The festival of Diwali is a reminder to us, as one monk from Himalayas says, “We have been thrown in to jail of Samsara ~ which is ‘Separation and the cause of all sufferings! The festival of Diwali is also a reminder to us to share, to give! Whatever we desire for ourselves ~ be it love, knowledge, name, fame or even money, we, as per rich guidance of our Rishis of Vedanta; we have to give it first. And not just give, but also to know within and understand, realise, view it as that, it is an opportunity. It is a great boon to us, that we could give and are in the act of giving ~ can give. It is humbling thought. We are to give with our head bowed down and not ~ give with some pride.In the Kashmiri Shaivism, there is a story that Shiva, from being the infinite ‘Purusha’, wanted to express his play and manifest himself into every ‘Jiva’. This principle of Kashmiri Shaivism is very ancient, very old – may be more than 2000 years old, before Buddha. Therefore, when we become free from the bondage of mind, samsara (worldly thoughts), we become one with Shiva.
In another story, a devotee of Shiva, very piously taking his name and worshipping for decades. But he never saw Shiva, who is otherwise known to be very easy to please. Then one night, in his dream, Shiva happened to come in his vision. When the favourite Shaivite asked Shiva “Why can’t I see you?”, Shiva blessed him and said, “Okay, you shall see me tomorrow morning”. The devotee was thrilled and asked him, “Where shall I look to find you?”. Lord Shiva replied, “Look for a man without any head. I will be that man without the head.”
Next day morning, the devotee looked at everyone, and he found to his dismay, that everybody had a head! And he reflected, “Shiva will come, I have not got a wrong message”. He searched more, and eventually when he looked at himself, he found himself with his eyes, from neck down the whole body. He realized, he is the one ‘man without head’. Which brought the famous Stotra, “Shivoham Shivoham Shiva Swaroopaham”! In Diwali, getting freedom from prison of our own attitudes, concepts, desires, and selfishness, we become Shiva, in giving, sharing, in bringing light of knowledge into the darkness of ignorance in everyone else’s mind. Even on the darkest of nights, of the darkest of periods – the day of Kartik Amavasya, if the earth and the sky look bright to you, you are simply witnessing the spectacle of Deepavali. Known as the festival of lights, on the day of Diwali (Deepavali), in India, and in fact, several parts of the world transcend into a myriad of lamps. Diwali is so widely celebrated not just because of the charm and splendour of the lamps that the entire country is covered in, but because it also symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and darkness over ignorance.
Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya ~ Lead me from Darkness unto Light.
As per the tradition, on the day of Diwali, the central lamp is lit first, from which all the other lamps are lit. The central lamp is called the Atma Jyoti and signifies our Inner Self. It is a reminder that to illumine ourselves and reach our true potential, we must first know our own Self. And that is of utmost importance. In fact, before embarking upon the journey to set the world right, we must first look deep within and get connected to that perfection within. Staying connected to that ‘Self’ within ~ we understand and realize, this ‘Me’ is not this body, or any of our evil tendencies.
We are pure, ever free. There is no prison. The prison in which, we are locked up and the reason for our suffering, is, within this sheath of a body. The Deepavali, is a symbol, as per ancient wisdom, is for us to remind ourselves, to perfect ourselves. Within all of us, is an Inner Light, is a secret power hidden to be discovered. This awakening, removes all pain, all sufferings. This secret power has the power to outshine even the darkest of obscurity and ignorance. Thereby, removes the impediments, hurdles and clear the hardest of obstacles in life.
Let Us Understand More About Deepavali. Why Deepavali or Diwali is an important festival for Indians?. The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali varies significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India, with others too. Diwali, as a festival, dates back to ancient times in India, which is, after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Karthikeya. The festival is mentioned in Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana, and other Sanskrit Hindu scriptures; the divas (lamps) are mentioned in Skanda Purana to symbolically represent parts of sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions through the Hindu calendar month of Kartik. Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit fusion word Deepavali, formed from dipa (light) and awali (rows). Dipavali thus meant a “row” or “series of lights”. Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on the roof of the houses, inside and outside of the doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu.
