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Why Diwali is celebrated and what it teaches us
Posted By Sarin on Nov 10, 2012     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news

Diwali (Hindi abbreviation of Sanskrit word ‘Deepavali’) is a major festival of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism. Sanskrit word ‘Deepavali’ means array of lights and so diwali is popularly known as “Festival of Lights”. Commonly celebrated as the "Victory of Truth", it celebrates the victory of truth over evil, good over bad brightness over darkness, innocence over arrogance etc. that stands for victory of brightness over darkness.
In India, this festival is celebrated with great fervor, joy and gaiety. It is celebrated by people of all social groups, caste, religions etc, so as to commemorate the victory of truth and evil and spread the message of love, goodwill and harmony. This festival is celebrated by rich & poor, old & young, Hindus and Muslims throughout the country, thus reflecting the true unity in diversity of India.

Litting of earthern lamps in Dwali
Is Diwali National Festival of India?
It’s a strange irony that this festival of lights is celebrated on the darkest day of the year. I.e no moon day (Amavasya). This adds the significance of this great festival because the absolute darkness is outdone by plethora of Deepavali candles, firewroks, diyas and enjoyment. Since it is celebrated by 95 % of the Indians, It is now popularly called as the national festival though the constitution has not declared it, respecting the freedom and views of other faiths.
Each sects or group of Hinduism celebrates Diwali according to their own belief and tradtions. Many politically motivated modern day separatists celebrates diwali reasoning the worship of their own diety and deny celebrating the homecoming of Lord Rama after his victory against powerful mighty demon ‘Raavan’. In order to attract people of their faith, modern day politicians/separatist celebrates the festival of diwali by worshipping their own diety and justifies their actions either by making up new stories or by modifying existing stories.
Reasons behind celebrating Diwali
Ignoring all the political motives, we will go through all the reasons of celebrating diwali in this article.
  1)    Victory and Homecoming of Rama
    According to Ramayana, Ravan (King of Demons) kidnapped deceitfully Lord Ram’s wife (Sita) when lord Rama was comleting his 14 years exile punishment. Then Lord Rama made alliances with various other kingdoms, attacked Lanka, killed him, released Sita from the custody and returned on his way to ayodhya. After 14 years of exile and his feat of defeating mighty demon Raavan & conquering Lanka, Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya on a new moon day of Kartik with wife sita, brother lakshman and greatest devotee of all times ‘Hanuman’. When he returned, there was absolute darkness and no one was able to see the paths and roads of ayodhya. To welcome their king and show him way to his throne, all the Ayodhya citizens gathered and lighted rows of clay lamps on the paths of ayodhya. While elders were busy lighting clay lamps, childrens celebrated the homecoming of their beloved king by bursting crackers, sharing sweets, cuddling each other, and illuminating the entire city of ayodhya with beautiful lamps. Thus, this festival got it name Deepawali, meaning rows of lamps, which citizens of ayodhya lit for their beloved king. All inhabitants of ayodhya who were plunged in ocean of sorrow and separation for fourteen long years lighted lamps to celebrate the completion of his exile in his forest thus expressing their joy and happiness on this auspicious occasion. Lord Today, after millions of years, this homecoming of lord Rama is commemorated not only in ayodhya, but in every major city of the world, provided no Hindus live there.  

All deities honouring Rama on return to ayodhya.
According to scriptures, while lamps were lit on the streets of ayodhya, forest were lit by Jugnus, who showed the lord way to his kingdom. Even plants and animals showed their happiness by showering flowers and howling, gushing voices.
Ram represents goodness, love and positive things while Ravan represents bad, evils and negative things. Therefore, Diwali is celebrated as the victory of good over evil. On Diwali, people light lamps which are positive energy to conquer over darkness, symbol of negative energy.
Today, this event can be considered as highly relevant with the lives of whole mankind. Our heart is like kingdom of ayodhya while our soul is lord Rama. Due to materialistic desires and misconceptions, we have abandoned soul from our heart (Exiled Lord Rama). Just like ayodhya, our heart has become a ghost town, looking for negativity and materialistic desires, infested with self-destructive feelings like boredom, anxiety, depression, loneliness, prejudice, stress, anger, Sex, envy, and hatred. Like citizens of ayodhya, our heart is filled with lamentation, sorrow and emptiness. Only difference between our lives and citizens of ayodya is that their greif was due to love and separation from the lord while our grief is due to wrong misconceptions, false materialistic desires and filthy greeds and expectations. In pursuit of materialistic mundane goals like - entertainment, wealth, sex, enjoyment, power, fame, and position, we forget the sole purpose of our life. Despite attaining fame, wealth and power, humans remain largely disappointed with unfulfilled lamenting desires as long as they don’t ignite their inner self, don’t welcome their soul or don’t do their activities for the happiness of the soul.

