I am in the midst of yet another Diwali or the festival of lights, the air replete with sound of fire-crackers and the night sky bursting into a riot of colours emanating from aerial and terrestrial fire-sparklers and fountains. Even though celebrated across India and few of the Asian countries, Diwali is at its resplendent best in the north, east and west regions of India.
Cleaned up homes colourfully illuminated and the frontage decorated with rangoli designs, folks attired in their fineries, friends and relatives visiting one another and exchanging boxes of sweets, performing pujas at homes and offices to propitiate Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, are some of the visible manifestations of Diwali adding to the general atmosphere of gaiety and warmth.
At a deeper level, the festival is a celebration of victory over evil, love over hatred, truth over falsehood, light over darkness and the triumph of knowledge over ignorance. Light as a metaphor of divinity is glorified in the Bible as “Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” Exhortation is to always walk in the light so that one attains supreme and everlasting bliss without being overtaken by darkness. Bhagavad Gita makes the same prescription to achieve salvation in the words “There are two ways of passing from this world— one in light, and one in darkness. When one passes in light he does not come back but when one passes in darkness he returns”. Each person is an aggregate of several virtues and the lighted lamp at Diwali is in veneration of the many facets of virtue and goodness such as patience, love, mercy, benevolence, strength, knowledge and informed leadership. The wick and the oil in a lighted oil lamp symbolise the human being surrounded by earthly comforts derived through the sense organs. The oil makes the wick burn but the wick must stay above the oil level to remain lit, not if the wick is fully immersed in oil. In the same way, we need to engage in worldly comforts by maintaining appropriate detachment to be able to attain abiding happiness, not if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by earthly gratifications. The exploding fire-crackers and bursting sparklers denote the eradication of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed and other vices within to create space for true self-illuminating happiness.
The festivities also create the setting for people to bury differences, forget and eliminate hatred and unhealthy rivalries accumulated over previous months, and get together in a spirit of accommodation and oneness, to delight in the sense of renewal and regeneration arising from sharing new ideas and best practices. What better occasion than Diwali, invariably falling on the longest and darkest night of the year to dispel ignorance and usher in the radiance of knowledge and wisdom. For the dull and uninformed, Diwali may not mean anything beyond an event of empty rituals and stale custom making a once-in-a-year appearance; to the refined and enlightened individual, the festival is a glorious reminder of the numerous victories, filling our everyday span of 86400 seconds, in terms of negativities eliminated, love magnified, knowledge enhanced and life fulfilled. In the universal spirit of Diwali, may I wish all my readers every happiness extending into the year ahead and beyond…