DEEPAAVALI OR DIVAALI, THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
(Discourse by N. R. Srinivasan 2011)
Deepaavali or Divaali means "a row of light". Main festival of Deepaavali falls on the last two days of the dark half of Aswin (Aswija Krishna Chaturdasi and the following Amavasya) month of the Hindu calendar during October or November. It is a great festival of rejoicing and merriment all over India with several traditions and cultures. People mix with one another without any reservation, all enmity being forgotten. They also worship their favorite deities on these days. General cleaning, fireworks, illumination of all houses, exchange of sweetmeats and greeting one another make this festival an all India festival. In South India people take oil-bath and wear new clothes.
There are several Puranic (mythological) stories connected with this great festival which usually lasts for three days and sometimes five days too:
*A severe battle ensued between Lord Krishna, 8th incarnation of Vishnu and Narakasura, the son of Mother Earth who was menacing all Devas and his subjects too. Krishna became unconscious stuck by an arrow from the demon. Brahma had granted Narakasura the boon that he cannot be killed by anyone other than his mother. He did not expect his mother to kill him! Satyabhama, Krishna's wife was the charioteer of the Lord at that period. She was an incarnation of Mother Earth. She rose to the occasion and killed Narakasura in the battle. Narakasura repented for his past follies and begged Lord Krishna that people should celebrate the day of his death with lights in his remembrance as his death wish. He had kept his kingdom in darkness all along. Merciful Lord granted his wish. It is celebrated the night previous to Deepaavali called Naraka Chaturdasi with fire crackers, lights, wearing new clothes and inviting friends and relatives for joining the merriments and to enjoy delicious sweets.
*It is the day on which triumphant Rama, 7th incarnation of Vishnu, returned to Ayodhya with his beloved Sita after killing Ravana. Whole city of Ayodhya was lit with countless earthenware oil lamps and people rejoiced the return of Rama. Ayodhya remained gloomy after Rama's departure to the forest. Once again Ayodhya brightened with the return of the Divine lights and became jubilant after the return of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita with the new addition of Hanuman.
*It is celebrated as the day on which Bali a demon king was subdued and humbled by Vaamana, the fifth incarnation of Vishnu, by pushing him to the Netherworlds (Paataala). It is on the day after main Deepaavali day called Bali Paadyami.
*It is celebrated as the day on which the menacing Mahishaasura was killed by Goddess Durga to the relief of all people. The New Moon Day marks the worship of blood-thirsty Kaali in Bengal.
*It is celebrated as the day of Lakshmi's emergence from the milky Ocean (Ksheera Saagara) during churning of the ocean (Samudra Mathana) according to one legend.
*It is celebrated as Chopada Puja, Lakshmi Pooja day.
*It is celebrated as the day on which Hiranyakasipu was killed by Lord Narasimha, the fourth incarnation of Vishnu and Prahlaada was made the pious king of his subjects.
* Lord Krishna lifted the Mountain Govardhan with his little finger to protect all his friends and cows from torrential rains which was released by the wrath of Indra. All Vaishnavites celebrate this day as Govardhan Pooja Day. It is the same day as Bali Paadyami, the day next to main Deepaavali Day.
*It is celebrated as the day of Deliverance of the Pandavas after spending their 13th year of Agnayaatavaasa (living hiding their identity) after 12 years of exile.
*It is celebrated by all people of Sikh religion as the day on which Guru Har Gobind Singh (6th Guru) was released from Gwalior Jail.
*It is celebrated by Buddhists as the day on which Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhism.
*Fourth day of Deepaavali is celebrated as Varsha Pratipada. Coronation of King Vikramaditya took place on this day. Vikrama Samvatsara in Hindu calendar started on this day. Vikrama Samvatsara 2068 starts on Wednesday, October 26 this year. This year 2011 is also Kalyabdaaha
5113 (5113 years since the first foot of Kaliyuga started). In Salivahana Sakaabda it is the year 1934.
