Festival Blog Series: Deepavali (Light over ignorance)
As winter sets in, by making its presence felt by spreading a blanket of chill. All over the world, it is the commencement of the festive season. An environment of joy, hope and mirth.
South Asian part of globe also gears up for special festivities, enthusiasm; excitement of celebrations is very much brimming in the air. The markets are flooded with people picking the most beautiful sets for their homes, flashing torans intricately beaded in pearls and stones, diya (earthern lamps) hangings- made up of metal and clays, beautiful vibrant bright dresses, smell of sweets and yes all of it is an announcement of Deepavali.
Deepavali means deep (Diyas) + ally (mala or row) – meaning row of Diyas. Deepavali commences on last few days of Hindu Ashwin month to initial few days of Karthik months. This is a major festival all over India and is celebrated by many religions including Sikhs and Jains. The foundation of the Golden Temple, Amritsar was laid on Diwali in 1577. Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankaras, attained Nirvana or Liberation on this day at Pavapuri on October 15, 527 CE – it was on a Deepavali dawn.
In large parts of India, Diwali consists of five days of celebrations rather than just one.
- On the first day, Indians clean their homes and create intricate rangoli—designs made of colored rice, sand, or flowers created on the floor of the home.
- The second day, is spent preparing or buying special food (especially sweets, called mithai), as well as praying for the spirits of ancestors in the afterlife.
- On the third day, the main day of Diwali—families gather and celebrate by lighting lanterns and candles in their homes and in the streets, and by shooting off fireworks! (In southern India, the second day is the main day of celebration, rather the third.)
- Traditions of the fourth day vary, but a common theme is a bond between husband and wife, so husbands will often buy their spouses gifts to celebrate.
- The fifth day focuses on the bond between siblings, specifically between brother and sister.
While all this enjoyment is good, one should also search for the deeper truth beyond the revelry. What benefits one gets from the celebration of a festival depends upon the level at which the celebration is done. All festivals are symbolic, with a deeper meaning that needs to be understood.
Deepavali rituals, legends, and spiritual significance.
Marks the first day of Diwali celebrations. Dhanteras is also called Dhanvantari Trayodashi. It falls on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Kartik (October-November).
The word ‘Dhan’ signifies money or wealth. Hindus celebrate this day as Dhanvantari, the god of good health and medicine, emerged from the ocean with the gift of Ayurveda (the knowledge of life) to humanity. Legend of Dhanvantari, churning of the ocean (Samudramanthan) by Gods and demons forms an important part of the Hindu mythology.
It is believed that during the churning of the ocean by Gods and demons, Lord Dhanvantari (the Physician of Gods) emerged out with a jar of Amrit (elixir) on the day of Dhanteras. It represents or signifies the inner Manthan that happens when with awareness we face our dark- of power manipulation, lust, and hoarding in terms of money. Our relationship with food, sex, and money holds our mind in survival. We constantly stay with our need to prove ourselves that keeps us stuck in lower vibrational zones. When awareness is brought to these blind spots of our personality, it brings the cleansing of poison in us. Leading up to this day, houses and businesses are cleaned and decorated. Floors are decorated with bright, geometric patterns called rangoli, which serve as symbols of good luck and prosperity. It marks the beginning of new cleaner vibrant energies after we consciously bring about a cleansing of the inner (mental, emotional) and outer of our houses. It’s essentially clearing of our old beliefs that are no more serving us. Victim stories, old wounds, pent-up emotions reflect in the cleansing of our house by removing all things that are no more of use and are clogging up our space so that we all can move lighter into our Hindu new year.
The diyas are lighted in every room of the home all night long so that the dark cannot enter. Sweet snacks, called prasad, are offered to Lakshmi and Yama Raj, the god of death, with prayers (puja) for protection from premature death. Universal energies are aligned to dispel our deepest fears, which all are tracked to fear of death. A lit diya symbolizes that self is beyond harboring any such fears within.
Narak Chaturdashi (Choti Diwali)
Puranic literature talks about a time of great universal darkness when a demon called Narakasura, in his thirst for power, managed to conquer and submit the whole world, even the heavens, where the Devas (beings of light) became powerless and oppressed by him.
Not satisfied with his lordship over the whole world, he assaulted and kidnaped all women and forced them to be part of his harem.
However, at that time of greatest darkness, Sri Krishna, the incarnation of the Paramatman, slayed the demon, bringing back the light and dharma to the universe and the power to the Devas. It is a tradition to take oil bath for blessings from Goddess Lakshmi and Maa Ganga.