Seven stages of enlightenment
So, lighting of lamps is not enough as long as you are not lighting up you soul. In short, celebration of Diwali is incomplete if we restrict ourselves to just lighting lamps, bursting crackers, decorating houses etc.  All of us are spiritual beings, having sould belonging to supreme god, which we eternally enthrone through our bad activities. When we exile soul from our hearts, we also exile ourself from the love and care of the supreme god. Illusioned in materialistic desires, we play cheaps tactics and pursue imaginary goals, but end up inviting only distress, sorrow and disappointment. Even when we exile lord from our heart, he doesn’t exile us from his heart and constantly guides us and shows us various ways to achieve him, his love, his devotion and ever-protecting shelter. The way to reach him is by grasping true knowledge from ancient sacred scriptures and acting according to the message of the scriptures like chanting holy verses, chanting holy names, chanting holy verses etc.  
In conclusion, don’t just light up earthern lamps; let us also light up our soul with divine love, wisdom and true knowledge.

2. Birth of Lakshmi
Diwali is also celebrated as the birth anniversary of Goddess Lakshmi. As per the belief, Goddess Lakhsmi (daughter of king of Milky Way) re-incarnated on earth on the new moon day of Hindu month ‘Kartik’.  
Exact story goes like this
At one point of time, both Asuras (demons) and Devas (Dieties) were mortal (Mrita). Like every human do, they went in search of immortality and found a way of drinking nectar (Amrita) by churning the ocean ("Samudra-manthan"). Along with other divine celestial objects, Goddess Lakshmi also came up from the depth of milky ocean (astronomically known as Milky Way). She was immediately married to Lord Vishnu and brilliant lamps were litted up to celebrate this holy occassion. Since she brought peace and prosperity to mother earth, Goddess Lakshmi is venerated by lighting candles, igniting lamps, to seek her blessings for attaining wealth, fame and prosperity.  

Goddess Laxmi-Goddess of wealth and prosperity
Another story commonly old in tribal areas is “Once in a kingdo in north india, there lived a poor man with one daughter in law and two sons. Poor man asked his daughter-in law told to bring anything while coming back to home from work but one day she found anything except a dead snake. She brought the dead snake home and kept it on the roof of the house. Same da in his kingdom, an eagle took away queen’s precious gold necklace post which queen demanded the precious necklace at any cost. King immediately announced huge rewards to the one who brings the necklace back. Flying over the city, on seeing the dead snake, he dropped the necklace and took away the dead snake. Unaware of the situation, poor man gave the necklace to his daughter in law. When her daughter heard about the reward, she gave the necklace to the king and asked his house to the only illuminated house in reward. On the day of Diwal, only the girl house was illuminating and the entire city was black. Seeing only one house lighting up, goddess lakhsmi approached the house but was interrogated by the poor man daughter in law. She laid the condition that she can visit the house only has a bride so that she can stay forever.Goddess laskhmi agreed to her innocence and duplicated herself to marry the elder son. In this way, prosperity and wealth stayed in the poor man forever.”

3. Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi:
In Srimad Bhagavatam, there is a story on how Lord Vishnu, in his fifth incarnation as Vaman-avtar, rescued his consort ‘Lakshmi’ from the prison of King Bali, who ruled the entire world in that era.
BALI, the grandson of Prahlada was a very valorous and mighty asura (Demon). By his penance and might, he conquered the whole world. Indra and other gods fearing that he and other asuras (Demons) would attack heavan, abandoned heaven.  This upset Indra's mother, Aditi. She, along with Rishi Kashyap, her husband, prayed to Lord Vishnu to restore the glory of the Devas (Deities).As Usual, lord intervened and was then born as a dwarf Vamana in the household of a brahmana(priest).