*Deepaavali is celebrated for five days in Rajasthan. 13th day of Aswin is celebrated as Dhan-Teras by many Hindus. It is an auspicious day for buying gold and gold jewelry. It is also called Yamadeep dan Day. 14th night of Aswin is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi. 15th day is celebrated as Deepaavali proper. The next day is celebrated as Bali Paadyami and Govardan Poojaa day. The day next is celebrated as Bhai Dhuj the day on which the sister goes to brother and applies Teeka on his fore-head offering him sweets. Yama, the God of death met his sister Yami on this day.
Merchants in North India open their new accounts and pray to Goddess Lakshmi for success and prosperity during the coming year on Diwali Day. This day marks the closing of the business on the agrarian cycle. Except for Bengal Lakshmi is worshipped as Goddess of wealth all over India on this day. Diwali marks the end of harvest season and is the biggest festival before the commencement of winter.
Lakshmi is worshipped as Dhana Lakshmi(Goddess of Wealth), Dhanya Lakshmi (Goddess of food), Vaibhava Lakshmi (Goddess of Fame) and Aiswarya Lakshmi (Goddess of Success) on this day. Houses are cleaned, lamps lit, thresholds decorated with flowers, leaves, colors, sacred diagrams and Rangoli at the entrance door to usher in her grace. In Western parts of India, it is on this day Vishnu came back to his abode Vaikuntha. Lakshmi was therefore in her benevolent mood and blesses her devotees with mental, physical and material aspects if worshipped on this day. Lakshmi, primordial energy enters the universe on this day in Panchayatan—Vishnu, Kubera, Indra, Gajendra and Lakshmi. She is worshipped in these forms on this day in temples.
Her five emanations are; Vishnu—symbolizing happiness and satisfaction; Kubera—symbolizing generosity of wealth as one who is shares wealth; Indra—opulence (one who provides satisfaction of wealth); Gajendra--one who carries wealth; Lakshmi—Divine energy which provides energy. In some temples marriage of Lakshmi withVishnu is celebrated on this day. Lakshmi placed Vyjayanti, the fragrant garland of victory, round Vishnu's neck and made him her consort.
Bali-pratipada the first day of the waxing moon (the day after Deepaavali night), marks the day when Vishnu liberated Sreedevi, Goddess of Sovereignty and Splendor in his incarnation as Vamana from the clutches of Bali, the demon king. He won the affection of Sreedevi on this day which is also celebrated.
[Lakshmi as Goddess of Wealth represents the beautiful and bountiful aspects of nature. Sreedevi dissolved herself in milky ocean dissatisfied with both Bali and Indra the arrogant and weak rulers. She assumed the name Lakshmi after emerging from the milky ocean. As Sreedevi she is the Goddess of fortune. She bestows power, pleasure and prosperity on her devotees. As Bhoodevi, the Goddess of Earth, she nurtures life. She is celebrated in Vedas in all these three forms—Sreedevi, Bhoodevi and Lakshmi. Vishnu is always found in the company of Sreedevi and Bhoodevi on his both sides and Lakshmi occupying his chest in iconic representations.]
Kubera is the half-brother of the demon king Ravana of Ramayana lore. He is the Lord of Riches, the wealthiest among Devas, the possessor of Pushpaka Vimaana and the Treasurer of the Divine kingdom. He is also the World Protector or Guardian (Dik-paala). Special worships are offered to him along with Lakshmi during Diwaali festivals particularly on Dhan-Teras Day seeking material prosperity. He is supposed to have even financed Lord Venkateswara. Special prayers are also offered to him by pilgrims visiting BadrinathVishnu Temple. He also figures out as prominent deity along with other Vedic deities during the daily worships offered to the Lord.
Some Hindus in North India indulge in gambling on Deepaavali night remembering the day on which Mother Parvati played dice with Lord Siva. It is believed that whosoever gambles on this night is bound to prosper all year round. Religious Hindus do not consider this favorably.
Deepaavali is an ancient festival of Vedic lore which is celebrated by all Hindus and others alike to foster love, affection and increase wealth and knowledge. The Sun, the Moon, the Stars and all that shines in the world receive their light from the Supreme Light whom we call as God. May that Supreme Light that kindles all lights enlighten our understanding! May we all prosper gloriously materially and spiritually!
Om! Namoe Bhagavate Vaasudevaaya!
