DEEPAVALI or Diwali means "a row of lights".
It falls on the last two days of the dark half of Kartik (October-November). For
some it is a three-day festival. It commences with the Dhan-Teras, on the 13th
day of the dark half of Kartik, followed the next day by the Narak Chaudas, the
14th day, and by Deepavali proper on the 15th day.
There are various alleged origins attributed to this
festival. Some hold that they celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord
Vishnu. In Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Kali. It also
commemorates that blessed day on which the triumphant Lord Rama returned to
Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. On this day also Sri Krishna killed the demon
In South India people take an oil bath in the morning
and wear new clothes. They partake of sweetmeats. They light fireworks which are
regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day. They greet
one another, asking, "Have you had your Ganges bath?" which actually
refers to the oil bath that morning as it is regarded as purifying as a bath in
the holy Ganges.
Everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by
others. There is an air of freedom, festivity and friendliness everywhere. This
festival brings about unity. It instils charity in the hearts of people.
Everyone buys new clothes for the family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes
for their employees.
Waking up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4a.m.) is a
great blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline, efficiency in
work and spiritual advancement. It is on Deepavali that everyone wakes up early
in the morning. The sages who instituted this custom must have cherished the
hope that their descendents would realise its benefits and make it a regular
habit in their lives.
In a happy mood of great rejoicing village folk move
about freely, mixing with one another without any reserve, all enmity being
forgotten. People embrace one another with love. Deepavali is a great unifying
force. Those with keen inner spiritual ears will clearly hear the voice of the
sages, "O Children of God! unite, and love all". The vibrations
produced by the greetings of love which fill the atmosphere are powerful enough
to bring about a change of heart in every man and woman in the world. Alas! That
heart has considerably hardened, and only a continuous celebration of Deepavali
in our homes can rekindle in us the urgent need of turning away from the ruinous
path of hatred.
On this day Hindu merchants in North India open their
new account books and pray for success and prosperity during the coming year.
The homes are cleaned and decorated by day and illuminated by night with
earthern oil-lamps. The best and finest illuminations are to be seen in Bombay
and Amritsar. The famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with
thousands of lamps placed all over the steps of the big tank. Vaishnavites
celebrate the Govardhan Puja and feed the poor on a large scale.
O Ram! The light of lights, the self-luminous inner
light of the Self is ever shining steadily in the chamber of your heart. Sit
quietly. Close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Fix the mind on this supreme
light and enjoy the real Deepavali, by attaining illumination of the soul.
He who Himself sees all but whom no one beholds, who
illumines the intellect, the sun, the moon and the stars and the whole universe
but whom they cannot illumine, He indeed is Brahman, He is the inner Self.
Celebrate the real Deepavali by living in Brahman, and enjoy the eternal bliss
of the soul.
The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the
stars, nor do lightnings shine and much less fire. All the lights of the world
cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of the Self. Merge yourself
in this light of lights and enjoy the supreme Deepavali.
Many Deepavali festivals have come and gone. Yet the
hearts of the vast majority are as dark as the night of the new moon. The house
is lit with lamps, but the heart is full of the darkness of ignorance. O man!
wake up from the slumber of ignorance. Realise the constant and eternal light of
the Soul which neither rises nor sets, through meditation and deep enquiry.
May you all attain full inner illumination! May the
supreme light of lights enlighten your understanding! May you all attain the
inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self! May you all prosper gloriously on
the material as well as spiritual planes!
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