These Festivals of Light…of Hope, Faith and Love  

Most of the prominent festivals celebrated by us humans, irrespective of faith or religion, are in some way a Festival of Light.

Not all are referred to as that, but they are so because lightening up of the surrounds – to whatever degree – is an essential part of Diwali, Christmas, Gurpurab, Eid and many others that I have unintentionally not listed here.

Festivals of Light are also festivals of darkness, for they go hand in hand. But how’s it so?

Light seems bright only because of darkness. Try lighting a lamp during the day. During broad daylight in a well lit room, if we accidentally put our electric bulbs and tube-lights on, we put them off instantly…‘Oh! That was accidental. We don’t need you as yet. Let darkness arrive!.’

And when after its long and tiring work-day, as sun begins to set and darkness takes over charge…that’s when we definitely and immediately need light in any form, howsoever little.

Thus if there’s no darkness there would be no value of light. Darkness renders light indispensable to us. In moments when darkness is unbearable and fearsome, it is the illuminating light that provides everyday comfort, while taking away our fear of the unknown thus adding to our happiness.

All in all, these facts were well known to our human ancestors who thronged the earth ages ago. Hence, after their initial hit and trials of rubbing stones to produce fire (and light) they experimented in all possible ways to create light so as to make their lives easy.

In very olden days, esp. here as I talk in the contexts of India, when there was no electricity, people depended on earthen lamps, candles, lanterns to get rid of physical darkness and facilitate visibility.

At the same time, they very keenly sought spiritual light in the form of ancient wisdom that’s written all over in the ancient books.

“Aum Asato ma sad gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mṛtyorma amṛtam gamaya
Aum shanti shanti shantih “

The above lines in Sanskrit that were taken from the Upanishads textbooks mean –

“From Ignorance, lead me to Truth;
From Darkness, lead me to Light;
From Death, lead me to Immortality
Peace, peace, peace !!” –

Given the importance they gave to the very concept of light, those days in India offering ‘light’ to others in any form was considered a noble task of charity. ‘diwali-smallDeep-daan’, is the term used for thus donating light, that is lighting a ‘deep’ or an earthen lamp for others. It’s a charity of light, and the purpose was to help others dispel darkness around them.

So, from what I’ve heard, after sunset our ancient people used to habitually and regularly go to choraha – the road-crossings and light a lamp there.

Numerous such lamps would become a full-fledged light system, and these groups of lamps would illuminate the pathway of every passer-by. This was esp. beneficial on the darkest of nights, and that’s what it is on every Diwali night, as it is a new moon or moon-less night each Diwali.

Moreover, thus lighting up each other’s path meant not only illuminating others’ path but simultaneously radiating your own path as well.

Yes!!  Lighting up others’ path automatically lights up your own path as well.

But. In order to light up somebody’s path, you have to have a light of your own, even if it‘s meant to be given away to others.

So, please do give it a thought.

Nowadays we don’t have any dearth of man-made electronic light devices. But even now, although we take light for granted, this same light continues its traditional role of giving us happiness. Thousands of years later, this festivals of light still continue to be symbolic of light’s victory over darkness and victory of goodness over evil.

In my immediate surroundings, on my street here in Sydney, I feel we need more street-lights as it sometimes gets too dark. Reporting this to the council has not yielded forth any positive results yet. So everyday, at around sunset time, I make sure I put on the lights in my outer verandah and outer porch.

This light overflows to the street beyond my house and possibly helps people coming home late, esp. as many university students do that. It probably deters the thieves as well.  I do this for few hours each day, particularly on the darkest new-moon nights that have no moonlight of its own.

Help those who have no light of their own, no hope and love; those who have lost their inner light and brightness. That’s the true essence of every festival.  That is, other than wearing good clothes and eating lots of sweets.

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Mysore Palace in South India here lit up for Diwali

Some more Diwali Pictures as Ornate as can be.

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14 thoughts on “These Festivals of Light…of Hope, Faith and Love  

  1. Happy Diwali, Alka. Best wishes to you this festive season. This was such a great write-up about the meaning behind the festival and gives so much context about why light and brightness is valued in Indian culture. I hear that light also deters bad spirits, and of course, light gives us warmth.

    “Lighting up others’ path automatically lights up your own path as well.” Such a brilliant way to put it. Totally agree with you. I suppose that can be in relation to being positive to others: being positive to others, sharing and helping along the way, we in turn feel at peace. After all, we’re all human and aren’t perfect.

    Also, I was wondering if you could clarify – growing up in Singapore and Malaysia, we referred to Diwali as Deepavali. What’s the difference? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mabel for the wishes for festive season that for us Indian-Australians is a whole mix of Indian festivals, and continues all the way up to Christmas that I celebrate with equal zeal.
      For a traditional Diwali, oil is poured in little earthen cups called diya or deep, then cotton wicks are put in it, and lighted. As for bad spirits, it was traditionally assumed that if we use mustard or sesame oil to light these lamps, all the negative energies and germs in the air dissipate. But these days not everyone does that and people use tea-lights or electric lights as well…same as in Christmas.
      Yes, lighting up others’ path is exactly what you interpreted. Anyone’s path can be darkened by negative experiences and thoughts, and it is for the happy people to not make fun of the unhappy ones but help them in their bad times.
      Diwali I suppose is a shortened version of Deepawali that is a sequence of ‘deeps’ Deep as I stated earlier is that little light in clay cups. In North India it’s called Diwali and in the South they use the word Deepawali…not sure though 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy Diwali Alka! I hope you are having a great time. 🙂
    Festival of lights is a symbol of love, togetherness and happiness, which doubles when we celebrate in a bigger group. As children we looked forward to this festival only to have fun bursting crackers, which were the main attraction, hardly realising the hazards associated with them!
    Now it is more of understanding the message behind such festivals, which bring the families together to inculcate the values, subtly enshrined in them.
    Thanks for sharing this multi-dimensional article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy Diwali to you too Balroop! For me it was low key.
      You’re right…it’s about togetherness but in general over time we end up redefining our festivals. Now it’s about keeping the festivals alive, passing on values, and merry-making in whatever way we can. Of course fire crackers that were an essential part of our childhood are now a big hazard in India. At such a large scale the way the are, they are no more enjoyable but people don’t stop playing up with nature.
      My articles meander this way and that way :)…whatever comes to my mind at the moment. But that’s the beauty and freedom of blogging

      Like

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