Certain events make this great day of Deepavali with its sparkle and merriment, also a Remembrance Day:
*Nachiketas met Yama on the Deepaavali Day and overpowered him.
*It was on this auspicious dark fifteenth day of Ashwin, Lord Krishna gave up his earthly form being struck by the arrow of a hunter mistaking him to be a deer lying under the tree while he was resting.
*Bhagawaan Mahaaveera, the last of the 24th Jain Teerthankara attained Nirvaaana on this Amavasya (New M-oon) day. Many divines were present that night, illuminating the darkness to symbolically keep the light of their master's knowledge alive.
*Swami Dayaananda Saraswathi (Moolshankar Tiwari), founder of Arya Samaaj gave up his ghost and attained Liberation on the day of Deepaavali on Mount Abu. He chanted the Gaayatri Mantra all day and with his last breath, said Om.
*Swami Ramteerth, the popular spiritual leader was born on Deepaavali day, took Sanyaasaasrama (became a saint) on Deepaavali day and also had is Samaadhi on Deepaavali day.
Myanmar's Thaangeejoo, China's Naheem Heeber, Thailand's Loy Kirathong, Japan's Toro Naakaashi, Sweden's Lucia, England's Guy-box festivals are all celebrated with rows of light like Hindu Deepaavali festival. Christmas festival and Jewish festival of Hanuka are also celebrated with lights.
NOTE: The demon Naraka, the son born out of Mother Earth with her consort Lord Vishnu manifested as Divine Boar was later killed in the battle with the Lord Sri Krishna who is also an avataar of Vishnu. Satyabhama, incarnation of Mother Earth drove the chariot in this battle.
Naraka was born as a demon due to the curse of of Parvati as narrated in Ramayana while describing the dawn of Kumara (Lord Subhramanya) in Kumarsambhava. Parvati was denied an opportunity to have a son of her own born out of the wedlock with Siva by Devas as well as Mother Earth. So Devas and Mother Earth were cursed as follows: "Let your (devas) wives be issueless and from this day you shall no longer be able to beget an offspring through your consorts. Mother earth she cursed as follows: "Oh Earth! You will have a multiform surface (Mountains, valleys forest, sea lakes etc.) and shall not enjoy the delight of having a son."
GLORY OF LIGHT
"The Hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of men to see by. The Saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light"—Felix Adler.
In Hindu spiritual thinking Light is the symbol of Intellect (Jnaana). Upanishadic quotation "Na Hi Jnaanena Sadrisam"—Nothing is comparable to Intellect (Jnaana) is the motto of Mysore University with a lamp. It is believed that the oil in the festival lamp brings up knowledge and shows it as flame.
Na tatra sooryoe bhaati na Chandra taarakam / naemaa vidyutoe bhaanti kutoeya magnih //
Tamaeva bhaanta-manubhaati sarvam tasya bhaasaa sarvamidam vibhaati //
There the Sun does not shine; neither the Moon nor the Stars shine; nor do the flashes of Lightning shine. How then can the Fire? All these shine after the Eternal Glow. With the light of Brahman all these shine. (Katthoepanishad 5-15; Shvetasvataara Upanishad 6-14; Mundakoepanishad 2-2-11)
Uddeepyasva jaatavedo apaghnan nirritim mama / pasoo(ga)mscha mahyaa-maavaha jeevanamcha disoe dasaa //
Oh! Onmniscient Lord! Please destroy my sins and shine brilliantly. Please bring out animals that are needed (my ego and other evil natures) for your sacrifice. Please bring to me from all directions food and other essentials for my well being (Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad).
[This mantra and the above Mantra are recited when waving Aarati or lamp before the Lord at the time of worship in temples].
Divi sooryasahasrasya bhavaed-yugapad-utthitaa / Yadi bhaa sadrusee saa syaad bhaasas tasya Mahaatmanah // (Bhagavadgita 11-12)
If the splendor of thousands of Suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, even that would not resemble of that Exalted Being. (Bhagavad Gita 11—12)
Oh! Lord, not even a million Suns could match You [(Rigveda (8.70.05)].
He came to tell about the Light. This was the Real Light that comes into the world and sustains everything, (John 1.09, The Holy Bible)