Mother Kali ~ Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, is the dark goddess of strength, with the awakening of Divine consciousness within and throwing away all the evils ~ from within. When the evil is gone from the consciousness of a human being, we become strong. Symbolically showing the victory of ‘Good over Evil’. The name ‘Kali’ depicts – Kala + I = Kala means time and ‘I’, as per Ishoponishad means, ‘beyond’. When you worship Mother Goddess Kali, you engulf yourself; fill your heart with infinite consciousness of Mother and Lord Shiva. Mother Kali is standing on top of Lord Shiva, being ‘the infinite. She is the Goddess of ‘Maya’. She is the ‘Prakriti’, and Lord is the ‘Purusha’. Like as it happens in a wedding ceremony, it is the ‘mother’ of the house, who is organizing and coordinating the humdrums of the marriage ceremony. One could see that, occasionally she would come and talk to inform, ‘a specific event’ or ask a question to know what to do next? All these activities are controlled and checked by ‘The Mother’. The head of the house, the Lord, ‘The Purusha’, does only, once in a while nods his head to give assent to reports of the Mother – ‘The Prakriti’. The entire activities, as per Upanishads (Vedanta), of the Universe is under the control of Divine Mother – ‘The Prakriti’. It is the Mother who is taking care of all of us. The infinite Purusha is Shiva, is Param Brahma. The Mother Kali is beyond time ~ space ~ causation ~ (Kala + I), beyond ego (I). This is ‘Maya’ and is not real. The word ‘Maya’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Mayi’. ‘Mayi’ means, ‘Measure’. Anything that you can measure, in this universe, is not real, is ‘Maya’. We can measure money – a thousand-rupee note, thousand-dollar note, our bodies, our properties, and our bank accounts. These are measurable – and thus, not permanent. Anything that you can measure, is not permanent, is ‘Maya’ is ‘Anitya’ (impermanence).
Mother Kali is the reminder, to all of us, of this impermanence; for which we all are striving to reach health and wealth. On the other, when you go beyond time, you attain the Supreme consciousness and the awareness of ‘Kali ~ (Isha Upanishad). You become timeless, become infinite and become Paramahansa, like Sri Ramakrishna. The body of Paramahansa Ramakrishna is no more present on this earth. But he has become timeless, immortal and millions of followers and monks are striving to understand the simple path and practices laid down by him. These are the principles of living life, spread by the monks of Ramakrishna & Swami Vivekananda movement ~ Ramakrishna Mission, as the leader, spreading these words, became immortal too ~ just by spreading the realized truths.
The FIRST day is called DHANTERAS or DHANTRAYODASHI, which falls on the thirteenth day of Ashwin (this time in 2021, it is on 2nd of Nov). The word “Dhan” means wealth. As such this day of the -day Diwali festival has an immense importance for the rich mercantile community of Western India. Houses and Business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colourful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. To show her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights. Having this faith that this day to be auspicious, women buy some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils. “Lakshmi-Puja” is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits.
The SECOND day is called NARKA-CHATURDASHI or CHOTI DIWALI, which falls on the fourteenth day of Ashwin. The story goes that the demon king Narakasur ruler of Pragjyotishpur (a province to the South of Nepal) after defeating Lord Indra; had snatched away the magnificent earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and saints in his harem. On the day before NARKA-CHATURDASHI, Lord Krishna killed the demon, liberated the imprisoned damsels, and recovered those precious earrings of Aditi. As a symbol of that victory Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the demon king’s blood. Krishna returned home in the early morning of the Narakachaturdashi day. The womenfolk massaged scented oil to his body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth from his body. Since then, the custom of taking bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice, especially in Maharashtra.
The THIRD day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of LAKSHMI-PUJA, which is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. This day is also known by the name of “CHOPADA-PUJA”. On this very day sun enters his second course and passes Libra, which is represented, by the balance or scale. Hence, this design of Libra is believed to have suggested the balancing of account books and their closing. Even though this day falls on an amavasya day, it is regarded as the most auspicious. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of love and wisdom.
The FOURTH day is PADWA or VARSHAPRATIPADA, which marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat, was started from this Padwa day. Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. As per Vishnu-Puran the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honour of Lord Indra and worshipped him after the end of every monsoon season but one particular year the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in terrific anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. But Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting the entire Govardhan Mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella. Govardhan is a small hillock in Braj, near Mathura and on this day of Diwali people of Punjab, Hariyana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar build cow dung, hillocks, decorate them with flowers and then worship them.
