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Religion 101: 10 Interesting Reasons to Celebrate Deepavali

Temple USA Religion Deepavali

Deepavali, known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Malaysia, reflecting the country’s rich tapestry of cultures. The Malaysian Indian community, along with Jains and Sikhs, engage in vibrant traditions that include lighting oil lamps, known as diyas, and creating intricate kolams (rice flour artworks) to decorate their homes. Image source: Merchant Circle)

I finally managed to get Ubuntu LiveCD running – more on it next week (after the long holidays)

It’s time for the Hindus to celebrate Deepavali, the Muslims to celebrate Aidilfitri, and the rest of the Malaysians to enjoy almost 5 days of holidays (I refrain from using the word “Deeparaya” which has been an issue for some). Although I can’t talk much about Aidilfitri, I found this website that talks about 10 mythical and historical reasons why Diwali (Deepavali) is a great time to celebrate for us Hindus.

Lakshmi Deepvali Hindu Religion Hinduism

Goddess Lakshmi is a central figure in Hindu mythology, revered as the goddess of wealth, fortune, power, and beauty. She is one of the principal deities in Hinduism and is considered an embodiment of prosperity and abundance. As the consort of Lord Vishnu, Lakshmi also represents the divine energy and is associated with the concept of Maya, or illusion. Image source: Learn Religions

Goddess Lakshmi’s Birthday

Deepavali, or Diwali, the luminous festival of lights, is deeply intertwined with the legend of the Goddess Lakshmi, symbolizing prosperity and wealth. According to Hindu mythology, Lakshmi emerged from the cosmic ocean during the primordial churning, known as samudra-manthan, which took place on the new moon day of the Kartik month.

This celestial event was a pivotal moment in the cosmic saga, involving both gods and demons in a quest for the nectar of immortality. The appearance of Lakshmi, adorned with divine grace and bearing gifts of fortune, is celebrated by lighting lamps and distributing sweets, signifying the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.

Her incarnation is revered on this auspicious day, as devotees clean their homes, adorn them with lights, and pray for her blessings of abundance and success. The festival of Deepavali thus honors her divine qualities, inviting prosperity and warding off the shadows of misfortune, reflecting the spiritual richness and cultural heritage that has been cherished across generations.

Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi

The tale of Lord Vishnu’s fifth avatar, Vamana, is a fascinating episode from Hindu mythology that intertwines with the festival of Deepavali, illuminating the reasons behind the worship of Goddess Lakshmi. Vamana, a Brahmin dwarf, approached King Bali, who was known for his generosity, and asked for as much land as he could cover in three steps.

When Bali consented, Vamana grew to an immense size and covered the earth and the heavens in two strides. With nowhere to place his third step, Bali offered his own head, an act of such humility that it granted him immortality and Vishnu’s protection.

This story symbolizes the victory of humility and dharma over pride and is one of the reasons Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu and the embodiment of wealth and prosperity, is venerated during Deepavali. The festival, marking the triumph of light over darkness, is a time when Lakshmi is worshipped to invite good fortune and success into one’s life.

Deepavali

Lord Krishna is a pivotal figure in Hinduism, revered as the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu and also worshipped as a supreme deity in his own right. His life and teachings are celebrated in various Hindu texts, most notably the Mahabharata, where he serves as a charioteer and guide to the prince Arjuna, imparting the spiritual wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita. Image source: Oleg Churakov on Unsplash

Krishna Killed Narakaasur

The story of Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon king Narakaasur is a significant narrative in Hindu mythology, particularly resonating during the festival of Deepavali. According to legend, Narakaasur was a tyrant who imprisoned 16,000 daughters of the gods and saints in his harem.

On the day before Deepavali, known as Naraka Chaturdashi, Lord Krishna, accompanied by his wife Satyabhama, engaged in a fierce battle with Narakaasur. In a dramatic confrontation, Krishna overpowered the demon king, who had been granted a boon that he would only meet death at the hands of his mother, Bhudevi. Satyabhama considered an incarnation of Bhudevi, was the one to ultimately slay Narakaasur, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

The rescue of the imprisoned women was a monumental event, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. This victory is celebrated over two days, with the second day marked as Deepavali, symbolizing the light of knowledge and consciousness dispelling the ignorance and unconsciousness represented by Narakaasur.

The Return of the Pandavas

‘Kartik Amavashya,’ the new moon day in the month of Kartik according to the Hindu calendar, holds a significant place in this epic. It marks the end of the Pandavas’ long exile, a period of hardship that tested their resilience and virtue. The return of the Pandavas was a momentous event, met with jubilation by their loyal subjects who had long awaited their rightful rulers.

The lighting of earthen lamps symbolized the dispelling of darkness and the victory of light over shadow, truth over deception, and righteousness over treachery. This act of lighting lamps has transcended the narrative and become a part of a timeless tradition, observed even today as a symbol of hope and renewal.

The ‘Mahabharata’ continues to be a source of moral and spiritual guidance for millions, with its stories resonating through the ages, reminding us of the eternal values of honesty, bravery, and justice.

Deepavali Rama Hinduism

Lord Rama, a major deity in Hinduism, is revered as the seventh avatar of Vishnu and is considered one of the most popular figures in the faith. His narrative, which is central to the epic Ramayana, details his life as a prince of Ayodhya who embodies the highest moral and ethical principles. Image source: Medium

The Victory of Rama

The return of Lord Ram, Ma Sita, and Lakshman to Ayodhya is a pivotal moment in the ‘Ramayana’, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. The new moon day of Kartik, known as Diwali, marks this joyous occasion when light overcomes darkness.

