Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Sunday, November 03, 2013

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Happy Diwali/Bandi Chhorh Divas to everyone! (: 

For those of you who aren't familiar with Diwali, it's an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji and is generally celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. It's a religious celebration which involves lighting small clay lamps filled with oil, or diyas, to signify the trump of good over evil. Everyone cleans their homes from top to bottom and then keep the diyas lit during the night. However, the reasons behind the celebration differ based on the religions that are practiced.

For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year. It's a four day long celebration to commemorate the return of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman from fourteen years of exile and the death of the demon-king Ravana. Some also believe it to be a celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu. Nevertheless, each of the four days has its own traditions. 

Lakshman, Lord Rama, and Sita (x)
The first day is Naraka Chaturdasi and it marks the death of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. This is when everyone does "spring-cleaning" and cleans their homes until they're spotless.

The second day, Amayasya, celebrates the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who defeated the tyrant Bali and banished him to hell. Legend says that Bali was allowed to return to Earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and radiate love and wisdom. Most people start setting up for Diwali by decorating their homes with diyas and creating rangoli, or design patterns made out of colored powders or sand.

The third day, Kartika Shudda Padyami, is the day Bali comes back to Earth. This is the main day of the celebration when everyone comes together to pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and then have huge firework displays.

 On the fourth day, Yama Dvitiya (aka Bhai Dooj), brothers go and visit their married sisters.

Lord Mahavira (x)

For Jains, Diwali marks the anniversary of when Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankar, attained Nirvana. Instead of having huge firework displays and lavish feasts, Jains prefer to celebrate in a more simple and calm atmosphere by decorating their temples, homes, offices and shops with diyas, which symbolize knowledge.

Swetambar Jains fast for three days in honor of Lord Mahavira's sacrifice. In temples and homes, they sing and chant hymns from Jain religious scriptures and recite verses from the Uttaradhyayan Sutra, which contains the last teachings of Lord Mahavira. They also visit Pawapuri, a holy site for Jains, on this day to offer their prayers.

For Sikhs, Diwali or Bandi Chhorh Divas, celebrates the release of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, and 52 princes from prison. Emperor Jahangir had imprisoned Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and 52 princes. When asked to release the Guru, the Emperor agreed but said that the Guru could only take those who could hold on to his cloak to leave with him. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji made clever use of his words by attaching 52 tassles to his cloak so that the princes could all leave with him. Because of this, the Guru became known as Bandi Chhorh, or deliverer from prison. He arrived at Amritsar on the day of Diwali and Harmandar Sahib (the Golden Temple) was lit with hundreds of diyas to celebrate his return.

Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji returning with the 52 princes. (x)
This day also commemorates the martyr of Bhai Mani Singh Ji, the head granthi, or keeper/read of Sikh scripture, of the Golden Temple. He also transcribed the final version of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh holy book. In 1737, Bhai Mani Singh Ji received permission from Zakariya Khan, the Mughal governor of Punjab, to hold a religious gathering of Sikhs to celebrate Bandi Chhorh Divas for a tax of 5000 Rupees. Bhai Mani Singh Ji was going to put together the large sum of money from contributions made by the Sikhs who would come that day but he soon discovered that Zakariya Khan was planning on killing the Sikhs during the gathering. So he sent out messages warning the Sikhs to not come. Because of this, he couldn't pay the tax and Zakariya Khan order Bhai Mani Singh's execution.

Sikhs have a one day celebration on Bandi Chhorh Divas in Gurdwaras, or Sikh temples, in the evening by lighting diyas and singing hymns from Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Fireworks are also apart of the celebrations!

I, myself, am of Sikh faith and am going to Gurdwara tonight to join in the celebrations! I hope you guys have learned a little more about Diwali than you did before and hope you have a wonderful Diwali!

Sources: One, Two, Three

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  1. So interesting! What a great reason behind the celebration - to signify the trump of good over evil - I love that.

    Thanks again for sharing.
    Best wishes, Danielle xo