Light Over Darkness
Diwali, also known as Deepavali in various parts of the nation, is one of the most important Hindu festivals. Deepavali translates to “a row of lights,” with “deep” meaning light and “avali” meaning row, garnering it the title “the festival of lights.” The lighting of small oil lamps represents the triumph of good over evil.
October 24th is the date to celebrate Diwali for this year. The Hindu calendar determines the day of the festival. Diwali happens on the 15th day of the Hindu calendar’s Karthigai month. Hence, the date on the Gregorian calendar changes from year to year.
The mythology around Diwali differs from state to state. However, the people are primarily celebrating Diwali for Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. That is after his 14-year exile and after slaying Ravana, the ruler of Lanka. To remember Lord Rama’s homecoming, his people in Ayodhya lighted earthen oil lamps around the kingdom.
Diwali is a five-day celebration. The first day of the festive season is Dhanteras, followed by Chhoti Diwali, also known as Naraka Chaturdasi, which honours the defeat of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna. The third day is Amavasya or Diwali, where worshippers worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha.
On Day 4, the festival is Govardhan Puja. On this day, people show appreciation to Lord Krishna. According to Hindu tradition, he elevated the Govardhan hill in Vrindavan to offer shelter from heavy rain. The last day of this festive season is Bhai Dooj which is to honour the relationship between brothers and sisters.
Still, now, in the houses of Hindu families across the nation festooned with oil lights, flower garlands, and rangoli patterns. Diwali is known as “the festival of lights” because of this habit of lighting lamps.
History and Significance
Diwali is noteworthy not just because of its overwhelming popularity and spectacular fireworks shows. But it also represents the triumph of light over dark, good over evil, and wisdom over foolishness. Diyas, candles, and lamps are set throughout the house on this day to ‘light’ the path to knowledge and triumph. Let’s know the true history and significance of Diwali – the festival of lights.
Diwali in Sanskrit texts
Ancient India’s harvest festival, Diwali celebrated all over India even today. Hence, Diwali is one of the largest festivals of the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, Numerous old Sanskrit texts mentioned Diwali as a festival of light. Skanda Purana and Padma Purana are two of those texts. These two texts do have completed in the latter part of the first millennium of the current era. Padma Purana, one of the major 18 Puranas in Hinduism. Skanda Purana is the largest Mahapurana written about the war god Skanda. Puranas are ancient literature about legends and traditions.
Kavyamimamsa mentions celebrations of Deepavali. Kavyamimamsa does have written by Rajasekhara, 10th century Sanskrit poet. Moreover, he mentions Deepavali as Dipamalika in his texts. Kavyamimamsa shows people whitewashing their homes and decorating their streets, markets and houses with oil lamps as part of Deepavali.
Ramayana mentions Ayodhya celebrated Deepavali only for two years.
Western Travellers about Diwali
Numerous travellers around the world mentioned Diwali. One among them, Al Biruni, of 11th-century historian and traveller from Persia. Diwali does have celebrated on the new moon day of Kartika month of the Hindu calendar, from the writings of Al Biruni.
Numerous oil lamps were placed within and outside temples burning day and night. Above people wear new garments. Furthermore, the people gather as families, sing, dance and feast with happiness. These are from the memoir of Niccolo de Conti. The above-mentioned is a Venetian traveller and merchant from the early 15th century.
A Portuguese traveller visited the Vijayanagara empire in the 16th century named Domingo Paes. He mentioned Deepavali celebrated in October month by illuminating houses and temples.
Mughals on Diwali
During the Mughal Empire era, Islamic historians have written about the Deepavali festival celebration and other Hindu festivals in various books. Mughals celebrated Diwali as Jashn-e Chiragha’n with great enthusiasm. Notably, one of the greatest Mughal Emperors, Akbar, participated in the celebration of Diwali along with his courts and people. On the other hand, Aurangzeb, in 1665, banned Hindu festivals such as Deepavali and Holi.
Sir William Jones was an Anglo-welsh philologist who lived in the second half of the 18th century. Secondly, he is a scholar in Sanskrit and Indo-European languages. In addition, Jones coined the word Indo-European from the existence of the relationship between European and Indo-Aryan languages. Subsequently, he published a paper on The Lunar Year of the Hindus, mentioning Diwali. He noted the latter four days of the festival out of five celebrated in Aswini-Cartica month. Finally, the Five days of Diwali are Dhantryaodashi (1st day), Bhutachaturdasi Yamaterpanam (2nd day), Lacshmipuja dipanwita (3rd day), Dyuta pratipat belipuja (4th day) and Bhratri Dwitiya (5th day). Specifically, the 3rd day is the great festival of Diwali honouring Lakshmi.
Why Deepavali is Celebrated?
Firstly, Deepavali has numerous religious and historical events and legends behind the celebration of the festival. The celebration does widely seen as the festival of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. Various regions in India celebrate Deepavali based on several religious events.
According to Ramayana, after defeating Ravana’s army by Rama’s army during the 14 years of exile, Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman reached Ayodhya on the day of Deepavali.
In an event from Dvapara yuga, Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama killed the demon Narakasura and released 16000 girls on the second day of five days of Diwali. Before, these girls were held captive by the demon Narakasura. Indeed, Krishna is the 8th incarnation of the Vishnu. On the contrary, Narakasura was an evil king of Pragjyotishapura. The region of Pragjyotishapura is near present-day Assam.
On the night of Diwali, Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu got married. Lakshmi is known as the goddess of wealth and prosperity. She was born from the churning of the sacred ocean of milk called Samudra Manthana by Asuras and Devas.
According to Jains, it is the Mahavira Nirvana Divas. The day Mahavira physically died and attained nirvana was in 527 BCE. Jains celebrate similar to Hindus but dedicate Mahavira in many parts of India.
End of Harvest
By the belief of many people, the Deepavali does have celebrated by farmers in ancient India. They celebrated Deepavali as a festival of harvest. As it is the period of the last harvest of the year (October and November). A huge problem faced by farmers is insects. Crops are destroyed by insects by eating them during this season of the year. By lighting diyas, they attract insects and protect crops from destruction.
Overall, Diwali is a celebration where people put their differences aside, attempt to forget their concerns, and enjoy the day to the utmost. This celebration strengthens friendships and fosters a sense of fraternity. Finally, Diwali not only gathers people together but also gives them meaning and hope in life.
Have a happy and safe Diwali