Also known as ‘Deepavali’ or festival of lights is truly a festival of enlightenment. It signifies Lord Rama’s homecoming after being sent into exile. The story says that the people of Ayodhya lit lamps all over town as the night on which Lord Rama, accompanied by his wife Sita, his younger brother Laxmana and his ardent devotee Hanuman, it was a moonless night and hence the need for illumination. It was also symbolic of the fact that being a popular and well loved figure, Lord Rama’s exile plunged everyone in the kingdom into darkness and his return would chase away the darkness. It also signified the victory of hope over despair, darkness vanquished by light, ignorance defeated by knowledge and good overcoming evil.
How is it celebrated?
Traditionally, it is a five day affair in many parts of the country. The five days are:
- Day 1 – Dhanteras: It is considered an auspicious day to buy jewellery or other gold or silver products.
- Day 2 – Naraka Chaturdasi: It is the day when the demon Narakasura was killed by Lord Krishna, Goddess Kali and Satyabhama.
- Day 3 – Lakshmi Puja: The main festival day. Prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. In some communities people also offer prayers to other gods and goddesses along with Lakshmi. Sweets and gifts are exchanged and lamps or ‘diyas’ are lit and placed all around the house. After all the formalities are over the real party begins with firework displays that go late into the night.
- Day 4 – Padwa: The day devoted to husband-wife ties. It is a special day for married couples. Also, in many places, on this day Govardhan puja is performed to honour Lord Krishna.
- Day 5 – BhaiDooj: A day for brother-sister bonding. In many ways it is reinforcing the commitments made on Raksha Bandhan.
All fired up
The main attraction of Diwali, especially for children is the fireworks. Buying of fireworks starts weeks in advance and every year new varieties of fire crackers keep coming in the market. There are some that have been favourites for ages like the sparklers and rockets.
In recent times though, the usage of fire crackers has reduced considerably due to the pollution they create. Sometimes, the heavy smoke cover overhangs for a day or two after Diwali as well. There were loud cries to ban all fireworks completely, however, if that was done, the thousands of families whose livelihood depends on this industry would be homeless.
Considered to be the most important festival, Diwali is also celebrated in a lot of countries with Hindu and Indian populations. Many countries declare it as a national holiday and the iconic and important buildings are lit up. In Melbourne there is a fireworks display, while celebrations in Trinidad & Tobago feature stage performances.In many countries, the locals join the Indians and celebrate it just as much as the Indians.
It is also a day which is celebrated to foster peace and harmony among people across the social spectrum. A lot of people use this festival to engage in charitable works all over the world.
The Diwali Economy
Since a large number of people in India get their annual bonuses for Diwali, they do their main shopping during this time. Companies start giving “Diwali Discount” form almost a month before the festival. Clothes, jewellery, automobiles and many other industries make full use of this festival to maximize sales and boost profits. Special offers and irresistible bargains are announced to induce customers to spend more. This is also the bumper time for sweet shops and firecracker manufacturers.
What do these values mean in today world?
The same as it they did then. This festival teaches us that no matter how big a problem may seem, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It also shows the values of perseverance and the power of faith.The people of Ayodhya knew that their beloved prince would return one day and he did. They never lost faith and persevered with their belief in him
Diwali teaches us to introspect and vanquish the darkness within us, the darkness caused by negative feelings and emotions like jealousy, hatred and greed. If we look within ourselves and understand why we are carrying the burden of these emotions, we may be able to dispel them.
This festival also teaches us that the good that we do today will always reward us. If Lord Rama had not endeared himself to the people of Ayodhya with his wisdom and trueness, they might not have wept at his departure or celebrated his return. Our actions almost always boomerang on us, just not in the ways that we expect. So if we do good, it will be returned to us someday. On the other hand, if we do evil, it will definitely come back to haunt us.