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The Origin of the Festival of Lights – Diwali

In conjunction of celebrating Diwali, or Deepavali, I would like to share the origin of this Hindu festival that is celebrated in India as well by the Indian diaspora around the world. First of all, what is Diwali? In Sanskrit, Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps”, hence this five-day celebration is also known as the festival of lights as clay lamps known as diyas are lighted up to signify the victory of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.
Diwali is one of the major celebrations that is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhist, notably the Newar Buddhists where it is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month, Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). To learn more about the origin of Diwali, please continue reading.

“As quoted by Master Paramahansa Yogananda, “I see all of you as Light. You have no idea how beautiful even your physical bodies are, behind their outward appearances!””

In conjunction of celebrating Diwali, or Deepavali, I would like to share the origin of this Hindu festival that is celebrated in India as well by the Indian diaspora around the world.

First of all, what is Diwali? In Sanskrit, Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps”, hence this five-day celebration is also known as the festival of lights as clay lamps known as diyas are lighted up to signify the victory of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

Diwali is one of the major celebrations that is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhist, notably the Newar Buddhists where it is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month, Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November).

At the same time, the festival is widely associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, with many other regional traditions connecting the celebration to Sita and Rama, Vishnu, Krishna, Yama, Yami, Durga, Kali, Hanuman, Ganesha, Kubera, Dhanvantari or Vishvakarman. In northern India, it is celebrated as the day when Rama had returned to his kingdom Ayodhya with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana after defeating Ravana in Lanka and having to serve 14 years of exile.

However, in southern India, it is celebrated as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura, while in western India, Diwali marks the day of Lord Vishnu, one of the main gods of the Hindu trinity for sending the demon King Bali back to the nether world.

Meanwhile, in Jainism, it marks the nirvana or spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira and for the Sikhs, they celebrate Diwali because Guru Hargobind was released from a Mughal Empire prison.

Regardless of the purpose behind the celebration of Diwali, celebrants of the Festival of Lights will first clean their homes and make decorations on the floor, such as kolam and rangolis. At the same time, they would light up their homes with diyas and leave no room for darkness to enter, while their decorating their doorstep to welcome family members and guests.

And with that said, may the Festival of Lights be a representation of the lamp of your heart radiating Pure Love and Light to the world. As quoted by Master Paramahansa Yogananda, “I see all of you as Light. You have no idea how beautiful even your physical bodies are, behind their outward appearances!”

May the light of Diwali bring you joy, happiness, and ignite a way to reawaken your spiritual life.

Happy Diwali

Sources: History.com, USA Today, Trafalgar.com

Michael Teh, 4th November 2021.