WHILE the story behind Diwali and the manner of celebration vary from region to region, for Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year.
Families celebrate by performing traditional activities together in their homes. However, this event takes on its own life with persons from all walks of life playing a part as either a spectator or participant in the festival of lights.
The celebrations feature festive fireworks, worship, sharing of sweets and lighting of diyas. Traditionally, Diwali marks the end of the harvest season. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come.
While Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the most significant spiritual meaning behind it is “the awareness of the inner light”.
The celebration of Diwali as the “victory of good over evil” is a holiday of joy; it is the time when devotees gather with loved ones, celebrating family, friends and the prosperity God has bestowed upon us. Diwali also marks the New Year.
For some, the day of Diwali itself is the first day of the New Year, and for others, the New Year’s Day is the day following Diwali. But, for all, this season is one of heralding in the New Year.
On this day, devotees clean every room of the house; they dust every corner of the garage, sweep behind bookshelves, vacuum under beds and empty out cabinets. But, what about our hearts? When was the last time we swept out our hearts? When did we last empty them of all the dirt and garbage that accumulated throughout our lives?
This is the true focus of the festival, the inward 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 (higher knowledge). This brings joy or peace.
According to the Hindu calendar, Amavasya or ‘no moon day’ is considered as the perfect day to celebrate Diwali. This dark night comes after every fortnight and in the month of Kartik, it marks this festival of lights and diyas. According to the English calendar, the festival generally comes in the month of November or December.
Diwali is celebrated for many reasons; but the most commonly known reason is to celebrate the day Sri Rama, Sitaji, and Lakshman returned from their exile of 14 years in the forest – symbolizing a win of goodness over evil. By the Hindu calendar, it also marks the start of the New Year calendar.
In fact, Diwali is considered so auspicious that it is celebrated with families and friends over five days. For many Hindus, this five-day festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
Many Hindus have already cleaned their places of abode which, according to tradition, welcomes the goddess of wealth who is also associated with the festival.
If a partaker is away from the sights and sounds of Diwali, light a diya, sit quietly, shut your eyes, withdraw the senses, concentrate on this supreme light and illuminate the soul.