Lord Vishnu as Dwarf ‘vamana’
In the guise of a short Brahman, carrying a wooden umbrella, He then went to Bali requested as much land (To live) as he could cover with his three steps.  Although he was very violent with Devas (gods), he was very wise and perfect king otherwise.  
Bali was probably, relaxed, thinking of the small amount of land that the little foot-size of the Vamana could cover and delightfully committed to granting three steps of land. The Supreme God enlarged himself to such dimensions as to stride over the three worlds. He had grown so huge that with one-step he astrode the whole earth and in the second he, encompassed the heavens. King Mahabali, then recognized the Transcendental Being of Vishnu, disguised as Vamana. There was no place left where Vamana can put his third step. The pious and truthful Mahabali, kept his promise. He bowed down before the Omnipotent Power and offered his head, for putting the third step.  Seeing his devotion and  generosity Lord Vishnu granted him life, gave him lamp of knowledge and gifted immortality by allowing him to return to earth every yar to light millions of lamps to remove darkness of ignorance by radiance of love, wisdom and knowledge.

4. Return of Pandavas  
According to mahabaharata, The five Pandava brothers, their wife Draupadi and mother ‘Kunti’ were very honest, truthful, kind, gentle, caring and were loved by their subjects.

Five pandavas and Wife Draupadi in exile punishment
However, their step brothers (Durodhan and others) tricked them into gambling and ordered them on 12 years deceitful exile and one year exile incognito (Agyatvaas).  To celebrate their prince arrival in their kingdom, citizens of hastinapur lighted earthern lamps everywhere to felicitate this joyous occassion. It is said that on Kartik Amavashya’, Pandavas appeared from their 13 years of rigorous banishment and hence, the festival of diwali is celebrated to mark his return from exile.
5. Krishna killed Narakasura
Once there lived Demon Narakasura who Captured 16000 queens post defeating their kings. Unable to see the tyranny of the demon, devas (Dieties) pleaded Lord Krishna to save the inncoent queens. Lord Krishna destroyed demon Narakasura on the new moon day of karthik and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity.  The celebration of their freedom was celebrated for six days with earthern lamps.  

Killing of narakasura
According to another version to this story, death of Narakasura is credited to Lord Krishna's wife Sathyabhama. It is said that Narakasura had the boon of getting killed by only mother Bhudevi and as Satyabhama was an incarnation of ‘Bhudevi’, she killed him. However before death, Narakasura realized his mistake and requested a boon of celebrating his death from Satyabhama.Today, his death is celebrated with earthern lamps, two days before day of Diwali as Naraka Chaturdasi,  

6. Coronation of Vikramaditya:  Vikramaditya, the legendary Indian king, who ruled the greatest empire of the world, right from iran in the west to Thailand in the south, well known for his valour, courage, wisdom, and magnanimity was coronated as king on day of Diwali following his victory over the Sakas. In state of Karnataka, this day is celebrated grandly to mark his contribution to Indian history.

7. The Enlightenment of Swami Dayananda Saraswati:  
Highly acclaimed modern sage Swami Dayananda Saraswati, One of the greatest reformers of Hinduism and founder of Arya Samaj (Noble Society), attained nirvana (enlightenment) on auspicious occasion of new moon day of Kartik (Diwali). On this day, he was given the title ‘Maharshi Dayananda’, meaning ‘great sage Dayananda’ and Every Diwali; this great reformer is honoured by Hindus all over the world.

Swami dayanand saraswati
8. The Enlightenment of Vardhamana Mahavira:  
Diwali is special not only for Hindus, but also for jains. Jains accord Diwali as the day of enlightenment of Vardhamana Mahavira (24th  & last Tirthankaras and also the founder of modern Jainism (527 B.C)). Also the chief disciple of Mahavira Ganadhar Gautam Swami attained complete knowledge on day of diwali, thus making Diwali as their major festival. Jains celebrate Diwali for three days by fasting and chanting the Uttaradhyayan Sutra, which contain the final and most sacred message of Lord Mahavira. For jains, Diwali stands for the celebration of the enlightenment of human spirit from materialistic desires

Mahavira attained Nirvana at Pava.

