The aesthetics of the festival of lights: Diwali
By Prabalta Rijal
Nov 12, Kathmandu: Lights are lit as the Hindus across the world are captivated by the festival of Deepawali. As we enter the day of the festival, it is a delight for every passer-by with a single glance of the houses decorated by the garlands which glitter by the night with the waves of colourful light. Music and food coupling with exchange of warm wishes between the cheerful faces is what it makes this festival even engaging. You would love yourself to be around.
But very few are aware of the significance of the festival of lights, the way how it is celebrated and the days it lasts. For many still believe that Diwali is a one-night festival but there is a lot more to Diwali -- also called Deepawali or Tihar -- than what meets the eye.
The Origin of Diwali
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to the ancient Indus Valley civilization, and it is believed to be an important harvest festival. However, for some people it is the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In Jainism, Deepawali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana.
For many Hindus across the world, Diwali is the celebration of the return of Lord Ram from his fourteen-year-long exile. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps).
The Four Day Fiesta
Unlike other festivals, Diwali is a four-day festival that unifies the family and friends, it is a festival where all enmity is forgotten and peace prevails.
The first day of the festival is called Chaturdasi, marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. In Nepal, the first day is called Kaag Tihar, and on this day the crows are fed and though there are various myths linked to this tradition, it is believed that the reason it was first started was to instill love and respect for birds in a child's heart.
Amavasya, the second day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of 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. On this day, young girls in Nepal go out at night from house to house playing Bhaili, as they are messengers of goddess Laxmi, who have been sent to give blessings. Laxmi pooja is an all-night festival and those who aren't playing Bhaili are usually playing dice and gambling.
It is believed that on the third day of Deepawali — Kartika Shudda Padyami that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. On this day in Nepal, children go out at night giving blessings sent by King Bali. This day is also marked as Mah pooja in the Newar Community, it is the worship of one-self. Though these rituals may seem peculiar to many, these traditions have helped in instilling self-confidence. Knowing that each person is special and unique, it helps us love oneself.The fourth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya or Bhai Tika in Nepal and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. On all four days of Tihar/ Deepawali candles and diyas are lit through the night as a symbol of hope and end to ignorance and the victory of good over evil.
The Tradition of Deusi and Bhailo
It is very common to see children and young people going from house to house singing chants such as: "Hariyo Govar le Lipe ko, Laxmi pooja gare ko, Aaja Aaunsi ko Dina Gai Tiharo Bhailo"….. Much like Trick or Treating on Haloweens, children and youngsters go house to house all night dancing and performing songs, dances and chants giving blessings and telling the world that they have been sent by King Bali with blessings from God. The two nights of the Deusi Bhailo tradtion is unique to Nepal and is played by almost every child and youth and even ageing men in the country, regardless of the faith they belong too.
And Finally, The tradition of Gambling
Tihar/Deepawali cannot be complete without gambling. It is believed that during Tihar, Lord Shiva plays Kauda (dice) with his wife Parvati. Thus those gamble during diwali are believed to have have prosperous year ahead. So unlike most festivals, Diwali is a South Asian festival of fun and games, lots of fire-crackers and lights, it is a festival love, peace, joy and harmony.
The Spiritual Significance of Deepawali
There are four aspects to Deepawali that make it so special:
Forgiveness: Deepawali is about giving and forgiving. We have always been told to learn to forgive others and on Deepawali every form of enmity is put aside and forgiveness is celebrated. It gives us an opportunity to start our lives afresh, with the people who mean the world to us. It brings enemies close and friends even closer.
Unity: On Deepawali the entire community comes together to celebrate the festival of lights. Children and youth go from home to home with their musical bands and troupes bringing joy to all the homes they visit, and in a way unifying the whole community.
Progress and Prosperity: As Goddess Laxmi is worshipped as the symbol of wealth and prosperity, the business community tends to start new bank accounts and plan for the next year on this particular day. Also on this day, the entire community comes together and gives alms and food to the poor.
Realization of self: Diwali isn't just about illuminating our homes with light, it is the time of the year that we clear our thoughts and light up our souls. We need to realise that we too are special in our own ways and light up the self-luminous inner light of the self, which is ever shining steadily in the chamber of your heart. So, relax, close your eyes withdraw your senses and focus on the supreme light, because Deepawali is also the celebration of eternal bliss.
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