It is said that the people of Ayodhya, in their elation, adorned their city with countless earthen lamps, their flickering flames a warm welcome for their beloved king and his companions.

This act of lighting lamps is a tradition that continues to this day, as millions around the world celebrate Diwali by decorating their homes and public spaces with lamps, candles, and electric lights, reflecting the enduring legacy of this ancient epic.

Coronation of Vikramaditya

King Vikramaditya, renowned for his valor and wisdom, was crowned on the auspicious occasion of Deepavali, marking a significant historical event. This coronation, which took place in 56 BC, is not just a tale of royal ascension but also a reflection of the deep cultural and spiritual significance of Deepavali.

The festival, also known as Diwali, symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. It is celebrated with great fervor, where people light earthen lamps to honor the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya, the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon Narakasura, and the emergence of Goddess Lakshmi from the churning of the ocean.

The coronation of King Vikramaditya adds another layer to the festival’s rich tapestry, intertwining royalty with the collective consciousness of victory and enlightenment. The tradition of lighting lamps, which began with his coronation, continues to this day, symbolizing not only the joy of the people at their king’s ascension but also the eternal hope that light will always prevail.

Deepavali Arya Samaj India Hinduism

Arya Samaj is a significant Hindu reform movement that was established in 1875 by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. It promotes the authority of the Vedas, the ancient Hindu scriptures, and advocates for values and practices based on Vedic teachings. The movement emphasizes monotheism and seeks to purify Hinduism by returning to what it considers the core principles of the Vedas, rejecting ritualistic and idolatrous aspects that have been added over time. Image source: India Today

Special Day for the Arya Samaj

Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati, a prominent figure in the Indian cultural and spiritual renaissance, is best remembered for his role as a bold reformer of Hinduism and the founder of the Arya Samaj. His life’s journey culminated on the new moon day of Kartik, coinciding with Deepavali, a festival symbolizing the victory of light over darkness.

It was on this auspicious day that Maharshi Dayananda attained nirvana, marking the end of his earthly sojourn and the beginning of his legacy as a spiritual luminary. His teachings emphasized the return to the Vedic scriptures, advocating for a rational and ethical approach to spirituality. He denounced superstitions and ritualistic practices that deviated from the Vedic ideals, urging a return to a more pure and enlightened form of worship.

His influence extended beyond spiritual realms, contributing to the social and political spheres by inspiring the Indian freedom movement and promoting the concept of Swaraj, self-governance. The impact of his work and his call for ‘Back to the Vedas’ continues to resonate, fostering a universal brotherhood and a society based on noble virtues as delineated in the ancient texts.

Special Day for the Jains

Mahavir Tirthankar, also known as Vardhamana, is revered in Jainism as the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankara (spiritual teacher) of the present cosmic age. While he is not the founder of Jainism, which is an ancient religion, he is credited with revitalizing and reforming the faith during his time.

Mahavir’s attainment of nirvana, which is the release from the cycle of birth and death, is a significant event in Jainism and is commemorated during Deepavali. This festival, known as the Festival of Lights, coincides with the Hindu festival of the same name but holds a different significance for Jains. It marks the moment when Mahavir achieved moksha or liberation at Pavapuri on the dawn of Amavasya (new moon day) of the Kartika month.

The tradition of celebrating Deepavali in Jainism dates back to the time of Mahavir’s nirvana when the kings and heads of the clans lit lamps in his honor, symbolizing the light of his teachings that continues to guide Jain philosophy.

Deepavali Sikhism Hinduism India Sikh

Guru Amar Das, born on May 5, 1479, was the third of the ten Gurus of Sikhism and served as a spiritual leader from 1552 until his death in 1574. He is revered for his contributions to Sikh doctrine and the establishment of practices that have shaped the faith. Notably, he introduced the Manji system, which organized trained clergy to spread the teachings of Sikhism, and compiled hymns into a Pothi that later became part of the Adi Granth. Image source: Sikhsewak WordPress

Special Day for the Sikhs

Deepavali, known as the Festival of Lights, holds immense significance in Sikhism, particularly due to the historical events associated with the Sikh Gurus. Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru, transformed Deepavali into a day of great importance for Sikhs, a time for congregating and receiving the Guru’s blessings.

This tradition was further enriched when the foundation stone of the iconic Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib, was laid in Amritsar on Deepavali in 1577. The temple stands as a testament to the inclusive nature of Sikhism, welcoming all irrespective of caste, creed, or religion. Another pivotal event occurred in 1619, when Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru, was released from imprisonment in the Gwalior Fort by Mughal Emperor Jahangir.

Notably, Guru Hargobind secured the release of 52 kings alongside him, which is commemorated during Deepavali as Bandi Chhor Divas, meaning ‘the day of liberation’. These historical moments are not only central to the celebration of Deepavali among Sikhs but also highlight the values of freedom, justice, and community that are core to the Sikh faith.

The Pope’s Deepavali Speech

In a profound gesture of interfaith harmony and respect, Pope John Paul II’s participation in the Eucharist at an Indian church in 1999 was a historic event that symbolized the Catholic Church’s recognition of cultural and religious diversity.

The Pope’s forehead adorned with a ’tilak’, a significant Hindu mark of respect and blessing, and the altar illuminated with Deepavali lamps, traditionally used in the Hindu Festival of Lights, were powerful visuals that resonated with the spirit of inclusivity. His speech, rich with references to Deepavali, underscored a message of unity and the shared pursuit of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

This event not only reflected the universal values shared across different faiths but also highlighted the Church’s commitment to dialogue and understanding among different religious communities.

Happy Deepavali, Selamat Hari Raya and Happy Holidays to everyone…

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