Hindus celebrate the Festival of Lights

By ISHWAR SHARMA, L.L.B.

Hindus throughout the world will celebrate Deepavali or Diwali, as it is usually called, on Friday November 5, 2010. This magnificent and ancient festival with its profound symbolisms, both ritualistic and esoteric, is observed over a period of five days from Dhanvantari Triodashi to Braatri Dooj, also called Dan Theras.

The history of Diwali is replete with legends from the Hindu religious scriptures, primarily the Puranas. The central theme of all legends reflects the classic truth of the victory of ‘good’ over ‘evil’ and ‘light’ over ‘darkness’. Diwali, being the festival of lights, lightening the ‘Deeyas’ (earthen lamps) of knowledge within us means to understand and reflect upon the significant purpose of each of the five days of festivities and to bring those thoughts in our daily lives.

Deepavali is a festival in which people from all age groups participate. To Hindus, darkness represents ignorance and light is a metaphor for knowledge. Therefore, lighting a Deeya or earthen lamp symbolizes the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces.

‘Deep’ means an earthen lamp and ‘Avli’ means lines of earthen lamps, thus the meaning of the world Deepavali or rows of lighted earthen lamps or “Deeyas”.

Kartik Amaawasya is the darkest night of the year, and this is observed as Deepavali, the lighting of Deeyas.

This is the 14th lunar day (tithi) of the dark fortnight of the month, Kartik, and the eve of Diwali. The second day of Diwali is called Narak Chaturdasi. On this day Bhagwan Krishna killed the tyrannical demon, King Narakasur.

The third day of Diwali is the actual Diwali. This is the day when Hindus worship mother Lakshmi. On the fourth day of Diwali, Goverdhan Puja (prayers and offerings) is performed. This day is also celebrated as New Year’s Day in western India. The fifth and final day of Diwali is Bhratri Dooj. It is a day dedicated to sisters.

As stated above, the lighting of the Deeyas is a special tribute to Lakshmi Mata – the Goddess of light, Wealth and Prosperity. Since the inception of the world, humankind has been worshipping Lakshmi Mata, the energy of the Motherhood of God, in one form or the other with different names and in different languages.

Lashmi Puja is done in almost every Hindu home. The family sits together and offers special prayers to Lakshmi Mata seeking her blessings for the entire year. The Deeyas are lit and placed in and around the home. Special Pujas are preformed by Pandits in their respective Mandirs.

Our Sikh brothers and sisters celebrate this occasion as the return of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, from captivity in the city of Gwalior by offering special prayers at Harmandhir Sahib, referred to as the Golden Temple, in his honour.

As we celebrate Deepavali in Canada, we should reflect on the true cultural and spiritual significance of this festival, and rededicate ourselves, and allow the brilliance of our Deeyas to enter our hearts and motivate us to eradicate the areas of darkness, and promote Universal Peace and Unity.

May I take this opportunity to extend to our Hindu Community Happy Deepavali Greetings. May Mata Lakshmi continue to shower Her Divine Blessings on you and your family.

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