Narakasur, represents the internal demon who assaults our mind. Emotions fill us with greed, lust and negative tendencies of ego with power, manipulation of others, self-blame and hatred. It also fills us with negative thoughts, the ignorant or lower mind gets attached to power and materialism. This darker side of the mind is to be re-conquered by meditation and realization of the self and the Divine light within, the real Master of the mind.
Diwali is celebrated every year on the 15th day of the waning moon in the month of “Karthik” as per Hindu Lunar Calendar.
It is very interesting to note that Deepavali is celebrated on the darkest night of the year. Deepavali is celebrated on Amavasya. A No Moon Night. It becomes imperative and intriguing, why such a time and day is chosen to celebrate the most important festival of our tradition. This takes us to understand the energies of cosmos on this particular day. As our ancient scriptures point that our bodies are much a representation of universal or cosmos energies. Deepavali is celebrated on Amavasya on the onset of Kartik month. During this period the Sun and the Moon are in conjunction or forms an angle of 0 degrees between them.
This arrangement of stars brings balance in masculine and feminine energies of cosmos; this balanced energies amounts to calm mind and brewing hope in cosmos. Hence, energetically, universe is vibrating at an energy of wish fulfilling purpose. This energy signifies synchronization and harmony in everything. The energy aligns with Anahata chakra of humans. It is favorable and induces feelings of love and affection between partners.
Deepavali is celebrated for the safe return of Lord Rama from his 14-year exile after killing the demon Ravana. As this was the night of Amavasya (pitch dark night), lamps were lit all through the pathway to the city to show him the way. The lamps also represent the celebration of the coming of light after years of darkness while Rama was away.
There is practice of using earthen lamps. It is believed that the human body is made of five elements- Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and Sky. The use of earthen lamp on Diwali is based on the same concept. The earthen lamp symbolizes earth, oil depicts water, the wick represents the sky, the heat of flame suggests fire and the power that takes the oil to flame is Air. According to Agni Purana, ghee lamp has the capacity to attract all the positive vibrations in the surrounding atmosphere. Ghee has capacity to fight against microbes too. It spreads an aura of radiance in the household. All evil vibrations and microbes are destroyed. Burning a good number of diyas builds a magnetic field which stops the outer radiation thus maintaining purified aura. Atmosphere is humid in winter. So, the fire of diya helps to purify the atmosphere. Symbolically, winter is setting up a tone of slowing down of our body and life. So, these celebrations are also addressing this change in atmosphere and pepping us all with hope till the dawn of January.
One diya is lit by another diya. It symbolizes only when you are lit from within can you spread light. A Guru is the symbol of lit diya. Our knowledge should take us up as a lit diya. One lit Diya is enough to lit several diyas, without losing it sheen. This is the beauty of giving that capacitates you to bring cheer in others life but also bring more clarity in your understandings.
Highlight of Festival is oblations to the Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Ganesh, Lord Kuber and Goddess Saraswati. Lakshmi is the divine female principle. Eternal mother of universe Lakshmi is inseparable from Vishnu. Universe is said to be Goddess Lakshmi’s manifestation. She is the divine mother in her pure benign form, one who bestows prosperity to the Grihastha. Her good qualities are worshiped and celebrated on this day. Goddess Lakshmi essentially represents female attributes a women cultivates compassion, contentment, patience, endurance, determination, enthusiasm and wisdom.
Ganesha is celebrated too, for protecting us and removing obstacles. Ganesha represents our root chakra, which is strengthened on finding a connection with our mothers and above-mentioned rituals. Ganesha is also symbolism of wisdom (Vivek) to discern from right or wrong and connecting with our spirit.
Essence of Diwali remains to connect and center with oneself. This centeredness brings an authentic deeper relationship with others. Bringing up qualities of forgiveness, friendliness, compassion to reach out to others and sense of unity with other, to welcome Sattva. The qualities that are personified by this Festival of light, Deepavali( Jyoti to remove inner Tamaas.
OM DEEP JYOTI PARABRAHMA DEEPO JYOTI JANARDHAN…I
DEEPO HARTU ME PAPAM DEEPO JYOTI NAMOSTUTE…II
SHUBAM KAROTI KALYANAM AROGYAM DHANSAMPADA..
SHATRU BUDDHI VINASHAYA DEEPAJYOTHI NAMOSTUTE..I
Leaving you all with this Mantra of ancient text to move towards health and well–being over disease and ill–health, prosperity over poverty, knowledge over ignorance, freedom from bondages.
May this Deepavali brings in happiness , love, hope and light in your life …..