Monday, October 14, 2013

The Festival of Lights

Hello Friends & Fam,

Please forgive me. I know I've been out of commission for a while. (Taking care of pressing things.) However, I wanted to get back with you. I wanted to do so because we are coming up on the part of the year that I find most exciting. I love it because of the host of celebrations that take place.

One of those celebrations is known as the Festival of Lights, and today I wanted to speak with you about it. The upcoming holiday, also called Diwali is important for Hindus as well as others. During this celebratory time, many families gather together, utilizing traditions passed down for generations. For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of nirvana, a state of bliss. For Sikhs, it is a five day celebration.

Diwali -- which is also known in Sanskrit as Deepavali-- has traditionally fallen on the one new moon night between mid-October and mid-November. This is according to the Hindu calendar.

I must say I love this festive occasion whose name means ‘row of lamps;’ thus the lighting of small clay lamps called diyas or dīpas. For many people, this holiday is significant because it celebrates the ‘Inner Light,’ the triumph of good over evil. It also celebrates the return of Lord Rama, a Hindu deity revered for his courage and compassion. Diwali celebrates Lord Rama’s wife Sita too, and his brother Lakshmana. This trio returned from Lord Rama’s fourteen-year exile where in a colossal battle he vanquished the demon-king who’d kidnapped his wife. In celebrating his return, Lord Rama’s people lit up the kingdom with diyas, oil lamps…

During this holiday, lights are not only lit to illuminate the homes of believers, but their hearts as well. Believers are encouraged to journey from darkness into light, enabling them to carry out good and sacred deeds. The ones that will get them closer to divinity. Doing so is believed to bring on ananda, joy, or peace, and the awareness of being one with all things.
The first day of the festival of lights is called Dhanteras, the day on which most Indian businesses begin their financial year.

Nakara, the second day, marks the vanquishing of the demon Nakarka.

Amavasya, the third day of Diwali centers around  Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. She fulfills the desires of her devotees.

The fourth day is Kartika Shudda Padyami new kingdom day.

The fifth day Yama Dvitiya is also called Bhai Dooj. On this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes to strengthen family bonds.

A multitude of festivities begin almost a month before Diwali, causing the sales of silk saris, jewelry, ornaments, and household goods to increase. Along with the lighting of innumerable lamps, as well as the bursting of firecrackers -- which is exciting for children, the time for rejoicing is mainly early morning and late night.

The darker hours are preferred as a backdrop in order to highlight the festival’s illuminations. A significant ritual is the necessary visit to the Temple. Traditionally, people also visit the homes of others in their communities where they sing, dance, and offer blessings. Those living elsewhere, contact loved ones back home in India. Many exchange gifts, including words from the heart.

My darlings, I am aware that I have simplified most everything, but to truly understand this most fascinating festival and all that it commemorates, I would suggest you start at your local library. I will tell you though, that Diwali is not just celebrated in India. Due to the vast migration of Indian people, Diwali is no longer just a Hindu festival but it is one now celebrated in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The sovereign states of Nepal and Guyana, and the island countries of Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Singapore also celebrate it. In Trinidad and Tobago, and Fiji, Diwali/Deepavali is a major holiday.

I must close now, but I want to say that in commemorating this special time, let us do as revelers do. Why not contact family and friends? Let them know the place they hold in your heart. Ah, and by all means do not forget to celebrate the ‘Inner Light’ -- the triumph of good over evil!

Until next time... be blessed,