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Diwali Is Everyone’s Celebration So Let’s All Come Together And Celebrate

By Zile Singh

Ambassador (Retd.)

“ Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”                                                                                                                                                                  –  Mark Twain

Diwali or Deepavali is one of the most important Hindu festivals of lights celebrated throughout India in the month of October/November, depending on the Calendar. This year it is on October 19.    Not only in India,  this festival is celebrated in Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mauritius,  Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and recently the Sindh Province of Pakistan. The celebrations  are spread over five days, namely – Dhanteras, Narak Chaturdashi,  Main Diwali, Diwali Padva and Bhaidooj.

Jains also celebrate Diwali  to mark the attainment of Moksha by the 24th Tirthankar Lord Mahavir.(599 BC) Also,  Gautam Gandhar Swami,  the chief disciple of Lord Mahavir achieved omniscience (Kevala Gyan)  on the day of Diwali.

Sikhs celebrate it as  Bandi Chhor Divas ( Day of Liberation ) to mark the release of  Guru Har Gobind alongwith 52 Hindu kings  from the prison of  Mughal Emperor Jahangir.    In the post- Guru Gobind Singh era, Sarbat Khalsa used to meet on Diwali day and Baisakhi day  in Amritsar to discuss important issues concerning the Panth.

Newari Buddhists in Nepal celebrate Diwali by worshiping goddess Lakshmi.

In the context of the Hindu Epic ‘ Ramayana’, Diwali is celebrated to welcome Lord Ram to Ayodhya after spending fourteen years in  exile.  In fact, Rama drowned himself in Saryu river to atone  the   killing  of Ravana.  As a Kshatriya, Rama was not supposed to have killed a Brahmin of  Ravana’s stature.  It was in violation of Chatur Varna Maryada.

The myth that it was a victory of good over the evil,  light over darkness, wisdom over ignorance etc. cannot be justified keeping in view the power, prowess and the knowledge of Ravana in comparison to Rama.       In some region of India, Diwali is associated with the legend of Yama and Nachiketa.  The Nachiketa story about right and wrong, true wealth and transient wealth, wisdom and ignorance, mind and intellect and to see the light and darkness through meditation is recorded in the Katha Upanishad composed in 1st millennium BC.  The religious significance of Diwali varies from region to region in India, depending on the school of Hindu philosophy, legends and beliefs.  However, the main festival is celebrated in the following sequence:

Dhanteras is the day of the churning of cosmic ocean of milk between the forces of good and  of evil.  This day marks the birthday of Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity and the birthday of Dhanvantri – the God of Health and Healing. Since 2016, Dhanteras has been declared as “National Ayurveda Day in India”.

Narak Chaturdashi is called Choti Diwali.  According to Hindu literature, Asura Narakasura was killed on this day by Lord Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. It was the victory of light over darkness.

After Main Diwali,  Padva is  to celebrate the love and devotion between the wife and the husband.  Last day of the festival is Bhaidooj.  It marks the sister-brother affinity.  It might have a reference to Ravana and Swarupenkha, because Rama had no sister.

Festival of Peace:  The Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities organize charitable causes on this day.  At the Indo- Pak border ( Attari – Wagah ) every year on Diwali the Indian soldiers offer traditional Indian sweets to the Pakistani soldiers and as a return gesture, the Pak soldiers offer  an assortment of Pakistani sweets.

Lately, with the increasing  strength of Indian diaspora in countries like UK, USA and Canada, it has become necessary for the governments of these countries to become a part of  the celebration of various Indian festivals, including Diwali.

Issues:  There has been a growing concern  about the environmental and health impact of Diwali like Air pollution and its after effects,  Burn injuries and  unwanted expenditure on fireworks. To safeguard the environment issue the Supreme Court of India has banned sale of firecrackers in Delhi ahead of Diwali.

APP37-11
HYDERABAD: November 11 – Hindu girls busy in their religious rituals during Diwali Festival in Shiva Mandir at Thandi Sarak. APP photo by Akram Ali

In spiritual and philosophical  terms, the following quotes will prove that light and darkness compliment each other. We have to understand both.   One cannot stand on its own. –

“ We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light (truth)” – Plato

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” — Og Mandino

Let us celebrate this great festival in the light of  composure  and equanimity and reflect on our dark side with the help of a small Diya.

Message : Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light. Eat sweet and speak sweet.

Zile Singh is a former Ambassador(Retd.) of India and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca .

 

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