India is a land of festivals. Almost all the religions of the world are found in India. Among the festivals of the country, Deepavali, which is also called Diwali is one of the widely celebrated festivals. ‘Deepavali’ means ‘a row of lights’. It is a festival full of lights, joy and celebration. It is celebrated with an unending row of lights from the little diyas made up of clay. Deepavali also symbolises the victory of good over evil, light over darkness.
Although Deepavali is a festival of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains also celebrate the festival. Deepavali has always been a celebration of life and a way of strengthening the family. There are several tales regarding the origins of this festival, but they all share a common theme – that of good triumphing over evil and light overcoming the darkness.
According to mythology, Deepavali is celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. The people of Ayodhya, who were extremely delighted for the return of their beloved prince Rama, lit up diyas everywhere in the empire as a symbol of the victory of good over evil. Since then Deepavali has been celebrated.
According to another story believed in South India, Deepavali is linked to Lord Krishna, who battled and killed the cruel demon king, Narakasura, thus saving the people from years of oppression. This slaying was seen as the end of a dark era and thus the festive lights act as a reminder that darkness can only be dispelled by light. The day Narakasura was killed is being celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi.
As both the legends are related to Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi is also worshipped during Deepavali. Lakshmi pooja is one among the rituals that are practised during the five-day long festivities. Lakshmi, being the Goddess of wealth, is worshipped in order to bless the family with better wealth and prosperity. During the earlier days, cows were considered to be the indicators of the wealth of a family. Cattle were a major part of life. With a gratitude to the service the cattle offer to the mankind, ‘Go Pooja’ is offered to the cows.
Deepavali is the festival that unites families. Family members who are scattered in various parts of the world come back home to take part in Deepavali. Every house gleams with the diyas, nested lights, and the ever attractive fireworks. As early as 3 am on Deepavali morning, the most senior family member in many Hindu families anoints the forehead of the younger generations with three drops of oil before they take their bath. This represents having taken a dip in the sacred Ganges river in India. Wearing new clothes is a must, with many donning traditional Indian apparel in bright colours. But now-a-days the scenarios are no more the same. The celebration of festivals has also become a form of showcasing than following the rituals and the tradition.
No children are told the mythological stories and the reasons behind celebrating festivals like Deepavali, but are provided with a hand full of crackers to mark the festival. The bonding, togetherness, oil bath, ‘go pooja’ and other rituals are almost gone in the city lifestyle. Deepavali is more of a woman-centered festival, as it worships Goddess Lakshmi. Deepavali is not only observed in India, its neighbouring countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka, other Asian countries that mark Deepavali include Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Japan. It is even celebrated as far away as Australia, Britain, Guyana in South America, Fiji in the South Pacific and Mauritius in East Africa!
Bursting crackers on Deepavali is a fun-filled entertainment, but at the same time certain precautions are mandatory to have a safe and happy Deepavali. Always confirm that the crackers brought are from authorised manufacturers or dealers. At any cost avoid bursting local or home-made crackers as they are not tested for safety. Wearing loose clothes or long robes may elevate the chance of catching fire, and should not be worn anywhere near the fireworks or any other fire source such as candle, diyas.
Majority of the mishaps happen on the Deepavali occasion, when people step on the still hot spent sparklers and the misfired crackers unknowingly. To be on safer side, always keep a bucket full of water nearby, so that the spent sparklers and misfired crackers can be disposed in that bucket of water. It is important to make sure that the crackers are not accessible to the kids in the absence of the elders. Always keep the emergency numbers such as Ambulance, Fire service ready at hand.
The festival is of light. Any mishap during the bursting of crackers can take away the light from life. The colourful festival should spread harmony, love and brotherhood among the people. Celebrating the festival with crackers should also remain as a non-disturbing act of enjoyment and care should be taken about the pets. As India is marching to be ‘Swacch Bharat’, it is the responsibility of us, citizens to make it come true. May this Deepavali bring all the goodness and prosperity to the doorsteps!
– Shreeharsha C M