Thursday, October 15, 2009

Diwali / Deepavali - Festival of Lights

Hello everyone,

Coming back after a month long hiatus with a post on probably the most celebrated festival in Hinduism, Diwali.

As you know, people from all parts of the country celebrate Diwali with the same gusto and splendour. It is a time to visit friends and family, exchange wishes, interact and bond. It is also a time of great rejoicement and festivities. Diwali is a more general form of pronouncing Deepavali, which means an array of Deeps (lamps).

When I was young, Diwali for me was a day when I had a holiday from school (very important!), could wear new clothes and burst sparkling fire-crackers. Slowly, the concept has changed. Now Diwali has a deeper and more profound impact on me, and that is exactly what I would like to share. So let us look at the legends behind Diwali:

The first one is from Ramayan, which describes Diwali as the day when Lord Ram returned victoriously to his kingdom of Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravan of Lanka. Lord Ram was given an arousing welcome, and the entire city dazzled with Diyas. This was later celebrated as an annual festival called Deepavali or Diwali.

The second reference is related to Lord Krishna. Once there was an evil demon called Narakasura, who was a tyrant and was forever oppressing the common people. All of them prayed to Lord Krishna to relieve them from his clutches. Thus, Lord Krishna came and after an intense battle, he killed Narakasura using his Sudarshan Chakra. The people rejoinced, lit the city with lamps, and this incident came to be annually celebrated as Diwali.

If you look at the common thread between these 2 legends, it portrays the victory of good over evil, of light eclipsing the darkness, and of righteousness holding forth against all odds. Thus, the Diwali festival is a very symbolic one that extols us to kill our inner demons (negativities) and purify our soul by lighting it up with goodness.

Now let me give a brief description of the festival. Diwali is celebrated across 4 days, starting from the 13th day of the month of Ashwin. This day is called Dhanteras, literally translated into wealth-thirteenth. Interestingly, though the number 13 has negative connotations in some other religions, this day is considered a very auspicious one. It is an age-old tradition to buy gold and other ornaments on Dhanteras. Also, if one sees a house-lizard on that day, he/she is considered to be lucky. So do look out for those slippery creatures tomorrow!

Why is it good to buy jewelery on Dhanteras? I don't think there is any specific reason, apart from instilling a sense of savings in the family. If you consider the price of Gold, it is forever on the rise. If one has cash, there will be a tendency to spend it even for wasteful/useless purposes. But on the other hands, a solid ornament of gold can be a form of a saving, and a good investment too. This might also be the reason why purchase of gold on Akshaya Tritiya is suggested to be very auspicious.

The next day is the Choti (Small) Diwali, while Diwali and Badi (Big) Diwali follow the smaller one. For us Marwadis, Diwali is of special significance because of the Lakshmi Puja conducted on the main Diwali day. Lakshmi, being the goddess of wealth, is requested to forever remain in our home and not desert us. Diwali is considered the beginning of the new financial year, and new account books are opened on Diwali. The books, pen and the ink-pot is also venerated.

The Puja is conducted in the evening, after which, it is time to burst crackers. This is probably the most exciting part of Diwali. Crackers of all shapes, sizes and varieties light up the sky, and provide a visual treat to all the spectators. Though earlier the crackers were just a symbolic representation of light illuminating our lives, these days it has become a contest among people to show off their wealth by spending a lot of money on crackers.

Not only does this one-upmanship contribute result in literal "burning" away of money, it also contributes a lot towards environmental pollution. Crackers that illuminate are understandable to be synonymous with Diwali, but why do we need ear-deafening bombs and Ladis? It is beyond my comprehension. Also, let us look back at what goes into making these crackers. Helpless child-laborours working in inhuman conditions by foregoing their education produce the fire-crackers. Do we really need to burst crackers to enjoy a few moments while our brethren suffer for years?

So this Diwali, I hope we can go for a pure Diya day or just a minimal amount of cracker-bursting. Let us focus instead on lighting up our lives by killing our inner defects and illuminate the lives of others with our goodness.

Happy Diwali !

- Nikhil Mundra
15th October 2009



Archie said...

