The World celebrates its awakening from darkness of despair

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Sandhya Govind

Sandhya Govind

Auckland, October 30, 2021

Diwali heralds new dawn of brightness and hope

                                                                                                    Goddess Mahalakshmi: A legend has it that Diwali marks the birth of the Goddess of Wealth (Facebook Photo)

Diwali, also called the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important religious Festivals in the Indian festive calendar, celebrated by millions of Indians in India as well as in numerous countries across the globe.

People gather on this occasion to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair, and good over evil.

The dates of this five-day Festival are based on the Hindu Lunar Calendar, and it begins just before the arrival of the new moon between the Hindu months of Asvina and Kartika, which usually fall in October or November. This year, the third and main day of the Diwali Festival occurs on November 4, 2021.

Birth of Goddess Lakshmi

For some people, Diwali is the celebration of the birth of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and the Consort of Lord Vishnu. According to mythology, Goddess Lakshmi was born on the New Moon Day (Amavasya) of the Kartika month from the primaeval milky ocean that was being churned by the gods and demons (Samudra Manthan).

For some others, Diwali is the celebration of the marriage of Goddess Lakshmi to Lord Vishnu.

In North India, people celebrate Diwali to commemorate the return to Ayodhya, on the New Moon Day of Kartika, of Prince Rama, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshman, after 14 years of exile, during which he had vanquished the demon-king Ravana. The residents of Ayodhya rejoiced the return of their rightful king and queen by lighting lamps and setting off firecrackers in their honour.

 

Diyas bring positive energy into homes: Image by motionstock from Pixabay

 

Dedication to Goddess Kali

In Bengal, Diwali is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kali, the Goddess of Strength. It is believed that this tradition was introduced in Bengal in the 18th century by Raja Krishnachandra, the king of Navadvipa.

In South India, Diwali marks Lord Krishna‘s defeat of the demon Narakasura. The Festival falls on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the Tamil month of ’Ayppasi’. The slaying of Narakasura is believed to symbolise the dispelling of darkness to welcome light.

In the Western State of Gujarat, this day is associated with Lord Krishna and the Gujarati New Year coincides with Diwali.

There are numerous other reasons for which Diwali is celebrated. According to the Mahabharata, on Kartik Amavasya, the Pancha Pandavas (the five Pandava brothers – Yuddhishtra, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva), returned to their kingdom after 12 years of exile which they had had to submit to when they lost to their cousins, the Kauravas, at a game of dice. Their loyal and devoted subjects, who loved them dearly, celebrated this occasion by lighting thousands of earthen lamps.

 
Goddess of Strength: Bengalis dedicate Diwali to Goddess Kali(Photo by Partho Roy on Unsplash)

 Eternal Bliss for Jains and Sikhs

In Jainism, Diwali is a day of great religious significance as it is believed that Lord Mahaveera, considered to be the founder of modern Jainism, attained Nirvana (Eternal Bliss) on this day. Therefore, Jains light lamps to commemorate the enlightenment and liberation of Lord Mahaveera from the cycle of life and death (samsara). Diwali marks the end of the year in the Jain calendar.

Diwali is also a very important day in the Sikh religious calendar. The Third Sikh Guru Amar Das mandated that all Sikhs gather for prayers and communal celebrations on Diwali day and receive the blessings of the Guru.

In 1577, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid on Diwali day and every Diwali, the Golden Temple is lit with thousands of lamps.

Sikhs also celebrate Diwali to mark the return to Amritsar from captivity in Gwalior, where he had been imprisoned by the Mughal emperor Jahangir, of Guru Hargobind, the 6th Sikh Guru, in 1619. The people of Amritsar lit lamps throughout the city to celebrate the occasion.

Lord Krishna, the most popular Hindu God worldwide is also connected with Diwali (Pinterest Photo)

Although not a primary Festival of Buddhism, Diwali is celebrated by the Vajrayana Buddhist minority among the Newar people of Nepal to mark the day that Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism in the 3rd century BCE.

This day is also called Asoka Vijayadashami and they celebrate by lighting lamps, decorating temples and monasteries, and worshipping Lord Buddha.

The Five Days of Diwali

The First Day is known as Dhanteras and is dedicated to praying to Goddess Lakshmi. Most Hindus meticulously clean their houses before the start of celebrations to make sure that their homes are dirt and clutter-free. People draw intricate designs called rangoli with flowers or coloured rice powder at the entrance to their houses and also light small earthen lamps called diyas at the entryways. It is also believed that if gold or other precious metals are bought on Dhanteras, it will lead to a prosperous year and increased wealth and abundance for the family.

The Second Day is called Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali and it marks the slaying of the demon king Narakasura of Pragjothispura, and the rescue of 16,000 women called Gopikas from his captivity, by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama.

