Diwali: It’s time to celebrate!
It was a dark, moonless night when Lord Ram, the banished king of Ayodhya returned home along with his wife, Sita after having vanquished the demon, Ravan (King of Lanka who had abducted Sita) and having completed 14 years in exile.
To honour and rejoice the homecoming of their king, the people of his kingdom lit his path with oil lamps to guide him on his way. Thus began the tradition of decorating homes and public spaces with earthenware oil lamps (diyas) to mark the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and the five day celebration came to be known as Diwali or Deepavali which means ‘rows of lights/lamps’.
As a kid, this was my favourite time of the year. Eid and Diwali followed by Christmas and then New Year – a two-three month long party for a child desperate for reasons to celebrate.
Diwali, the festival of lights, is a much loved festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains throughout the world. The festival ushers in a period of merriment – a time to revel in the company of loved ones, dress up in finery and gorge on delicious dishes prepared for the event. For wimps like yours truly, it’s an occasion to behold (never light) with childlike wonderment, the colourful fireworks that dazzle the night sky and turn it into a kaleidoscope of myriad hues.
Diwali is also a time for reflection, a time to re-visit and judge impartially, ones thoughts, actions and words and to rid oneself of the darkness and negativity that dwells within.
For the uninitiated, the significance of the festival has been elaborated below.
This day is considered an auspicious day for merchants to buy their books of accounts. This day marks the commencement of the new financial year for some business communities. It is also regarded as a propitious day for purchasing gold, silver or steel.
This day commemorates the victory of lord Krishna and Satyabhama, his wife, over the demon, Narakasura. People rise as early as 3am on Naraka Chaturdashi. The bathing process followed on this day is rather intricate and elaborate; women bathe with utan (mix of ayurvedic herbs) and scented oils. Sounds of firecrackers fill the air by 4am and stop only after sunrise. The day is spent hosting neighbours, relatives and friends, and exchanging gifts and sweets.
The evening puja/arti on this day pays obeisance to the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi and devotees seek her blessings. It is imperative to keep the house spotlessly clean during Diwali as the goddess is said to only visit and bless houses that are orderly. Flowers, lamps and rangolis (magnificent decorative patterns/designs made of coloured powder etched on the floor) adorn the doorways of homes.
Is a day that celebrates the bond between husband and wife. Wives pray for their husband‘s longevity. It is customary for a husband to pamper his wife with gifts.
Bhai Dooj/Bhau Beej
This is a day that symbolises the love between a brother and sister and a time for family reunions when cousins get together to celebrate the day with gaiety and boundless enthusiasm.
Women pray for the well-being and prosperity of their brothers while men vow to protect their sisters and shower them with presents.
Regardless of how tough a year has been – the sights and sounds of Diwali, the love, camaraderie and good cheer that pervades the atmosphere, diminishes sorrows and manages to rekindle hope in the hearts of even the most seasoned cynics. Diwali is a celebration of life and all the good that it has to offer, it is a time for togetherness and bonding.
As lamps and fireworks illuminate different corners of the globe tonight, I pray that the light brightens up not only your homes but also your hearts.
Read more by Bhakti here.
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