Divali-Halloween
Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

Divali and Haloween come around the same time of the year. Dīvāli is a Hindu festival of lights, celebrated over a five-day period in autumn (Oct-Nov 2016) by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs... It depicts victory of virtue over evil, light over darkness, science over nescience (knowledge over ignorance), and hope over despair. Divali is now celebrated all over the world by Hindus and others since it promotes human values.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, October 22, 2016 (Khaleej Times): Australia's iconic Sydney Opera House is about to turn golden for a night in celebration of Diwali, the traditional Indian festival of lights. New South Wales Premier Mike Baird will visit the Opera House next Friday night to witness its color change. Before that, Baird is expected to attend a traditional Hindu ceremony at the Museum of Contemporary Art here. From 8 p.m. to midnight the Sydney Opera House will shine golden, and the illumination will be visible along the harbor. Diwali, which celebrates the conquest of light over darkness and truth over ignorance, is celebrated by Indians all over the world. It falls on October 30.

Halloween is a Christian celebration, honoring the dear departed souls, martyrs... Hinduism practices Pitru Yagna, an annual event wherein the living pay tribute to the departed family members.

During Divali and Halloween, children have the most fun and gorge on sweets.

Chocolate and Indian Rainbow-colored Sweets

Dīpa (தீபம்) is Light. Āvai (ஆவளி) is row (of lights). The Supreme Soul is the Light and the individual soul is the fire. Man's mind has a recess of darkness and is a repository of many afflictions: Egoism, jealousy, aggression, haughtiness... We should burn these unwelcome qualities by the fire of wisdom and enjoy the descent of Light of wisdom in our soul. Light is illumination of the soul in Hinduism. In Halloween, Light in the Jack-o'-lantern is the soul of the departed, looking for a final resting place. That resting place is heaven in both religions.

Below is the NASA image of India with Divali Lights brightening the whole of South Asia..

 NASA Image during Festival of lights, Divali

The Purāṇas list many reasons for the celebration of Dīvāli in stories.

Ramah, the epitome of goodness completed 14 years of exile in the forest. When he returned home with Sita and Lakshmana, the subjects welcomed him with glee, glow and lights.

Krishna was Varaha Avatar (Lord Boar). Krishna and Bhudevi had an asuric (demonic) son  in Kokamukha in today’s Nepal. Hindus celebrate the festival of Lights on his death anniversary.  It is reckoning with the evil in each one of us and a determination to eliminate them. It is purification of body, mind and soul.  Krishna (Satyabhama) killed the demonic Narakāsuran (the evil in us), the day, he requested celebrated as the Festival of Lights. Wherever Hindus live, the festival is celebrated.

In Skanda Purana, Siva takes Sakti as his left half and becomes Ardhanarīsvarar upon her completion of a 21-day Kauthāra-gauri Viratham (கௌதாரகௌரி விரதம்). Ardhanarisvara, Sakti and Siva in one bodyWomen and unmarried girls observe this Viratham (Virata, vow, observance) for inseparable long life with their husbands and obtaining a good spouse.

Kètāram is the cultivable fields down the slopes of the Himalayas, where Siva appeared as Svambhu-lingam (Kètārīśvarar). Sakti-form Parvati performed Viratham and became Ardha-nāri. The day she became part of the body of Siva in the form of Ardhanarīsvarar is marked for observance. Since she did the penance under the Banyan tree, it is called Kètāra Gauri Viratham. Since she worshipped Īśa, her name is Kètārīśvari.

The story of Viratham.

Siva and Parvati in Kailas with celestials witnessed a dance performance by sage Bhringi, who after the performance, paid homage to Siva and circumambulated Siva excluding Parvati. In a fit of annoyance, Parvati left for the Āśrama of Gautama Muni. When Gautama returned to his hermitage, there was a new brilliance to the Āśrama. Where there was drabness, cheer spread like sunshine. He concluded it was Ambika's presence for the effulgence.

Gautama: My homage to you, goddess. What is the reason you came to my hermitage?

Parvati: I want to become one half of the body of Tapasvi, my husband Siva. I need your help.

He raked his brain and researched Purāṇas and other sacred texts, and came up with a solution: Kètèsvara Viratham.

Gautama: Here is the procedural details of observance of Viratham.

Parvati observed the Viratas for a 21-day period. She merged with Siva and became the left half of the body of Siva and now offers grace to the devotees in that form.

Ambika (Parvati): My great God, my husband. Please confer all graces and opulence to a woman or girl who makes this vow and completes it.

Siva: So be it. 

Demonic Hirayāksha (Golden Eye) hid the Vedas.  Mahavishnu went to the deep underworld and vanquished the demon. Later Bhudevi gave birth to a son, Bhauma (son of Bhūmi = son of the Goddess of earth), who after much penance obtained a boon from Brahma that stipulated he would not die except in the hands of his mother.

Later he went by the name Narakāsuran (demon from hell) because of his atrocities on humanity.

Bhudevi at the time of Avatar of Krishna took birth as Satyabhama, who forgot she was the mother of Narakāsuran in previous birth.  Krishna coached her as a charioteer, an accomplished warrior with bows and arrows, sword fighter...   He served as her charioteer.

In the war against Narakāsuran, Krishna was injured and fell down pretending to be unconscious.

Finding her husband in the precarious condition between life and death, she went to war with Narakāsuran and killed him. Realization came Narakāsuran was her son who sustained death from her (mother).

People celebrated his death anniversary with lights as a preventive measure, reminder and prayer that parents should not beget evil sons. This was the request Satyabhama made to Krishna.  People received boon that the oil lamp becomes sanctified, the oil for the lamp is pervaded by Mahalakshmi, and the water for use becomes pervaded by Goddess Gagā Devi.

