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Deepawali: The Festival of Lights

Deepawali: The Festival of Lights
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By: Er. Prabhat Kishore

India is the land of festivals. Deepawali or Diwali is one of them, which is celebrated on the Amavasya of Kartik Krishna Paksha. The Shanti Mantra from BrihadaranyakaUpnishad “Tamso  Ma Jyotirgamya” i.e. “Lead me from darkness to light” reveals its spiritual spirit.

Deepawali is a 5-day long festival, which starts from Dhanteras and ends on BhaiyaDuj. Deepawali is mentioned in Padma Puran and SkandPuran. It is composed of  two Sanskrit words “Deep” i.e. light or candle and meaning that which glows, illuminates or knowledge and “Awali” i.e. rows or series. Thus Deepawali means “Rows of Lights” or “Festival of Lights”.

The first day, Dhanvantari Trayodoshi or Dhanteras is celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Devi Lakshmi from KshirSagar (Ocean) during the SamudraManthan (churning of the cosmic ocean of milk) by the Devtas and Asuras to receive the Amrit (nector). On this day, Bhagwan Dhanvantari also came out of the ocean with Ayurved for mankind. Bhagwan Kuber, the lord of wealth is also worshipped. Shopping for new items on this day is considered auspicious.

Chhoti Diwali, also termed as Narak Chaturdashi or RoopChaudash, is the second day of the festival. It is celebrated because Bhagwan Krishna and his wife Satyabhama had killed demon king Narkasur of Pragjyotish and released nearly 16000 girls from demon’s captivity. It is also believed that Devi Kali had made Narkasur disappear.

On the third day, the main Diwali is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over the world. Devi Lakshmi and Bhagwan Ganesh  are worshiped together to achieve the blessing of  wealth & prosperity and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. According to mythology, once Goddess Lakshmi was proud of herself that the whole world worships her and yearns to get her. Lord Vishnu understood this feeling of his conscience and with the aim of breaking Lakshmi’s pride, he said that Goddess, even though the whole universe yearns to have you, you are not yet complete.

Lakshmiji narrated her woes to her friend Parvatiji and asked her to adopt Ganesh, one of her two sons. Lakshmiji adopted Ganeshwith the consent of Parvatiji and since then Ganesh was came to be called the adopted son of Devi Lakshmi. Being very pleased Devi Lakshmi gave a boon to Ganesh that I will fulfill the wishes of the devotees only whenthey will worship you along with me. For this reason, there is a law to worship Ganeshalong with Lakshmi in Diwali. Bhagwan Kuber is also worshiped by the devotees on this auspicious day.

There are several beliefs behind this festival. In TretaYug, Raja Ramchandra along with Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman returned to Ayodhya from Lanka on this dayafter victory over Ravanand people celebrated the occasion by lighting Deeyas and decorating Rangolis. On this auspicious day the Nirvan Diwas of Bhagwan Mahavir, 24th Tirthankar of Jain, is observed by the followers of Jainism. The Sikh community celebrates this day to mark the release of Guru Hargovindji Maharaj from Mugal prison and his arrival at the Holy Swarnmandir, Amritsar.

The fourth day is the Govardhan Puja or Padwa. Bhagwan Krishna had lifted the Govardhanparvat and held it up to protect the people and cattle from the rain & thunder produced by the angry Indra. When Indra conceded defeat, on the request of Krishna, the people of Brajbhoomistarted performing the Govardhan Puja.

BhaiyaDuj or Bhai Teeka is the fifth and last day of Diwali. This day is dedicated to sisters. Yamraj (the lord of death) had visited his sister Yamuna on this day and gave her a vardhan (boon) that whoever visits his sister on this day will be liberated from all sins and will achieve Moksha or final emancipation. As per another belief, Krishna had visited his sister Subhadra after defeating Narakasur, who welcomed him with a tilak on his forehead.

The festival of Deepawali not only has religious or spiritual significance, but it also has scientific importance. The clay Deeyas with oil and cotton wick are eco-friendly and do not leave any harmful residue. During monsoon, the air is moist and full of bacteria & fungus. The heat generated from the Deeya destroys the bacteria, insects, fungus and thus cleans the air. The magnesium present in the Deeya’s oil reacts with harmful Sulphur and Carbon Dio-oxide present in the air to form Sulphate and Carbonates and purify the environment.

The PanchTatwa (five elements of the universe)-Kshiti (Earth), Jal (Water), Pawak (Fire), Gagan (Sky) and Sameer (Air)- is represented by the Deeya. The Earth element is represented by the clay Deeya, oil & cotton wick, Water is produced during the combustion of oil, Fire by the light generated, Sky by the light around the flame, and Air is the oxygen diffused to the wick.

Deepawali is the season of celebration and there is joy, light and happiness everywhere around us. It illuminates the houses and hearts and spread the message of friendship and togetherness.

(The author is a technocrat and an academician. He is based in Patna-Bihar)


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