The FIFTH and final day of Diwali Festival is known by the name of ‘BHAYYA-DUJ’ in the Hindi-speaking belt “BHAV-BIJ” in the Marathi-speaking communities, in Nepal by the name of “BHAI-TIKA” and in Bengal it is known by the name of “BHAI – PHOTA”. As the legend goes Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yami on this day. She put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and led him with special dishes and both together ate the sweets, talked, and enjoyed themselves to their heart’s content, while parting Yamraj gave her a special gift as a token of his love and in return Yami also gave him a lovely gift which she had made with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister would never be thrown out from success in life. That is why this day of Bhayyaduj is also known by the name of “YAMA-DWITIYA” Since then this day is being seen as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It became also imperative for the brother to go to his sister’s house to celebrate Bhayyaduj.
Diwali ~ overall, has always been the festival with more social than religious connotations. It is a personal, people-oriented festival when enmities are forgotten; families and friends meet, enjoy, and set up a world of closeness, through acts of giving and sharing sweets. Diwali marks the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil, hope over despair.
In the Vedanta, and Samkhya Yoga, schools of Hindu philosophy, a central belief is that there is something beyond the physical body and mind, which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali as the “victory of good over evil” refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things, and knowledge overcomes ignorance. Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light over spiritual darkness knowledge over ignorance, right over wrong, good over evil. May ‘The Divine Mother of The Universe’ bless you & your family.
The origin of Diwali is one that has different paths but leading to one destination ~ The victory of light over darkness. As per one of the legends, the festival is associated with day the demon Narakasura was slayed by Lord Krishna, to free the Gopikas. It is also a celebration of the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya, after a 14-year exile and killing Ravana. In the loving welcome and the memory of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, the people of Ayodhya, lit up the whole town. In celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya (our heart) – the (Anahuta Chakra) -the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas
In several other parts of India, it is believed that on the day of Diwali, Lord Vishnu, in his incarnation as Vamana, rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali. It is also associated with the return of the Pandavas from their 12 years of exile. Be it whatever the reason for the celebration, ultimately, what all of these teach us is to fight and destroy the evil that lies within, and give rise to the good and divine forces, by following the path of truth, purity, and righteousness. If you would notice, in both the mythological stories, whether be it Rama returning from exile, or it was the bond of us who returned from exile. In other words, they were in prison, and they freed themselves to return to freedom. This celebration of Diwali is celebration of freedom from bondage of this name body and form.
The festival of Diwali is a constant reminder to each one of us to understand that life is much more than a mere journey of having, buying more, and increasingly more to satisfy our body and mind! It must become a perpetual quest for truth and knowledge. The Divine light burns and illumines within us, and all around us. All we need to do is to guide this light of higher knowledge to dispel the ignorance. The ignorance that masks our true self, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite consciousness that you are. And with the triumph of spiritual knowledge over ignorance, comes the awareness of the oneness of all things, that will lead you to a life without suffering.
Apart from the popular stories, there are several lesser-known stories associated with Diwali.
- Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, incarnated on Diwali
On the auspicious new moon day, which is ‘Amavasyaa’ of the Hindi month of Kartik, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity – Lakshmi was incarnated. She appeared during the churning of the ocean, which is known as ‘Samudra Manthan’, by the Demons on one side and ‘Devas (Gods) on the other side. Therefore, the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, the Lakshmi Pujan, on the day of Diwali, became a tradition.
- A story from Kathaupanishad
Another very interesting story about Diwali day is from the Kathupanishad. In this story, a small boy (eight years of age), name Nichiketa, believed that Yama, the god of Death was as black as the dark night of amavasya. But when he met Yam in person he was puzzled seeing Yama’s calm countenance and dignified stature. Yam explained to Nichiketa that on Diwali, passing through the darkness of death, man sees the light of highest wisdom. It is then alone, his soul can escape from the bondage of his mortal frame to mingle with the Supreme Power. It was then that Nichiketa realized the importance of worldly life and significance of death.
- Jains celebrate Diwali to mark the attainment of Moksha by Mahavira:
Diwali has special significance in Jainism. Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankar of this era, attained Nirvana or Moksha on this day at Pavapuri on 15 October 527 BCE, on Chaturdashi of Kartika. According to the Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness. Therefore, Jains celebrate Diwali as a day of remembering Mahavira.
On this day of Diwali, may the eternal light supply us the strength to destroy the qualities of evil in us and cultivate the golden traits of truth, purity, and righteousness.
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