Diwali, the festival of lights. One of the most auspicious festivals associated with Hinduism. A festival as unique and bright as the land of India is associated with mysticism and exoticism. A festival which finds its unique counterpart in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. A festival with legends behind it. A festival which challenges the cosmos and converts a dark, dreary, sombre ‘Moonless’ night into a vision filled with lamps and candles, set to bedazzle.It is a festival of joy, light and splendour.
Legend has it that this was the day Lord Ram made his way back into the holy city capital of Ayodhya from where he was banished as per the evil design of his step-mother Kaikeyi and her aide, Manthra, fourteen years ago. The residents of the capital were overjoyed to have their prodigal son back in their fold after such a long, torturous wait. No way where they letting the would-be King be welcomed in a pall of darkness. So, out came the candles, lamps and chandeliers and the night was transfused into day. Amidst peals of joy and laughter, Lord Rama retuned with his wife, Sita and brother Lakshmana to his kingdom and ever since that day the day is commemorated with the belief and the joy that the rightful have found their place.
In another part of India, more specifically Eastern India, the moonless night is set to worship the most powerful Goddess in Hindu retinue, the all potent MaaKali, the dark Hindu deity, who is epitome of strength and formidable courage. The Sikhs commemorate this day to celebrate the release of their 6th guru, Sri Hargobindji from the Gwalior Jail by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. The victory of good over evil makes its presence felt in each of these stories.
Hindus all over prepare for it days before by going on a massive cleaning spree and cleaning every nook and corner of their homes, offices and personal spaces, putting in fresh coats of paint , if need be to spruce up their surroundings for the celebration. 48 hours before the actual festival is the Dhanteras in which people throng to the markets to buy new metals, electronic items, home utility goods, jewellery and clothes to prepare for this grand celebration.
On the actual day of the festival, the idols of Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi are worshiped in every house and office. Lamps are lit, houses and streets are decorated, the whole country seems decked up like a bridal procession. New clothes, finery, sweets are bought and distributed amongst friends and relatives. Gifts are showered on this day and dices roll in obligatory rounds of gambling which is considered to be auspicious, if played on this particular day. Firecrackers are lit, late that night. In keeping with the rising pollution levels and ozone layer depletion, the need of the hour is to opt for greener Diwali, which means less combustible crackers and more of gatherings and bonhomie along with good food and happiness.
Narrate the tales and stories to the children, make the occasion a ruse for getting together with family and friends and celebrate the day with light and happiness.