Valid point bro..! But i know ur actually sayin that cos ur scared of d noisy crackers... ;-) For argument sake, noisy crackers r a means of expressin excitement.. U need d 'dhamaka' effect to make d celebration a lively one... U can say that there r multiple harmful effects like noise pollution n other hazardous effects.. But d ppl who burst such crackers believe that d noisy crackers brings d celebration mood to peak state.. D flower pots n chakras r nice to watch, but they also cause air pollution... Thats y d girls(and u :-D) go for d silent crackers n d guys go for d bombs n ladis... when u go to cheer someone, d best way to boost d spirit is to make maximum noise rite? Similarly, to let everybody know that good always triumphs over evil, ppl burst d noisy ones....
But u should be happy that d burstin of crackers have come down drastically... It used to be on a huge scale when we were in school n all... But this diwali has been pretty quiet... Maybe its because lotta ppl like me got bored of it n realised that its a waste of money.. Or maybe ppl r actually becomin environment-friendly... Or maybe ppl r actually thinkin abt those poor children who burst d crackers n r boycottin crackers...
Again abt child labour, i would like to raise a point for argument sake.. Watever u said makes perfect sense... Those poor children have to face a tough life throughout d year n all.. But by protestin against child-labour, do u realise that those children wil look at u as enemies??? Those children dun have d money to study n their only means of livelihood is by makin these crackers.. If they dun do this, they wont get food, clothin or shelter... So all those who r raisin their voices against child-labour blindly should think abt this aspect as well... If u really wanna eliminate child labour u should take care of their schoolin, food n shelter... The question is CAN U DO IT? Wil u atleast make an attempt to go see their hardships with ur own eyes n help them out in every way u can??? Rather than livin in a metro city comfortably, wearin decent clothes, n sittin in front of d comp after a hearty meal n typin stuff which requires action more than just voices??? Think abt it...!!!

Btw no hard feelings dude.. Just happened to browse thru ur blog so felt like pourin out my views... :-) good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nikhil Mundra said...

Hi Arjun,

Thanks a lot for stopping by to have your say.

Celebrations can be done in a peaceful and dignified way too, so I don't think that bursting loud crackers and making such a lot of noise is necessary. Remember, it's the festival of lights, and not noise! I guess those who go in for the silent crackers (including me) are keeping up with that thought in mind...

I agree with you on the child labour issue. "Actions speak louder than words" is very true, but then words do have an effect when people read them, so I guess we can do our bit right now by spreading the message. Later on, when we are self-reliable, we can go about actually helping these unfortunate souls by reaching out to them personally.

Happy Diwali!

Nikhil Mundra


radha said...

Came by from Of Cabbages and Kings. Interesting blog you have here. Will take a while to read through.

Nikhil Mundra said...

Hello Ms.Radha,

Thanks a lot for stopping by, and hope you enjoy reading the posts.

Nikhil Mundra


amit said...

Hi Nikhil,
I agree in some way about this post. Yes, there is air pollution and 'noise pollution' during diwali. But if you steal that from this festival, you and me will understand as adults. To get kids involved in it, there has to be all sparklings and noises! Plus they are signs of excitement like that of victory of Good over Evil.
As for child labor, you can spread those words. But unless you also help at same time, all you are doing is leaving those helpless kids without money to buy basic needs of their life.
Please dont spread 'banning' of child labor if you actually cannot HELP them.

Thanks for sharing knowledge about Lord Krishna's triumph over narakasura. I was only aware of Lord Rama's triumph and return as reason for 'Diwali' festival getting its meaning of victory of Good over Evil.

dokka srinivasu said...

Dear Mr.Nikhil

Very good and detailed information on Diwali festival. Thanks for sharing very valuable information.

Nikhil please see my Lamps of India message relating to Diwali festival which i shared in my Heritage of India blog.

Nikhil alongwith sharing my collections relating to Indian Heritage and Culture in my blog i am also giving seminars to school and college children and so far i gave 2 seminars on Indian Heritage and Culture.

Nikhil these are my 2 seminars links.

Nikhil further recently on october 2nd i am sharing my Gandhi collection at local kakinada Gandhi Bhavan.

Nikhil please look into my Heritage of India blog and share your comments.

Akhila Rakash said...

Diwali is one of my favorite holiday in India, it's like new year. Thanks for sharing these info. My best Diwali greetings to you. Happy Diwali!

Desiree Smithson said...

Very informative post about diwali, and i love those photos. Here's expressing my Diwali wishes to you and everyone. Happy diwali!

Suhas Pal said...

Some valid points are there for sure, but the causes of concerns are typical Indian type. We always prescribe to fix the symptoms than actual desease. For ex., it encourages child labour, doesn't mean bursting crackers should be prohibited. It is like banning all road-site tea stalls because they employ Children on a daily basis. Secondly, air pollution. If we guys stop using vehicles unnecessarily, it curtails a lot of pollution. I agree to some extent about Noise pollution and Government has come up with standards about the noise levels. We don't complain about loud noises in Disco Clubs but are worried about a day of celebrations. We do not complain about bursting crackers by marriage parties, political parties on a daily basis, but we have serious problems about the whole country coming together celebrating our colourful and historial festival.
We oppose felling of trees for widening roads and metros, but do not mind eradicating them for constructing our residential colonies.

Grow up guys!!.. Don't be silly with rubbish argument with false concepts.