Festival of Lights

Remarkable facts I didn't know earlier

From my childhood, our family has been celebrating the Festival of Diwali with much fanfare and we always waited eagerly for this gala day without knowing much about its significance. Over time, I discovered many features attributed to Diwali which, indeed, qualify it as our cultural and national festival for sharing happiness.

The rituals and varied versions of Hindu festivals have often been the target of ridicule for some motivated historians, atheists and of course, other religionists. But those precisely are the sustaining forces of Hinduism and have acted as solid defences against other faiths and fake ideologies. Hindu rituals are rooted in reality and science though some of them may be impractical in the current milieu or might have undergone erosion over time owing to lack of proper understanding or perseverance.

The history and festivities associated with us are many but one need not deem them contradictory or mutually exclusive. Depending on the region, local legend and even calendars mean different things to the respective peoples of India. But, all versions are historical truths. Also the message and methods are common.

Many deem it as the day on which Lord Rama and Sita returned to Ayodhya after exile. On that dark Amaavasya night, people of that holy town lighted oil lamps for the guidance of the divine couple, a tradition followed till today. A Yuga later, it was the turn of Lord Krishna to make an auspicious occasion when he destroyed the dreaded demon-king Narakasura and freed princesses and people alike from his evil clutches. In south, it signifies the day on which King Mahabali rises with the light of knowledge to terra firma from the nether world to where he had been pushed by Vamana's legendary 'third step'.

In most parts of northern and western India, the reigning deity of Diwali is Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth, though these days, she also brings the Income Tax sleuths in tow! In Orissa and Bengal, Kali rules the day. While in the north, Diwali is a five-day festival, in much of South India, it is the Amavaasya day that is celebrated. Diwali is the closing of a financial year and the beginning of a new one for many north Indian communities. For the Jains it is the day on which their patron-saint Lord Mahaveera attained Moksha.

It is significant for the Sikhs too for it was on this day that the foundation was laid for their most revered shrine, the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Associating Muslims, Guru Arjan Dev Ji requested a Muslim seer Mia Mir of Lahore to lay its foundation stone. It was also the day, a few centuries later when their revered sixth Guru was freed alongwith other 52 Hindu kings from the prison where he was wrongfully confined by Moghuls emperor Jehangir for refusing to convert.

Muslims, though do not celebrate Diwali as religious festival, they do observe and share it as cultural festival with their Hindu friends and neighbours and their children do show happiness and enthusiasm on Diwali with Hindus friends. Muslims in India and elsewhere can also experience personal growth during Diwali by reflecting on its spiritual significance. In Islamic philosophy, ‘An-Nur’ meaning ‘The Light’ is the central symbol of Diwali; and Muslims can therefore open new channels of interfaith understanding seeing the importance of light within Islam.

Similar enthusiasm is being observed among children and youth from Christian community in Schools, Colleges, Hostels, Corporate offices and neighbourhood in many parts of India. You can have your own reason to rejoice. Bursting of crackers, sharing sweets and festooning homes gives us more joy. No offense if you guys celebrate Diwali as it is one of the happiest event in India beyond religion.

People following the Buddhist religion from across the world celebrate Diwali as an auspicious day. That’s because, this is the day when Emperor Ashoka gave up everything and adopted the path of peace after going through a lot of bloodshed and death. He decided to convert to Buddhism. Newar Buddhists in Nepal even celebrate Diwali with the worship of Goddess Lakshmi.

Incidentally, Diwali is also considered as a good day for gambling, of all things, for this was the day on which Parvati played dice with Siva. That is probably why we have the Muhurrat trading on the stock exchange, the most official gambling den of present day!

Indeed, if traditions and their logic are not transmitted to the younger generations, we may remain ignorant about many more things about this very Indian Festival. Already brisk shopping both online and offline, free-sailing over social media, satellite big TVs and more advanced featured Mobile phones, gadgets and domestic articles come to dominate the festival over religious rituals.

Last but not the least a predominate caution to celebrate this great festival bursting minimum crackers in the interest of our already fragile environment, less irritation to old and ailing; and of course to Animals nearby and for many other good things. Today's Diwali is 'brought to you', in part or full, by commercial sponsors who have replaced the original harbingers, namely Rama, Krishna, Lakshmi etc. So in that same vein, should I sign off by saying that Diwali is the 'Super Star or a block-buster' of all festivals? Whatever the reason, it's fine as long as the result is hope, joy and prosperity!

Happy Diwali!


More by :  Rattan Singh Gill

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