Image: Divali Lights-Wikipedia.org

A row of Divali lights

Dīpāvai comes on a New Moon day when the sun and the moon dwell together. Meat, fish, eggs... are avoided on that day as they engender sin. Sweets and foods with six flavors, firecrackers grace the Dīpāvai celebration.

அறுசுவை au-cuvai = Six Flavors.

The six flavours, viz., கைப்பு-bitterness, இனிப்பு-sweet, புளிப்பு-sourness, உவர்ப்பு-saltiness, துவர்ப்பு-astringency, கார்ப்பு-pungency;

Divali celebration by Sikhs and Jains

The Sikhs celebrate this day as the day of beginning of construction of the Sikh Temple.

The Jains consider this day as a marker for Nirvana of Mahāvīra.  

The celebrants wake up early in the morning, apply and anoint the elders‘ feet with Nalangu (Turmeric, lime...paste). The take a Ganga shower. People wear new clothes and bust firecrackers.

People wear traditional loincloths and saris. The houses reverberate with wind instruments (Nadasvaram from audiotapes or discs). Sweets and gifts are exchanged between households and people. They pay homage to the elders and receive their blessings.  People use digestive electuary on that day because of their indulgence.

Sanctified bath or shower is the name for ablution that day. The water becomes one of Ganges, oil is Lakshmi,  Soap-pod wattle powder is Sarasvati, Kum kum is Gauri, Sandalwood paste is Bhudevi, new clothes are Mahavishnu.

It is a traditional belief that Goddess Ganga Devi pervades waters in wells, ponds, lakes, rivers...

The firecrackers are forbidden in bird sanctuaries.

Below is the image of decorated white cows: Wikipedia.

Cows decorated for Diwali.jpg

 

Gods live for ever. Demons die. All this because of Vishnu in the form of Mohini.

When the Milk Ocean was churned matter and beings emerged. Amta (mṛta = dead; Amta = Not dead; Ambrosia, Nectar of immortality) in a chalice (Amṛta Kalaśa) in the hands of the physician of the gods Dhanvantari emerged from the regenerative ocean. Ambrosia is derived from AM. Am(b)rosia is the food of the gods. Sanskrit is the mother of Indo-European languages.  'Immortal' (Im-mor-talis) is derived from Amta.

The gods and anti-gods (Sura and Asura) churned the regenerative ocean and obtained Ambrosia.

The Asuras kept the Elixir of Immortality for themselves. Though the gods and the antigods were to share the nectar of immortality, Vishnu took it away from them by playing the role of an enchantress. She appeared in the midst of the Asuras and was the cynosure of every daitya. They never saw a beauty like Mohini in their lives. The anti-gods approached Mohini and asked her to broker an agreement between gods and demons.

Asura: Inimitable Mohini, please intervene and broker the partition of Ambrosia between the Suras and Asuras.

Mohini: Thanks for your trust. I am a loose woman of ill-repute.  Please don’t put your trust in me.

Asura: Being beautiful and enchanting, we doubt very much you would be partial.

Mohini agreed to distribute the Ambrosia equitably between the vying parties. She took the pot of Ambrosia, gave it to the gods and sweet-talked the daityas into believing she was an honest broker. She gave them the Pablum of sweet words and the gods the nectar of immortality.

While the gods were imbibing the nectar of immortality, the daityas had nothing left to imbibe but listen to the sweet words of Mohini.


Halloween (Hallowed Evening or Holy Evening) coincides with Dīvāli. It is remembering the dead, the saints (hallows), the martyrs and the dear departed souls who have not yet reached heaven. Celebration is Christian but becoming a secular tradition.

Some Christians forego meat on this All Hallow's Eve. In this respect, it shares its value with Dīvāli.

There are lights, Jack-o'- lanterns, costumes, scary disguises... Children accompanied by an adult go from house to house trick-or-treating and getting usually candies.

The wandering souls wreak vengeance on their foes by wearing disguises and then enter the next world. The faithful put lighted candles (soul lights) in every room, so the light guides the departed souls through their earthly house.

The scary depictions in the front yards of the celebrants are put up to scare evil spirits. The Jack-o'-lantern is the wandering soul in limbo, denied entry into heaven or hell. Their passports do not have proper entry permits. This reminds me of the SriVaishnava Tenkalai souls liberated from earthly existence but has no visa to enter heaven.

கைவல்லியம் kaivalyam  or கைவல்யம் Final emancipation; மோட்சம் =   detachment of the soul from matter or further transmigrations; soul in free pure form released from bondage. (Soul is free but does not reside in Vaikuntam or Vaishnava heaven. Kaivalyam is the free state of the soul wandering far away from the Virājā river. Kaivalyam (Liberated but not a god-realized soul = Bhagavad Sakshatkara) guarantees freedom from rebirth but the soul does not enjoy the inner sanctum of Paramapadam and the company of Vishnu, Sri, Bhu, Nila and Nityasuris.  Virājā = without Rajas (Rajas = passion and action). Once subtle body immerses and wades through the Vraja River, it is cleansed of Rajas and Tamas and shines with Sattva. When the gross body is left behind at death, the subtle body goes on the Arciradi (lighted) path, wades through the Vraja river and sheds the subtle body and gains a divine body.  

Jack carries the Jack-o'-lantern (the light is his soul) in search of the final resting place (preferably heaven). Think of Ten Kalai of Hinduism who wanders at the periphery of heaven and has no entry visa into heaven.

Jackolantern carrying the soul-light  haloween costumes Halloween Yard displays

Hollow turnip kept the coal alive emitting light: Jack-o'-lantern. The immigrants to America discovered the more versatile pumpkin for the light, which took the place of the turnip.