Happy Diwali, friends!
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is an annual five-day celebration that takes place in either October or November. Its dates depend on the lunar cycle and change every year. This year Diwali begins on November 14th.
Diwali is a festive time of year. First people clean and decorate their homes. They weave jasmine into garlands, hang twinkling colored lights, and draw lotus flowers out of dyed sand. Families visit temples and attend extra-special services dressed in beautiful, vibrant garments.
What is Diwali?
Although Diwali is most often associated with Hinduism, it is celebrated by various religious traditions. For Jains, Diwali in honor of the teacher Mahavira, who some believe was Gautama Buddha in a previous life. Sikhs celebrate Diwali to commemorate the liberation of Guru Hargobind from a Mughal prison. Some Buddhists worship Lakshmi and Vishnu on this very special day.
Even among Hindus, there are significant differences in why Diwali is celebrated, usually depending on what part of India one is from. Many Hindus from northern India recognize Diwali as the day that Lord Ram returned after defeating the demon-king Ravana.
The story of Ram’s victory over Ravana comes to us from the Ramayana, one of India’s most significant Sanskrit epics. The Ramayana tells the story of the life of Lord Ram, an avatar of the god Vishnu. According to the Ramayana, Lord Ram went to war with Ravana after the demon-king kidnapped his beloved Sita. Ram, his best friend Hanuman, and his brother Lakshmana searched high and low, far and wide for Sita. Ravana had imprisoned Sita on an island! After fourteen years, and much adventure, the war was won, Sita was saved, and the band of heroes returned to their rejoicing kingdom!
May abundance be with you this Diwali and always!
Whatever tradition one hails from, Diwali is ultimately a celebration of good overcoming over evil, light triumphing over darkness. Diwali is associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance. Lakshmi teaches us that true wealth is not created by acquiring more and more material goods. Rather, we are prosperous when we share what we have with others. This is how we participate in Lakshmi’s flow of reciprocity. Abundance is created when we generously share of ourselves- our talents, creativity, and intelligence- with those who have need of our gifts.
Perhaps that is why one of Diwali’s most loved traditions is going from door-to-door offering tasty treats to neighbors!