Diwali is one of the World’s truly great festivals; the Christmas of India! What’s more magnificent is that Diwali is celebrated by the people of three different religions. Most of us associate Diwali with the Hindu religion; and the ancient tale of the people of Ayodhya lighting lamps or diyas to welcome the return of their well-loved King, the Lord Rama. In fact Diwali, or Deepavali literally means ‘a row of lights’; as legend says that the citizens lit rows of lights in each house as Rama returned.
Its interesting that the same day is celebrated by the Jains as the day that Mahavira attained Enlightenment; making it a similar celebration to the Buddha Purnima of Buddhists and in a way similar to Easter for Christians. While the Sikhs celebrate it as the day that Guru Har Gobind Ji returned to Amritsar having freed 52 Hindu kings imprisoned by the Mughal king Jehangir. They also refer to the day as Bandi Chhorh Divas, “the day of release of detainees”.
Diwali also marks the end of the Harvest season in most of India and the onset of winter. Hence the farmers and other businesses dependent on the farming cycle (very pre-dominant in earlier times), would close their accounts for the year; and conduct Lakshmi Puja (The Goddess of Wealth) as a way of giving thanks for the benevolence of the year gone by and of seeking blessings for the year to come.
Ultimately, Diwali or “the festival of Lights”, represents the triumph of the forces of Good over those of Evil, the establishing of Light in the areas of Darkness. In our individual capacities it means bringing more enlightenment to our lives and labours. The significance of Light, and the search for it to Yoga practitioners cannot be over-emphasized.
So this Diwali when you eat all those mouth-watering sweets, wear your new clothes, burst firecrackers and generally enjoy all the wonderful little religious and social rituals associated with the festival; take time to ponder on the good in you and pledge to“lighten up your life!” Happy Diwali.