Introducing the ancient,
Christmas-like Hindu celebration called
DIWALI: 5-8 November 2010
which lists as the 10th reason:
10. The Pope’s Diwali Speech: In 1999, Pope John Paul II performed a special Eucharist in an Indian church where the altar was decorated with Diwali lamps, the Pope had a ‘tilak’ marked on his forehead and his speech was bristled with references to the festival of light.
Diwali is also celebrated outside of India mainly in Guyana, Fiji, Malaysia, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad & Tobago, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Africa, Australia and the US among the Hindus across the world.
Ramdas Lamb’s article: Diwali: A Day Of Light and Liberation
Diwali […] brings together a variety of disparate religious and cultural traditions and beliefs, as well as historical events. Commonly referred to in English as the “Festival of Lights,” it is not only celebrated all over India, but it has been carried to all the lands where Indians have migrated as well.
Because of the close association of the day with Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, she is typically integrated into all the Hindu Diwali festivities. Nevertheless, among the many reasons Hindus give for the day’s significance, one of the most popular comes from the Ramayana, arguably the most read Hindu scripture in all of north India today. It relates the earthly life of the divine as Lord Rama.
In the story, just as Rama is about to be crowned king, his father is tricked into exiling him to the forest for 14 years. He is accompanied there by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. Near the end of the exile, the demon king of Lanka, Ravana, kidnaps Sita and imprisons her on his island. Rama, his brother, and his army of monkeys and bears build a bridge and cross over to Lanka, where a 10-day war is waged. On the 10th day of the combat, Rama kills the demon and cuts off his 10 heads. This battle is remembered in the nine day period of fasting known as Navaratri, followed by a celebration on the 10th day known as Dussehra (also “Dasara”). The first day of Navaratri is on the new moon of the month of Ashwin. Diwali is celebrated the following new moon to commemorate the return of Rama and Sita to their kingdom in Ayodhya after the defeat of the demon. Hindu householders typically prepare for the day by thoroughly cleaning their homes. New bedding may be bought and new clothing worn, while rows of lighted oil lamps or candles decorate homes, rooftops or courtyards to welcome back Rama and Sita. In the case of the latter, she is welcomed both as Rama’s wife but also as a form of Lakshmi. Boxes of sweets are given to family, friends and neighbors.
Ascetics of the Ramananda Sampraday, the largest order of Hindu monks and devotees of Lord Rama, see it more as a time of prayer and reflection, and many begin their commemoration from the first day of Navaratri. Some will undertake a fast or food restriction for the entire month (from Navaratri to Diwali). Others will begin a fast on Rama Ekadashi, which occurs four days prior to Diwali. It is a day on which many Hindu householders fast as well. On the day preceding Diwali, Ramanandis commemorate the birth of Hanuman, the divine in the form of a monkey who represents selfless devotion, with prayers and chants. Again, many will fast in his honor. Like with householders, monks will clean their temples or abodes in preparation for Diwali, and they spend the day itself chanting prayers and singing religious songs.
Anju Bhargava’s article : Out of Many, One: Diwali Illuminates Unity
The very foundation of Indian civilization is based on the pluralistic acceptance embodied in the ancient Vedic scriptures; the oft used perennial Vedic saying: “Ekam Sat Vipra, Bahudha Vadanti,” meaning, “The Truth is One. The Realized Ones describe the One Truth in several ways.” Acceptance of this edict gives citizens space to express their differences while finding a common ground. And, closer to home, Diwali shares a special connection with American values as it exemplifies the ideals of “E Pluribus Unum,” or, “out of many, one.”
The strength of the Dharmic culture is the multitude of ways in which the Puranic (ancient traditional) stories and epics are brought to life through colorful festivals and selfless service (seva). These stories and epics bring to surface the deep philosophical truths of the ancient Hindu scriptures, known as the Vedas. The Festivals often express the common Vedic tenets of Hinduism, and of other Dharmic cultures, making them accessible to people from all walks of life.
Festivals form a lifeline that binds the Hindu and Dharmic cultures to family, the community and to the country where they reside. Festivals connect and bring people together in camaraderie and service. Hindu festivals also reflect and sustain the underlying pluralistic values for diverse people to co-exist harmoniously.
Hinduism is the contemporary word used for the monotheistic “Sanatana Dharma” or Eternal Order. The joy and peace in human life is based on observance of this eternal order. In the Hindu approach, an integration of spirit, mind and body is emphasized for pursuit of happiness (ananda). Festivals play a very important role in Hinduism as they manifest this integration.
A festival is a joyful synthesis and expression of spirituality, religion, philosophy, culture, service and social values. The spiritual aspect is founded on the human instincts of joy and happiness. The philosophical aspect is grounded in the struggle between the forces of good and evil with the ultimate triumph of the former. This struggle and ensuing victory of good is to be celebrated and used as a reminder to us, and future generations, that selfless service and giving are an interwoven part of the traditions.
“Service which is given without consideration of anything in return, at the right place and time to one that is qualified, with the feeling that it is one’s duty, is regarded as the nature of goodness.” (Bhagavad Gita 17.20)
In bringing together people of all Indic traditions — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and others — the celebrations of the different aspect of Diwali create an interlocked mosaic.
For Hindus themselves, the festivities of Diwali are celebrated by many stories. Universally the celebration is the triumph of Good (Lord Rama or Lord Krishna) over Evil (Ravana, Narakasura, etc.).
You are welcome to share more links and ideas on this topic.
If you are wondering where in India I am writing to you from, it is a brand new town in southern India, called Swarnabhoomi, where I am planting the seeds of music education and world-opening vision for the future with a team of extraordinary people from all over the world, at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, India’s first professional college of contemporary music! You can take a virtual walk in the city here.
On this gratitude note, I wish you a great Diwali time, wherever you are!