Most major 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. ‘Deep-daan’, is the term used for donating or 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 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.
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, these festivals of light still continue to be symbolic of victory of light over darkness; 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. Possibly it deters 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.