Diwali – The Festival of Lights
The Significance of Diwali Festival
Diwali or Deepawali, is also known as the ‘festival of light.’ It is an Indian festival celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs with great enthusiasm but for different reasons. In each of the three beliefs the common attribute is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Lights illuminate all corners of India during the Diwali season and it is a time for community. The spiritual significance behind Diwali is ‘inner awareness’, an idea that all three religions follow. Lighting lamps is symbolic to shedding light on ignorance in an effort to illuminate one’s self on the way to a greater consciousness.
The central event behind Hindus celebrating Diwali is to mark the day that Rama returned to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile with his wife Sita. To welcome their return, the people of Ayodhya lit diyas (ghee lamps) to guide them from the dark forest into the city. Another event that is associated with Diwali is a passage from the Puranas that says it was during this time that Krishna’s wife Sathyabhama, an incarnation of the earth goddess Bhumi, killed the powerful demon Narakasura that was terrorising his subjects.
Diwali is also significant to the Jains because it marks the day after Lord Mahavira attained nirvana in 527 BC. It is said that he was released from his worldly body on the night of the full moon. So the people of Pavapuri, where he attained nirvana, lit lamps in their doorways as a symbol of their guru’s enlightenment.
For Sikhs, this festival is important because it celebrates the release of Guru Hargobindji along with 52 Indian kings who were imprisoned along with him at the Gwalior fort by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1619. For this reason, the festival is known to the Sikhs as Bandi Chorr Diwas meaning the day of deliverance from prison. As Dussehra marks the beginning of the harvest season, Diwali marks its end. It is a time of plenty and farmers give thanks for the bountiful harvest and pray for a year of plenty. They offer their prayers to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, prosperity, and wisdom, by doing the Lakshmi Puja. Houses are cleaned thoroughly to prepare for the puja and rangolis are drawn at the entrance of houses to welcome Lakshmi into their homes. On this day and during the entire Diwali season people light firecrackers.
Many religions and traditions use fire and light in their traditions. Can you find 3 other examples of festivals where light plays a central role in the festivities?
Note: Don’t forget to check out Diwali articles and activities.