Significance for Sikhs: The Foundation stone for the Golden Temple in Amritsar was placed on Diwali Day in 1577.

(Image by Lionel Borie from Pixabay)

The Third and most important day of Diwali is Lakshmi Puja. Diyas and candles are lit at the doorway and all around the house to draw auspicious energies into the home. The doors and windows of houses are kept open in the hope that Goddess Lakshmi will find her way inside and bless the residents with wealth and success. Lord Ganesha is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day.

This day also marks Amavasya, the darkest day of the year in the Hindu Lunisolar calendar. It is believed that on this day Lord Vishnu, in his dwarf incarnation as Vamana, vanquished the tyrant Bali, rescued Goddess Lakshmi from his clutches, and banished him to hell.

The Fourth Day of Diwali is known as Govardhan Puja and commemorates Lord Krishna’s defeat of Indra, the king of the gods. This day is also the first day of the Hindu month of Kartika and the start of the new year in the Vikrama (Hindu) calendar. People perform prayers for a prosperous new year.

The Fifth Day is called Bhai Dooj and celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. Traditionally, brothers visit their sisters bearing gifts, who in turn honour them with special rituals and sweets and pray for their success and well-being.

President Barack Obama lights a lamp to mark Diwali in The White House on October 14, 2009 (Getty Images)

New Financial Year

Diwali is also the time when businessmen in North India close their annual accounts and start a new financial year and open new ledgers. They conduct special prayers to the Goddess Lakshmi, during which the new account books are placed before the deity for her blessings.

Diwali is a glorious occasion in India with lights illuminating every corner of cities, towns and villages, the scent of incense sticks pervading the atmosphere, and the sounds of firecrackers resounding everywhere. It is a time to gather with friends and family and enjoy each other’s company, share in prayers, and feast with loved ones.

Diwali is marked with great enthusiasm in Singapore

Today, thanks to the Indian Diaspora, Diwali is celebrated by millions of people across the globe. It provides an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate the Festival regardless of their religion, nationality or culture.

Diwali is an official holiday in countries as diverse as Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Fiji.

The city of Leicester, in the United Kingdom, holds the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India. Tens of thousands of people congregate on Leicester’s Golden Mile in the Belgrave area to see the thousands of decorative Diwali lights and enjoy spectacular firework displays.

Diwali is a gazetted public holiday in Singapore, with elaborate public festivities concentrated in the Little India area.

In 2003, the tradition of Diwali celebrations in the White House was started by the then President of the United States, George W Bush. In 2009, President Barack Obama lit a traditional lamp in the East Room of the White House on the occasion and in 2016, he marked the holiday by lighting a Diya in the Oval Office.

Leicester looks like Delhi on Diwali Day (Visit Leicester Photo)

Fond memories

Growing up in Chennai in Tamil Nadu, I hold very fond memories of the traditional Diwalis that I spent with my extended family and friends. Traditionally in Tamil Nadu, the preparations for the Festival begin days before the actual day, with the house being cleaned, and delicious sweets and snacks being prepared. The day before Diwali, the house is washed and decorated with Kolam (Rangoli) patterns.

We would wake up before sunrise to take oil bath. It is believed that an oil bath on Diwali is equivalent to taking a bath in the sacred Ganges river in India. Fireworks and new clothes are placed before the Deities and after prayers, new clothes are worn, and fireworks burst. Friends and family would visit and partake of the plentiful supply of delicious food – Appam, Idly, Chutney, Sambhar, Ladoo, Mysore Pak, Jalebi, Gulab Jamun, Burfi, different varieties of Poli, crunchy Murukkus and much more.

Affinity for gold and studded jewellery continues to grow among Indian all over the world

We would also take time to visit temples and visit relatives and friends.

It was a day filled with fun, laughter and great camaraderie and the festivities would continue late into the evening and night.

Indians all over the world have made sure they carry on these glorious traditions as much as possible and have succeeded in spreading the beauty and wonder of the celebrations across the globe, Hopefully, these traditions will be carried on in the future and Diwali will be a memorable and much anticipated annual celebration internationally among people of all cultures, races and nationalities.

Sandhya Govind is a qualified and trained Naturopath and runs the ‘Sandhya’s Naturopathy Clinic,’ an integrated Natural Medicine facility, which helps people rediscover optimal health, radiance and vitality naturally. She provides holistic support including Herbal Medicine, Supplements, Health Coaching, Diet Advice and Mineral Therapy. Ms Govind also creates Crossword and Word Search puzzles for Indian Newslink Digital Edition every fortnight. She can be contacted on 021-0709243. Email: sandhyanaturopathy@gmail.com 

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