Diwali or Deepavali is the Hindu Festival of Lights, which is celebrated by Hindus worldwide. One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, homes are illuminated with rows of lamps and courtyards enhanced with colourful Rangoli patterns on Diwali symbolising the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.” It is at this auspicious time that temples are visited for the Mothers, Lakshmi’s and Saraswati’s blessings.
Universal preparations for Diwali, (which typically lasts for five days) is as follows :
Day 1 : Dhanteras (Day of fortune)
This celebration of wealth and prosperity occurs two days before the festival of lights.
Day 2 : Naraka Chaturdasi (Day of knowledge)
Celebrates the vanquishing of Naraka, the demon by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama.
Day 3 : Diwali (Day of light)
Mother Lakshmi is worshipped at her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees.
Day 4 : Annakut (New Year)
Having prayed that all evil has ended, businessmen, in the spirit of renewed growth and change, change their books for new beginnings.
Day 5 : Bhai Dooj (Brother/Sister love)
A day dedicated to the bond between siblings, a special ritual much like Raksha Bandhan where sisters hand feed their brothers amongst much smiles and exchanging of gifts.
Diwali is always anticipated. With the uncluttering, cleaning and decoration of homes, comes the anticipation of visiting various fairs with the intention of purchasing clay lamps and mehndhi, finding inspiration and shopping for cultural outfits.
On the morning of Diwali, all are reminded to have the three oil bath. Celebrants don their finest outfits. In the Ramlal household, Husband arrives from work at midday and prepares to drive the children to deliver prepared sweetmeats and baked treats, packaged and ready to be distributed to neighbours, friends and family. Sweetmeats are exchanged, the children return and a vegetarian lunch is served. Where am I in all of this you ask? With the pets, of course, ensuring that they have company and are not terrified of the fireworks already being lit by over-enthusiastic children. My daughter and I have already prepared the clay lamps (cotton wick tips dampened with and immersed in oil). A veneration is performed invoking blessings. The lamps used from the prayer ceremony are used to light prepared earthenware lamps which are set on window sills, along the perimeter of the house, on staircases and location permitting for others, rivers and streams. Light and goodness is invited into the home. Of late, more attention has rightfully been given to the plight of the aged and animals which has resulted in all being confined to fireworks lighting up only between 7 to 10pm. As pet lovers and having had two labradors who were petrified of fireworks, we restrict ourselves to displays and sparklers, pretty, colourful and harmless.
Children are reminded of the legendary Lord Rama of the Hindu epic Ramayana, who returned from exile to Ayodhya with the Gods, Lakshamana, Hanuman and the goddess Sita after defeating the Demon King, Ravana. Their paths were illuminated to welcome them home.
Most Hindus do not fast on Diwali, preferring instead to feast, share and donate to the all and especially in those of need. Those that do abstain from meat, also prepare and distribute gifts and sweetmeats. Organisations hold fundraisers for the under privileged, an effort that we always endeavour to be a part of. Initiatives like UHDC’s Light Up A Life whereby hampers are distributed to orphaned, abused, underprivileged, disabled and mentally challenged children in and around our community. These members take everyone into consideration, even going as far as collecting dry pet food pellets in 10kg bags for the local SPCA “to offset some of the bad karma” incurred by upsetting animals Diwali.
It is heartening to realise that despite differences and geography, Hindus throughout the world are united in their prayer to Mother Lakshmi and the other Gods and Goddesses to invite happiness, enlightenment and prosperity in the year ahead.
Our Diwali prayer :
From untruth lead us to Truth.
From darkness lead us to Light.
From death lead us to Immortality.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
Diwali brings with it a time of reflection and change, forgiveness and unity. Besides the illumination of the house, our inner selves are rekindled with hope, that the light shines in our hearts, promotes goodness of spirits.
Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists celebrate Diwali, each faith brings with their own religious connotations, historical events and folklore. All though, commonly symbolise the triumph of light. Such is the spirit and power of Diwali that, “Every year during Diwali, Indian forces approach their Pakistani counterparts at the border bearing gifts of traditional Indian confectionery, a gesture that is returned in kind by the Pakistani soldiers who give Pakistani sweets to the Indian soldiers”. Source : Wikipedia.
Unifying indeed. From our home to yours, a very blessed and Happy Diwali to you and your loves ones.