Our Brahadaranya Upanishadic prayer:
Asathomaa sath gamaya, thamaso maa jyothir gamaya
Mruthyomaa amrutham gamaya om shanthi, shanthi, shanthi!
||Lyrics transliterated in english
||Meaning in English
|असतोमा सद्गमय ।
तमसोमा ज्योतिर् गमय ।
मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय ॥
ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः ।।
|asato mā sadgamaya
tamasomā jyotir gamaya
Oṁ śhānti śhānti śhāntiḥ
|From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality
Om peace, peace, peace
Yes “FROM DARKNESS LEAD ME TO LIGHT”
Here are two specific days today and tomorrow- Deepavali Day –twenty Fifth and twenty Sixth October this year- FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS.!
In any religion, festivals and prayers have deep meanings which many do not seem to appreciate well. Many a time criticize also unfortunately!
This DEEPAVALI, otherwise called DIWALI is one such. Those against would refer to the exorbitant expenses the festival imposes, air pollution thanks to crackers, likely accidents due to indiscriminate fire crackers etc. etc.
Coming from a family of humble means, I recollect Deepavali in my childhood days-say right up to my teens- when we had to make the purchases of dress just on the night of the first day when the merchants will sell at a cheaper rate to clear their stock! I mean nineteen forties and early fifties!!! Similarly crackers for a couple of rupees!! My mother will do sweets and snacks at the cheapest cost!!! We used to look at those rich who used to fire 1000 valas and 5000 valaas with awe!!!
DEEPA AVALI-Deepavali –is ‘keeping the lamps in line’ that emit lot of light around and thus expelling darkness. The festival has religious, spiritual and social significance and dimensions making this Festival an all India pervasive!
Like every other festival in India, Diwali has a rich history. The reasons to celebrate the festivals of light can be traced back to ancient India. As several religions developed, more and more explanations and stories got attributed to this day. There are different legends associated with Diwali, which vary from region to region in India.
Legends of Diwali
Following are the Hindu legends associated with the festival of Lights: :
Return of Ram to Ayodhya
The most popular legend associated with Diwali is the legend of King Rama. Diwali is the day when Rama returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and defeating the demon king Ravana who abducted Sita, wife of Rama. People of Ayodhya were absolutely ecstatic at the homecoming of Rama and rejoiced by lighting up their houses and distributing sweets to each other, a tradition still followed by all those who celebrate the festival.
Legend of Narakasura
According to this legend, Diwali is the day when Narakasura was killed by Krishna. It is believed that Narakasura had availed a boon of long life from Vishnu. He created havoc in all the three worlds and started assaulting women. It is said that Narakasura requested Krishna that his death should be remembered by all, and this is the reason why the day is celebrated as Narakachaturdashi.
Incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi
Goddess Lakshmi was born when Devas and Asuras were fighting over nectar while churning the ocean. Goddess Lakshmi decided to give nectar to the Devas.
Return of Pandavas
It is believed that Pandavas returned to their capital Hastinapura on this day after twelve long years of exile. And the occasion was marked by people by lighting earthen lamps (diyas).
Legend of King Bali
Diwali is also believed to be the day when King Bali was sent to Patala by Lord Vishnu in his Vamana avatar. Fearing the rising influence of King Bali, Vishnu asked for as much land as he can measure with three of his steps. He measured the entire earth and heaven with two steps and by placing third at the head of Bali (at his request), sent him to Patala.
Coronation of King Vikramaditya
It is believed that legendary king Vikramaditya was coronated on the day of Diwali, giving another reason to people to celebrate the festival.
Diwali as a Harvest Festival
Diwali was initially celebrated as the festival of harvest. It is the time when farmers in India reap their harvest and worship the Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of prosperity & wealth) by offering Her portions from fresh harvest.
History of Diwali in Sikhism
Also known as the Bandi Chorr Devas among Sikhs, the festival is celebrated to mark the release of the sixth guru of Sikhs – Guru Hargobind Singh from the Gwalior Fort, along with 52 other Hindu princes in 1619. When Emperor Jahangir agreed to release the Guru at the demand of the Sikhs, the Guru announced that he would not leave without other captive princes. Clever Jahangir declared that only those princes who would be able to hold the Guru while he is leaving the prison would be released along with him, knowing that all the princes won’t be able to hold the Guru. The Guru got a garment made which had 52 strings. Each prince held one string and thus the Guru was successful in getting all the princes released. Sikhs celebrated this day by lighting Golden Temple. Also, the foundation stone of Golden Temple was laid on the day of Diwali in 1577.
Significance of Diwali in Jainism:
Festival of Diwali is of importance to the Jains as it is on this day that Lord Mahavira (Last Jain Tirthankar) attained Nirvana. It is said that Mahavira attained Nirvana in the presence of several Gods who enlightened Mahavira and eliminated darkness from his life. Also, Ganadhara Gautam Swami (Chief disciple of Mahavira) gained Kevalgyan (complete Knowledge) on this day.
Importance of Diwali in Buddhism:
Buddhists celebrate Diwali to mark the conversion of emperor Ashoka to Buddhism on this day. The festival is known as Ashoka Vijayadashami among the Buddhists and they celebrate it by praying and decorating the monasteries.
PART II will be posted tomorrow