The “Indian Christmas.” The “Festival of Lights.” The most important holiday celebrated in India, by members of the Indian diaspora and by other South Asians. But what’s the meaning behind Diwali?
Well, like most things Indian, the answer to that question is anything but simple. It means different things in different regions and communities – to those from North India and South India, and to Sikhs and Jains – and the length of the celebration varies from 1 to 5 days. One could write a (very long) book about this topic. We’re here to de-mystify and simplify the spiel.
Deepavali (or Diwali for short) literally means “a row of lamps” (deepa means an “(oil) lamp” and vali means “row”). The date is decided by the lunar calendar as so varies yearly, but generally falls in October or November.
The colloquial meaning (as manifested by various Diwali legends) varies, but the spiritual meaning is the same: it is essentially a celebration of the inner light of earthly beings – the Atman – the pure, infinite and eternal Atman – which outshines and transcends the physical realm. To know and realize Atman is to triumph over darkness, obstacles and ignorance.
Diwali is typically celebrated over the course of several days:
Day 1: Dhanteras: Celebrated mainly in North India as a day of wealth – an auspicious day for shopping of metal utensils and gold (date in 2009: October 15).
Bengalis celebrate this day as Kali Puja.
Jains recognize Diwali as the day Lord Mahavira attained Moksha (Nirvana).
Sikhs celebrate this as Bandi Chhorh Diwas – the day the Muslim Emperor Jahangir released Guru Har Gobind Ji (and 52 other princes) from prison – an important event in the Sikh freedom struggle.
So there you have it – a concise-as-we-can-be cheat sheet!
|leave a response, or trackback from your own site.You can|
2 Responses to “The Deal with Diwali”
Leave a Reply