by Niharika R.Bandaru
As most of you might know, Hindus are what I fancy calling, festival junkies. We love celebration, and our culture is an outstanding reflection of it. Around three weeks ago, we celebrated Diwali- the festival of lights. Now when I was back in India, this was a time when the whole country just lit up. Every city, town and village would indulge in the festivity, since this was a time when we would celebrate the victory of good over evil, unity and the start of the New Year.
“Diwali” or “Deepavali” means a row of lamps, or “diyas”. It marks the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Laxmana, to their kingdom after a 14-year exile and a victorious war against the demon king Ravana (I suggest reading the Ramayana, for more on this. I promise you it will be a very entertaining and educating read.). It also marks the killing of another demon Narakasura, by Lord Krishna’s wife. Diwali is also considered to be the beginning of the New Year for some cultures in India, when people pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. It has other significances in Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism.
It is a time when people come together to bring out the best in themselves and others. When broken families unite, and the boundaries between different religions are forgotten; when children feast on savory treats and every household buzzes with the sound of happiness and festivity.
Owing to the million or so tests and assignments that I had to study and prepare for, Diwali was a very small affair for me this year in Windsor. The festivities I missed out on included a delicious dinner at the temple and a grand fireworks show at the Gurudwara. However, the fact that I got to light a few lamps and have some Diwali treats made my day.
Diwali celebrations include family activities, firecracker bursting among a few; but here are a few facts about Diwali that not a lot of people know*:
1.Diwali is celebrated over a period of four days, and each day has its own tale, legend and myth to tell. The first day of the festival marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife. The second marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. This day also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. It is on the third day that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. On the fourth day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
2.The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of respect to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. According to one belief, the sounds of fire- crackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their abundant state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the crackers kill a lot of insects and mosquitoes, found in plenty after the rains.
3.The tradition of gambling on Diwali also has a legend behind it. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva, and she pronounced that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the subsequent year.
*Source credits :Diwali- Festival of Lights