Tamso Maa Jyotir Gamaya

Every civilization on this planet has its own ancestral legacies and unique characteristics and traits. The religion has, since time immemorial, been one of the most dominant factors in determining the socio-economic environment and structure at all points of time for any human race or community. Many religious and ethnic communities don’t allow or keep a room for any debate or deviations in the matters of faith. Hindu civilization is unique in this arena which traditionally has always been tolerant in allowing such debate and independent opinions of sects, sub-sects and individuals from ancient times. Consequently, this community offers a lot of variety and options in terms of faith and following.

Majority Hindus traditionally believe in fasting, festivals, variety of customs and rituals. Accordingly, unlike some other predominantly populous communities in the world, they have numerous auspicious days and occasions to celebrate with a lot of fun and fiesta round the year.

Deepawali is one such festival or shall I say rather a festive season because it involves almost a week of celebration in the name of various deities and events of ancient belief. For illustration, in northern parts of India particularly in Hindi heartland, a large Hindu population lit each and every corner of their house on the occasion with fireworks with a lot of vigor, gaiety and fanfare to commemorate the victory of good over evil for days. It is believed that this marks the occasion of homecoming of lord Rama along with wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile in ancient times after defeating and killing Asura King Ravana. It is popularly known as the festival of lights, and people across India celebrate it with traditional diyas or kandils (colourful paper lanterns) as an integral part of decorations.

Deepawali celebrations are usually spread over five days, from Dhanteras to Bhaiduj. Of course, in different parts of country and states, all the days except Deepawali are named according to their designation in the Hindu calendar.

Dhanteras or Dhanwantari Triodasi marks the beginning of festivities that falls on the 13th day of the krishna paksha of Kartik  month. It is considered an auspicious day for buying utensils, gold and silver. The occasion is stated to coincide with the birth anniversary of Dhanvantari, the Physician of Gods. Hence the day is also referred to as Dhanwantari Triodasi.

Naraka Chaturdashi falls on the 14th day and it is believed that the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna – an incarnation of God Vishnu on this day. Southern states particularly consider this as an auspicious day of the victory of good over evil.

Lakshmi Puja marks the most important day of Deepawali celebrations in North India. Hindus worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and God Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, and light lamps (little clay pots) in the homes and surroundings to welcome prosperity and well-being, besides using candles and electrical decorations these days.

Govardhan Puja, on day one of shukla paksha of Kartik, is celebrated as Govardhan Puja, also called Annakoot. It is believed that on this the day Krishna – an incarnation of God Vishnu – defeated Indra by the lifting of Govardhan hill to save his kin and cattle from heavy rain and flood inflicted by the latter.

Yama Dwitiya or Bhaiduj, second day of shukla paksha, marks the end of festive season and associated rituals. On this day, brothers and sisters meet to express their traditional bond of love and affection and exchange gifts to each other. Story goes that on this day, Yama, the lord of death, visited his sister Yami, who performed a special aarti, Yama blessed her and they had a feast together.

The festival is celebrated with a great zeal in various parts of country and world over wherever Hindus are settled or living. Various variations and belief exist as part and justification for such celebrations. For illustration, in large part of southern India, the main celebrations are based on the legend of Narakasura Vadha – where Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura, commemorating  the victory of good over evil. The houses are cleaned and new clothes are bought for family members followed by a special puja with offerings to Krishna, traditional lighting of oil lamps and bursting firecrackers. Many families decorate houses with small lamps all around and draw kolams or rangolis usually outside their homes. Such rangolis are now popular in northern Indian states too.

Incidentally, Deepawali also marks the end of the harvest season in most parts of India. So farmers thank God for the good harvest and pray for a better harvest in the ensuing year. Lakshmi puja is prevalent among majority families as the Goddess symbolizes wealth and prosperity and her blessings are sought for a good fortune. Traditionally, this also marks the closing of accounts for business community in many parts of the country.

It is perhaps just a coincidence that the night of Kartik amavasya i.e. the day of Deepawali also happens to be the darkest night of the year. Those who prefer to live in darkness consider the occasion auspicious for such activities. It is believed that on this night the dark forces are also at their zenith and the night is considered ideal for things like black magic and occult rituals. Many people also prefer to resort to alcoholism and gambling on the belief that success in these things will earn good fortune during the coming year. This of course is based on a misconceived and mistaken logic and belief.

The essence of Deepawali celebrations lies in tamso maa jyotir gamaya i.e  take me from darkness to light. Here the darkness refers to our agyan i.e. ignorance and light refer to jnana i.e. knowledge. One should get rid of ignorance and glow with the light of knowledge and wisdom. When we perform Lakshmi puja, the real intent behind it is not to seek more wealth but to seek blessings of Goddess for wealth of knowledge and wisdom which relieves us from worldly miseries and pains.

It may be interesting to analyze the nature of Goddess Lakshmi who it is believed never stay for long at one place. If we see the life of Sita, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lakshmi, she as per narrations emerged from the earth. She spent her childhood with her foster father king Janaka, got married to Rama to have a brief abode in Ayodhya, went to exile with Rama to forest and faraway places, got abducted by Ravana and taken to Lanka and was restored back to Rama after a fierce battle and former’s killing. From Ayodhya, she had to leave for Muni Valmiki’s Ashram where she gave birth to Luv and Kush and finally again merged back to earth. Such was her nature and destiny; she never stayed for long at any one place. So symbolizing Lakshmi with wealth and trying to hold on to it during life time appears a foolish and futile exercise rather it gives a lesson and clear message for detachment with the physical wealth or other possessions.

So if we consider things pragmatically, tamso maa jyotir gamaya – take us from the darkness to light - appear to be real hope for peace and a blissful life. Running after the physical wealth, achievements and gains, which one cannot hold for long seems a futile exercise. The day we learn and start relying on the light of knowledge and wisdom, our real object of celebrating Deepawali is also fulfilled. And it brings internal joy and peace. Deepawali is thus celebration of our inner light which is eternal and everlasting.


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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