Deepavali the triumph of light over darkness | Sunday Observer

Deepavali the triumph of light over darkness

Diwali or Deepavali is the most popular and eagerly anticipated Hindu festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the Hindu month, Kartik or Karthigai (October/November). This year it falls on Tuesday, November 6.

Hindus of Sri Lanka, India and many countries where they reside, either as permanent citizens or as expatriates are celebrating Deepavali, but in Tamil Nadu, the celebrations begin tomorrow, November 5. The festival is known as ‘Deepavali’ among the Tamil Hindus but in the other Indian states it is generally known as Diwali. Perhaps, it is the most important and the ancient of the Hindu festivals. It is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji. It is also known as “The Festival of Lights” and although it is not a practice in Sri Lanka in many parts of India families light small oil lamps (diyas) and candles around the home before setting off firecrackers and fireworks. Generally , Deepavali signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and renewal of life. In some parts, people also start new ventures on this day after performing Lakshmi Puja. This is marked by the lighting of lamps, candles and diyas by the womenfolk in the family. The light and colour add to the celebrations. It is a day to worship light and dispel darkness from the mind. Deepavali is a festival associated with wealth and prosperity in many ways.

For the Tamil-Hindus in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka, this is the tenth successive year of Deepavali celebrations with their kith and kin and in their own homes free from any fear of displacement or uncertainty about the future. The festival this time around is being celebrated in an atmosphere of peace with a majority of the war-displaced people fully resettled, their livelihood support and infrastructure facilities being progressively restored and their democratic institutions fully functional.

Incidentally, for the Tamil Hindus, the six-day “Kanthashasti Kawasam “ fast for Lord Skanda starts the very next day, i. e. November 7 , after the Deepavali celebrations, so that the celebrations will be strictly restricted to one day. For the children the major excitement on Deepavali Day is lighting crackers. They light sparklers, rockets, ground chakkars and a variety of other crackers. But the celebrations vary in different regions. The Hindus in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu rejoice on that day, all family members meeting in one place, visiting the elders and sharing moments of delight and kinship. The festival begins with everyone bathing, applying gingerly oil on the body, which is called ‘gangasnan’ , placing new clothes and sweetmeats before lithographs of deities with lighted oil lamps and thereafter wearing the clothes, paying their respects to the elders and getting their blessings. A majority of them go to the kovil for worship, mostly to the Maha Vishnu temple. Followed by that are the visits to relatives living in close proximity. Deepavali is the brightest festival to be celebrated among the Hindus. The delicious food associated with the feast with family members and relatives assembled in one place makes it memorable every year.

Historically, the origin of Deepavali ( or Deewali) can be traced back to ancient India when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of ‘Deepavali.’ Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha , the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day. In Jainism Deepavali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana. Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen- year- long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and lit crackers.

Another legendary belief is that it was to celebrate the day on which Lord Krishna vanquished the vilest and formidable demon Naga Asura. Another legend goes to say that it was on that day that Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom.