ‘Rakshasas’ or demons. There are several branches of inspiring stories connected to this churning. This shakes our limited imagination, this inspires us to consider that ‘nothing is impossible’, this brings home the message that ‘teamwork’ means seeing beyond personal likes and dislikes’.
Let us underline two major developments that are related to the festival of Deepavali.
On the thirteenth day of the Krishna paksha of Kartika month, Sage Dhanvantari emerged from the ocean. He is the ‘God of medicine’, this way, the reference to ‘harmony’ on ‘Deepavali’, is preceded by ‘healing’. As the name ‘Dhanvantari ji’ begins with ‘Dhan’, ‘Dhan’ translates as ‘money’ in English. So ‘Dhan Trayodashi’ gets identified with money, which is not the true essence of observing ‘Dhan Trayodashi’.
The day preceding ‘Deepavali’ is referred to as ‘Narak Chaturdashi’, it marks the killing of the demon Narakasur by Lord Krishna.
Lakshmi ji manifested on the day of Deepavali from the churning of the ocean, which explains the tradition of worship of Lakshmi ji, the goddess of prosperity on this day.
The magic of Deepavali works well with people of all ages. The excitement of burning firecrackers is a precious memory for grownups and kids are fascinated by different types of firecrackers. This festival literally adds sweetness, boxes of sweets are exchanged.
Now, let us look at the universal appeal of Diwali and its relevance for every human being. Swami Shri Ishwarananda Giriji Maharaj in a lecture on ‘Light a thousand Lamps’, quoted Albert Einstein, who said, ‘The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, and luxury have always seemed to me to be contemptible. The ideals which have lighted my way have been kindness, beauty, and truth.’ Swamiji said, if you don’t have compassion for all beings, your kindness may become hypocrisy. He emphasized that we shouldn’t have any animosity for anyone, and then compassion (Karuna) becomes meaningful.
The light of knowledge is also shown by Sage Patanjali in ‘Yoga Sutra. Gurus guide us to make ourselves a source of light by lighting these four lamps within. In addition to the lamp of compassion (Karuna), the other three lamps are the light of Maitree (friendliness), Mudita (Cheerfulness), and Upeksha – in this context it doesn’t mean indifference here, Upeksha here means suspending your judgment.
Deepavali brings ample inspiration and insight for reorienting our approach toward life.
This day connects us with hope, we are encouraged to start afresh and realize our full potential.
Blurb Highlight: This festival of light is observed every year in the USA at the Whitehouse also. There are several organizations that organize ‘Diwali Melas’. New Yorkers get to see firecrackers on the river Hudson, this event is organized by the Association of Indian Americans. Time Square Diwali has also become an annual feature for the Big Apple. While we are away from Bharat, this becomes an important day to take pride in our glorious spiritual cultural heritage.
We need to light the lamp of truthfulness within to realize the magic of Deepavali.
We prepare in several ways for living up to the uplifting call of this important day. It is rightly referred to as ‘King of Festivals’, Diwali is followed by ‘Bali Pratipada’ – the day Lord Vishnu incarnated as Vaman – a dwarf and taught a lesson to Bali. There is another reference, tracing its sequence from Krishna Leela, when Lord Krisha taught a lesson to Indra, the god of rains. This is observed as ‘Annakoot Mahotsava’ after Deepavali.
May we become sensitive enough to feel the magic of Deepavali in our hearts. May there be peace, prosperity, and fearlessness in the world. Happy Deepavali greeting comes with good wishes for happiness, harmony, and abundance. May this Deepavali be enriching for us on several fronts through our conscious and dynamic participation in receiving this festival of light with love and respect.
Ashok Vyas is a poet, Hindu priest, and program director of ‘ITVGold’. He is a frequent contributor to ‘The South Asian Times’. He is also the founder of Heramba Studio and President of ‘Insight for Creativity LLC’. Twitter: @AshokVyas
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times