DIWALI : FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
National festivals are the lifeblood of a nation. They add charm and thrill to our humdrum life. India being a melting -pot of religions, race, and cultures, it has a plethora of festivals and feasts.
Among these, Diwali perhaps is the most pan-Indian festival celebrated with great pomp and mirth throughout the length and breadth of the country. Diwali, better known as, Deepawali among the Indian masses, is a festival of lights.The word ‘Diwali’ means ‘row of lights’. The ‘di’ part comes from the word ‘diva’; A diva is a small clay lamp that is filled with oil and has a cotton wick.
When Rama and Sita returned to Ayodha, from their fourteen years of exile, and killing the demon Ravan, diva lamps were lit to welcome the royal procession. In the same manner, during the festival, lamps are lit to welcome the goddess Lakshmi into Hindu homes and temples.
The festival itself lasts five days and takes place at the end of the Hindu month of Ashwin and the beginning of Kartika (late October-early November). A lot of preparation goes in before the actual festival. Houses are cleansed, white washed and painted. Every nook and corner of the house is swept clean.Thereafter, in the evening earthen lamps and decorative lights are put in and around the house giving an atmosphere of joy and happiness. As the night approaches, children light up the sky with their firecrackers. The streets and bazaars bear a dazzling look.
Illumination of every hue and colour light up shops and buildings. Thus, there is gaiety, cheerfulness, merrymaking and fun everywhere. There is joy on every face. On this day every one put on their best dress which has been purchased well in advance. People exchange greetings and share sweets and meals as a mark of friendship and brotherhood.
Special offering ceremonies or ‘pujas’ are held to Lakshmi and the elephant god, Ganesha. Hindus believe that, if they start out the New Year by asking Ganesha to remove obstacles and asking Lakshmi to bring wealth, the whole of the year will be prosperous.
The festival of Diwali teaches us many values of life. More than anything else the festival symbolises the ultimate victory of good over evil. It teaches us that one day or other the evil existing in this world would be subdued by goodness and righteousness. Rama’s obedience to parents, Sita’s faithfulness, Lakshman’s unflinching love for his brother, etc., teach us many noble lessons of life The festival is a national festival celebrated by everyone irrespective of caste, creed and race. It therefore, promotes unity, common brotherhood, and communal harmony. Hence, in a world like ours, broken by narrow domestic walls of religious fanaticism and social disharmony, a festival like Diwali can bring people together, heal wounds, and can help in fostering national integration.
Of late, external celebrations of Diwali have taken predominance over its religious content. As years proceed the celebration is becoming more commercial and superficial leading to much unhealthy practices, like gambling and drinking. Therefore, there is an urgent need to put sobriety, restraint, and caution in the present-day celebration of Diwali, so as to maintain its sanctity and original grandeur.
Written by: Oshin Malviya