A Cultural Festival
A Cultural Festival
Diwali is a Hindu festival that lasts five days and commences on the thirteenth lunar day of the Hindu calendar. Perhaps Diwali is the most popular of all Indian festivals and is celebrated by all Indian communities. It is informally referred to as the light festival because common practice involves lighting small oil lamps that are placed around the house, gardens, verandas, and courtyards. The celebration of Diwali is accompanied by explosion of fireworks and exchange of sweets. Similar to other Indian festivals, Diwali signifies diverse things to Indian people. People in North India celebrate Diwali to commemorate Rama’s homecoming after defeating Ravana (Torpie, 2009). Conversely, the festival in Gujarati signifies the goddess Lakshmi and the Bengal associate it with the goddess Kali. These significations have ensured that Diwali remains relevant since time immemorial.
As stated, celebrating this festival involves igniting lights and firecrackers. Illuminating the home and the sky implies giving curtsy to the heavens for knowledge, prosperity, wealth, peace, and health. One belief for example states that crackling sounds from fireworks indicates making the gods aware of the people living on earth (Walkup and Moreno, 2006). Another belief is centered on scientific facts. Lighting firecrackers emits smoke that kills mosquitoes and other insects that dominate India.
Indians normally wear new clothes when celebrating every day for five days. The first day is referred to as Dhanteras, the second Naraka Chaturdasi, the third Lakshmi, the fourth Padyami and the fifth Yama Dvitya. Each of these days holds its myth, legend or tale. The first day, for example, marks Krishna’s vanquish of the demon Naraka. The third day is set aside to honor the goddess Lakshmi and ask for good health the following year. Women commemorate the last day by inviting their brothers into their homes (Walkup and Moreno, 2006). Celebrations in this festival also include singing and dancing as the participators celebrate their spiritual rebirth. What strikes me in this festival is the fact that it lasts five days. In many cultures, festivals last one day and in rare cases extended into the next day. Thereafter, people resume their daily routine.
There is not much variation between the current and the ancient Diwali celebration. Previous commemorations signified the awakening of a person and becoming one with all things thus bringing peace. However, Indian legend has it that the first celebrations of this festival allowed people to engage in gambling. People in these celebrations favored playing dice. Gambling in the early celebrations was a may of wishing good financial tidings in the days to come. In this era, Diwali was associated with wealth and prosperity. Overtime, the meaning of Diwali changed gradually to spiritual cleansing and rebirth.
While Diwali is
commonly perceived as a festival of lights and merry making, the main aspect
behind it is the spiritual awareness of one’s inner spirit. Hindu philosophy is
centered on the belief that beyond the mind and the physical body is an
eternal, infinite, and pure spirit known as Atman. Celebrating Diwali therefore
implies good overcoming evil. It refers to light from higher knowledge dispersing
ignorance. Such ignorance compromises a person’s true nature (Torpie, 2009).
According to Diwali, a person’s nature is not their physical attribute but
their transcendent and infinite spirit. Just as people celebrate birthdays,
Diwali celebrates rebirth of the inner spirit.
Torpie, K. (2009). Diwali. New York: Crabtree Pub.
Walkup, N., & Moreno, C. (2006). Diwali: The Festival of Lights. Schoolarts: the Art Education Magazine for Teachers, 105, 9, 46-47.