Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
India is a land of festivals; every religion celebrates many festivals throughout the year, which is what makes India vibrant and colorful. While certain festivals are identified with a particular region, Deepawali is one of festival that has been celebrated all across India since time immemorial.
In the Shakta tradition, which has existed since pre Vedic times and continues to this day, Deepawali is associated with Kali Puja and is known as Maha Ratri. This tradition of invoking and worshipping Mother Divine during Deepawali is particularly popular in eastern parts of India and in Nepal.
In Ayurvedic tradition, this day is celebrated by paying obeisance to Lord Dhanvantari, creator of Ayurveda, teacher of physicians and provider of good health.
In every millennium there has been a major events associated with Deepawali, the first being that of Bali Chakrayarthi, in the time of Vamana Avatar, even before the time of Rama and Krishna. Legend has it that King Bali of Kerala pleased God and endeared himself to the world by his acts of charity and generosity, so much so that, to the day in central and south India, Bali Padyami is celebrated as obeisance to Bali.
In the Treta Yuga, Deepawali is related to celebration of Rama’s homecoming after his victory over the demon king Ravana, in Lanka. In the Dwapara Yuga, the festival is associated with Krishna’s slaying of Narakasura and restoring light, peace and harmony in society. This day is also celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi.
In Gujarat and Rajasthan, it is celebrated as the New Year. In some parts of India, Vikram Samvat starts on the day of Deepawali and this is a special day that is celebrated in Sikh and Jain traditions, too.
Customs surrounding the festival may vary from place to place, but in essence they are the same. Interestingly, in southern India, particularly in Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there is a belief that the River Ganga comes into everyone’s homes on this special day. People greet each other, asking, “Did you have your Ganga bath?” Ganga ji and light are used as metaphors for knowledge.
At the other level, Deepwali is enjoyed and celebrated by the lighting of lamps, but from an inner point of view, it is really meant to reveal the light of knowledge and joy and welcome it into one’s life and dispel the darkness of ignorance. Don’t be satisfied with just lighting lamps. Lights the lamp of wisdom with you, acquire knowledge and awaken all the dimensions of life.
In the Sama Veda it is said “Ayu Jyotihi” – Life is Light. Gautama Buddha also said, “Appa Deepo Bhavah” – Be a light unto yourself. It is festival to remind you that you, too, are light.
Deepawali is the time to light lamps, wear new clothes, exchange gifts and create goodwill for all. It’s also time to meditate and experience the deeper aspects of this celebration; to contemplate on deeper knowledge that will lift the curtain of ignorance and let the light shine within and without.
Hope Every Deepawali, let’s resolve to bring light and joy to everyone around us. Hearty Deepawali greetings to everyone; have a happy and safe time.
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