DEEPAVALI or Diwali means “a row of lights”. Deepavali is the biggest and the brightest festival in India. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness. It falls on the last two days of the dark half of Kartika (Karthika Masam) (fall usually in October - November). For some it is a three-day festival. It commences with the Dhan-Teras (Dhana Triodhasi), on the 13th day of the dark half of Kartika, followed the next day by the Narak Chathudhi (Naraka Chathurdhasi), the 14th day, and by Deepavali proper on the 15th day.
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs to mark different historical events, stories or myths but they all symbolise the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair and good over evil.
There are various alleged origins attributed to this festival. Some hold that they celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Kali. It also commemorates that blessed day on which the triumphant Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. On this day also Sri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura.
In South India people take an oil bath in the morning and wear new clothes. They partake of sweetmeats. They light fireworks which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day. They greet one another, asking, “Have you had your Ganges bath?” which actually refers to the oil bath that morning as it is regarded as purifying as a bath in the holy Ganges.
Everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by others. There is an air of freedom, festivity and friendliness everywhere. This festival brings about unity. It instils charity in the hearts of people. Everyone buys new clothes for the family. Employers too, purchase new clothes for their employees.
Waking up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4a.m.) is a great blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline, efficiency in work and spiritual advancement. It is on Deepavali that everyone wakes up early in the morning. The sages who instituted this custom must have cherished the hope that their descendants would realise its benefits and make it a regular habit in their lives.
On this day Hindu merchants in North India open their new account books and pray for success and prosperity during the coming year. The homes are cleaned and decorated by day and illuminated by night with earthen oil-lamps. The best and finest illuminations are to be seen in Bombay and Amritsar. The famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with thousands of lamps placed all over the steps of the big tank. Vaishnavites celebrate the Govardhan Puja and feed the poor on a large scale.
He who Himself sees all but whom no one beholds, who illumines the intellect, the sun, the moon and the stars and the whole universe but whom they cannot illumine, He indeed is Brahman, He is the inner Self. Celebrate the real Deepavali by living in Brahman, and enjoy the eternal bliss of the soul.
The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the stars, nor do lightings shine and much less fire. All the lights of the world cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of the Self. Merge yourself in this light of lights and enjoy the supreme Deepavali.
May you all attain full inner illumination! May the supreme light of lights enlighten your understanding! May you all attain the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self! May you all prosper gloriously on the material as well as spiritual planes!
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