The Festival of Lights
by Sukhmani Kaur
Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is one the most important festivals celebrated in India. It usually falls on a moonless light at the end of October and lasts until the beginning of November. The celebration is a mixture of Christmas, with gift giving, and the 4th of July, due to the fireworks commonly associated with this holiday. Participants decorate houses with candles, oil lamps, and electric lights to welcome Laxmi, the “Goddess of Wealth,” in hopes of being showered with wealth that day.
According to Hindu legend, Lord Ram returned to his home in Ayodhya along with his wife, Sita and his brother, Lakshman after having been banished to live in the jungles for 14 years. His homecoming marked his triumph over nature and also against Ravan who had abducted Sita from their jungle home. The villagers of Ayodhya welcomed Ram, Lakshman and Sita by decorating and illuminating their village with oil lamps.
For Sikhs, this day holds a special significance. It is also called “Bandi Chor Divas” or the “Day of release of the prisoners.” The sixth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, had been imprisoned along with 52 other Hindu kings in the Gwalior Prison. When he was granted release, he asked that anyone who could hold on to his clothes would be granted freedom also. All 52 kings held a string from his shawl and walked out of the fort to freedom. When Guru Hargobind Sahib returned to Amritsar, the holy land of the Sikhs, he was welcomed with much pomp and jubilation. Residents lit up their homes with oil lamps to express their heartfelt joy at seeing the return of their beloved Guru.
Jains celebrate this day as the day when their leader, Lord Mahavira attained “moksha or salvation”. They decorate their homes with lights in celebration of this attainment.
In Bengal in eastern India, this festival comes after Durga Puja. In West Bengal Goddess Kali is worshipped during Diwali. As the lights keep away the darkness, Goddess Kali drives away the evil forces in our world.
Overall, during the festival everyone is well dressed and jovial. At night, the people illuminate their houses, walls, and terraces with oil lamps and candles. The glittering lights in the darkness of night present a bewitching spectacle. Diwali is thus the symbol of the triumph of the forces of good over evil.
Due to the whole country honoring Diwali, a more unified place is established among the people. Indians have been celebrating this festival for thousands of years and continue to celebrate it even today.