DIVALI, Diwali or Deepavali – whichever word you use, it refers to the eagerly anticipated Hindu festival of lights. Renowned for being the time for mouth-watering curried vegetables, sumptuous roti and delectable sweets, Divali is quite possibly the most significant religious period in the Hindu calendar.
This year, as we celebrate Divali on Sunday October 27, 2019, here are ten interesting titbits of information you may not have known:
- The festival stretches over the course of five days, not one! However, the holiday for Divali falls on the third day of celebration and is considered by Hindus to be the beginning of the New Year.
- The date for Divali changes every year for a reason. The festival is scheduled to take place on the darkest night during the period known as “Kartik” which usually falls between mid-October and November.
- The night before Divali, you may have noticed Hindus lighting a single deeya and placing it at the front of their homes. This is called a “Jam ke Deeya.” It is believed to serve as an invitation to the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Mother Lakshmi, to come into and bless their homes for Divali.
- Many believe that on Divali night, Mother Lakshmi roams the Earth blessing the faithful with wealth and happiness. Homes must be clean, or she may not come in!
- Victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and that good will always conquer evil. These simple concepts lie at the heart of the celebration of Divali. The global appeal and acceptance of these concepts may be one of the reasons why Divali is celebrated on such a large scale by millions of all cultures, all over the world.
- Divali is said to mark the day the Hindu god Lord Ram returned to his homeland of Ayodhya in India, after vanquishing the evil demon king Ravan and rescuing his wife, Sita. Deeyas were lit across the country to celebrate his victory and return home, a tradition maintained to this day.
- The lucrative business of firecrackers and fireworks are not part of traditional Divali. They have no religious or cultural basis for their use on Divali, as researchers have not found any evidence they were used to welcome Lord Ram back home to Ayodhya. They simply found their way into the festival by their very nature of being items used generally for celebrations.
- In preparation for Divali, Hindus normally observe a period of fasting which can range from days to weeks, with 21 days being popular. Fasting usually takes the form of abstinence from intimate relations and from consuming meat, eggs and alcohol. Fasting normally culminates in the performing of Lakshmi pooja on the day of Divali where prayers are offered for peace, wealth and prosperity.
- Hindus have traditionally been preoccupied with ensuring no harm is done to the environment, by using non manmade or biodegradable materials where possible. Thus, it will be appreciated that deeyas are made of the soil called clay, the oil is extracted from coconuts and the wicks used to light the deeyas are threads made from the cotton plant. Suhari leaves are used as plates, and food are eaten by hand.
- Many Hindus do not leave their home on Divali night. It is believed that Mother Lakshmi is supposed to visit houses at night to bless the occupants living there. After going through all the work of cleaning and decorating the home and lighting deeyas to invite her in, as good hosts, they must remain at home to welcome her when she comes.
Divali is a time for prayer, peace, introspection and togetherness. As we celebrate Divali 2019, I leave you with a prayer for all occasions, all seasons and for all of humankind:
asato ma sadgamaya
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya
om shanti shanti shanti.
From the unreal lead me to the real,
From darkness lead me to light,
From death lead me to immortality,
May there be peace.
© Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.
Disclaimer: This article is based on personal knowledge and publicly available articles and information. There may be differing views on some of the matters mentioned. The author is not a spiritual advisor and the contents herein are not to be construed as advice religious, cultural or spiritual in nature.