9. Special Day for the Sikhs:
Diwali has a very important place in Sikhism because on this day, the foundation stone of their most sacred place (Golden Temple) was laid in 1577. Their Guru, Amar das, declared Diwali as an occasion for all Sikhs followers to receive their guru blessings and teachings. Further, on the day of Diwali in 1619, their sixth Guru, Hargobind Ji, held captive by Mughal Emperor Jahangir, was released from imprisonment accompanied by 52 other Hindu Kings whom he had requested to be released. Since, many detainess were released on the day of diwali; Sikhs usually calls Diwali as Bandi Chhorh Divas, meaning "day of releasing detainees".

Sikh devotees lighting candles at Golden Temple in Amritsar on the occasion of Diwali
After his release, Guru Hargobind Ji went to golden temple where the people illuminated earthern lamps to honor and welcome their beloved Guru. After this event, Sikhs illuminate their gurudwara and homes every year with earthern oil lamps and candles. Also, Sikh devotees take a sacred dip in the lake adjoining golden temple and recite Japji Sahib, to purify their soul and mind.
Baba 'Avtar' Singh, a member of traditional Sikh religious warriors' Nihang Army�, clad a 300 meter-long turban and pays his respects at the illuminated Golden Temple
10. Goddess Kali:  

Goddess Kali is the first of the 10 incarnations of Lord Shiva's consort Goddess Durga. According to Scriptures, when devas (Dieties) lost the battle against the Asuras (Demons), Goddess kali was born from the forehead of goddess Durga as �Kal Bhoi Nashini�. Personification of Naari Shakti (female power), Kali saved both the world (Earth and heavan) from the tyranny of the demons. Even after killing all demons, her anger didn�t subside and she started killing everyone coming her way. Seeing this, lord shiva immediately intervened to stop her but she didn�t stop. So, lord shiva went under the feet of maa kali. This event is well deicted with lord shiva lying under feet seeing which Ma Kali, with her tongue hanging out, repents at his act.
Goddess kali on lord shiva
In Bengal and some other areas, this momentous day is celebrated by venerating goddess kali so as to destroy both internal and external evil and also to seek her blessings for health, wealth, happiness and peace.

11. The Harvest Festival:  
Diwali falls at the time when the rich rice cultivation is ready to be cropped. India being pre-dominantly an agrarian society celebrates this day as harvest festival.
12. Hindu New Year day:
Acoording to Hindu calendar, Day of Diwali is the Hindu New Year. On this day, Business man offer pujas, begins their financial new year and pay off all debts to begin their new year fresh with zeal and enthusiasm.
To conclude, there are many reasons to celebrate diwali and almost all relgions and sects of India celebrate diwali to commemorate heir own belief. No matter what the cause is behind its celebration, Diwali has become the aesthetic festival of all Indians and hence, a national festival of India.
Lights of diwali in absolute darkness commit us to do good deeds, which will bring us closer to divinity. Earhern lamps illuminate every corner of India with scent of incense sticks travelling through the air mingles with the sound of bursting fire crackers to give the feeling of joy, togetherness and hope.

Festival of Diwlai is celebrated by people of all caste, creed, and religion, age and gender because it has more kinda spiritual significance than religious significance. So whether you are Hindu, Muslim, Jews, Parsi, or any other faith, fell free to celebrate this grand festival, thereby lighting the lamp of your soul leadint o inner happiness,joy and wisdom.

Diwali teach us to learn from our previous mistakes and celebrate your victory of virtue and truth over dark forces of ignorance and evil. Giving proper and true education to our younger generations is very significant to preserve our culture, customs, traditions and heritage. Diwali symbolizes the passing of valuable lessons, morals and wisdom to get rid of cruelty, greed, and injustice in our society. Festival of Diwali encourages our diverse communities to celebrate together the spirit of peace, truth and friendship through dance and music.
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