Deepawali or Diwali is a festival of lights. Deepawali, in its literal translation, is as follows: “deep” refers to light and “wali” refers to a row, thus meaning, a row of lights. It is marked by a four day celebration, which globally lights up Hindu communities with its brilliance and celebrations.
The Origin of Diwali
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of good luck and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day. Diwali also celebrates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile after defeating the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, lit up their kingdom with diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers.
The Four Days of Celebration
The first day of the festival, “Naraka Chaturdasi” marks the defeat of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. “Amavasya”.
The second day of the festival, “Amavasya” marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation defeating the cruel ruler, Bali, and banished or sent him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps, to chase away or drive out the darkness and ignorance, and spread love and wisdom.
It is on the third day of the festival, “Kartika Shudda Padyami” that Bali, the cruel ruler, steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon or blessing given by Lord Vishnu.
The fourth day is referred to as “Yama Dvitiya” which is sometimes referred to as “Bhai Dooj” and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
The Significance of Lights & Fire-crackers
The lighting up of homes with diyas and the skies with fire-crackers is an expression of respect to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. According to one belief, the sound of fire-crackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the Gods aware of their happiness.
From Darkness to Light
In each legend, myth and story of Diwali lies the significance of the victory of good over evil. From darkness to light, the light gives us the power to commit ourselves to do good things in life and therefore bringing us closer to spirituality. During Diwali, the lights or diyas light up in every corner of India and globally where Hindus come together. Outside India, it is more than a Hindu festival, it’s a celebration of South-Asian identities. If you are away from the sights and sounds of Diwali, light a diya, sit quietly, shut your eyes, take a deep breath and concentrate on this supreme light and light up your soul.