Diwali, the Hindu holiday of light falls today. It is the festival of lights as celebrated by most of India (and parts of Sri Lanka and Nepal) for differing reasons. Think of it as christmas for non-christians.
From wikipedia :
Hindus have several significant events associated with it:
Return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya
The Killing of Narakasura
Austerities of Shakti
Birth of Goddess Lakshmi
Krishna defeating Indra
In addition to Hindus, Sikhs celebrate diwali as well as Buddhists and Jains, basically, as I said before, the whole of India more or less celebrates diwali.
As a child I used to love Diwali. The lead up to the day was the best times I have had in my life. The whole world would be light up for a week before Diwali and there was a deep sense of joy everywhere, even in my dad’s acrimonious household in Nabha!! You could not escape the sheer force of Diwali no matter who you were, how much love you had for your family and what your place was in the Indian society. The big feature, of course, was the firecrackers on the evening of Diwali. Frankly I used to hate the firecrackers and would “enjoy” them from a distance. The whole festival was loud and pollution from the firecrackers was intense but I LOVED it. There was scrumptuous foods, assortment of sweets and deserts, and lots and lots of enjoyable company throughout the evening and deep into the night.
I remember the day would start with us taking a bath and wearing new clothes and then going off into the market to window shop for firecrackers. This would take us to afternoon and we would drive to my dad’s house in Nabha from Patiala, where we lived.
My grandmother would then take us kids to the small temple behind the house and makes us pray even though we would looking at the sky to see how soon the sun would set so that we could start partying. We would them go to the intersection near the house and place diyas (earthen lamps) in the middle of the intersection and soon, it would become a make shift round about. That image for some reason is burned into my memory. I loved the look of the lamps in the middle of the intersection in dusk, with all the foot and scooter/bicycle traffic avoiding the lamps carefully.
We would then proceed to our house for the main prayer of the evening where everyone was required to attend. I remember that my grandmother would lead the prayer and everyone would join in although after sometime, everyone would start joking and making fun of each other while my grandmother would try, in vain, to shush all of us. Then all of us, from the senoir most onwards, would dip their palm in flat plate with clay like solution and then place it on the freshly painted wall in the temple. Again, I have no idea of the significance of the ritual but again, it is something I re-live every diwali.The whole time our ears were rotating about like a radar to hear the first signs of firecrackers so that we could begin our whining to leave the prayer room.
And once the prayers were over, we kids were let loose. Out came the packets of firecrackers (or in my case, the ones that did not make a huge boom) and we went to the roof (which was the highest in the neighbourhood giving us a vantage point on who had the best fire display going) and then we proceeded to drown out neighbourhood with various types of bombs, rockets, strings of small crackers etc. My uncle was big into spending as much as possible on firecrackers and when questioned why, he said that it is auspicious to spend money in Diwali so that it will bring him good luck. I think he just wanted to show off!!
This would continue for an hour or so (yes, that’s how many firecrackers we had!!) and then it was time to ignore the mess and go instead for a movie or just relax around while the elders indulged in another auspicious activity – gambling. Yup, it is auspicious to gamble in Diwali. It is supposed to bring you luck!!
Before we went to sleep, everyone made sure that the doors were unlocked and most of the lights in the passage were switched on. This was done to welcome the goddess Lakshmi who would bring us luck and wealth (something like Santa Clause with intangible benefits).
Now, living Canada, the holiday is completely devoid of any joy. Sure, we get together with the family during Diwali but the boisterous nature of Diwali is missing in Canada. The low point of course is trying to explain to your kids what Diwali means. I tried the other day to explain what Diwali is to my daughter, Rhea, and the whole conversation fizzled when I tried to explain to Rhea that she is Hindu and Hindus celebrate Diwali. And she kept insisting the whole time that she is not Hindu but a little girl!!
I leave you with something I found on Hindu Blog and wish you all a very happy Diwali :
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami on the Significance of Diwali:
The inner significance of Diwali is that it is a joyful celebration of the victory of good over evil, of our spiritual qualities dominating our basic instincts, intellect and ego. Light is a universal symbol of spirituality. Thus bringing more light into our homes and therefore our lives symbolizes each of us becoming a more spiritual person.
The light of the soul can transform our baser qualities of greed, distrust and hatred into selfless giving, trust and helpfulness. It can inspire us to be consistent in our efforts to progress on the path of spiritual unfoldment. And it can reveal to us our true identity as immortal souls living and growing in the great school of earthly experience.