May you be blessed with good fortune as long as Lord Ganesha’s trunk,
wealth and prosperity as big as His stomach,
happiness as sweet as His ladoos,
and may your troubles be as small as His mouse.
— Traditional Diwali blessing
Diwali (also known as Divali or Deepavali) is celebrated starting today, and continuing for five consecutive days. Diwali is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals in India, and possibly the biggest holiday on earth, in terms of sheer numbers of participants.
And it is certainly one of the most joyful. Celebrated by millions of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs everywhere, as well as many Buddhists, it is a “Festival of Lights.” In fact, the literal meaning of ‘Diwali’ in Sanskrit is ‘a row of lamps.’ The most widespread tradition of Diwali is filling little clay lamps with oil and wick and lighting them in rows all over the house, dispelling the darkness of evil, and celebrating the triumph of good.
Millions throughout the subcontinent regard it as a celebration of life and an occasion to strengthen family and social relationships. For Hindus it is one of the most important festivals, and the beginning of the New Year in some Hindu calendars, especially in northern India.
Diwali has many legends and religious accounts associated with it. Lights and diyas are lit to signifying the driving away of darkness and ignorance, as well as the awakening of the light within ourselves.
All that is good in mankind is concentrated in the deeds of the God-king Ram, the ruler of Ayodhya, and incarnation of Vishnu. Lord Rama is central to the celebration of Diwali which begins on this New Moon.
Ram, along with his brother Lakshman and devoted follower Hanuman, and an army of monkeys, fought a great battle for ten days, to rescue his lovely wife Sita, who had been captured by the terrible demon Ravan. Sita at last was returned to Ram and it is on Diwali that they both returned to His capital Ayodhya in triumph and glory.
In addition, the Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of good fortune and abundance is also honored at Diwali. She visits homes that are brightly lit, and festively decorated. People fix special foods, shoot off fireworks, and hold parties and fairs, melas, featuring rides, arts and crafts, acrobats, fortune telling and more.
May we never forget to shine our lights brightly, for we live in a world that needs us!
May kindness and awareness be ignited in the hearts of all!
Never forget, even as we enter the darkness, that love triumphs. Peace and goodness are contagious. Pass them on!