Major Hindu Festivals
A DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY PUBLICATION
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 Narakasura.
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
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!