The Festival of Lights Dīvālī

Hindu Divali and Jewish Hanukkah

Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

The story behind Divali, the Festival of Lights

The Triumph of Good over Evil

Naraka was born of Earth goddess Bhudevi (Bhumi) and Varaha (third avatar of Vishnu).

He usurped the kingdom of Pragjyotisha from Ghatakasura and chased Indra from earth to heaven by usurping kingdoms of earth and heaven. Having become the Lord of Earth and Svargaloka, he stole the earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess of gods.

The gods went to Vishnu and begged Him to rescue them from Narakasura. Vishnu promised when he takes avatar on earth as Krishna, He will defeat Narakasura. Aditi appealed to Krishna's wife Satyabhama for help to defeat Narakasura.

Krishna and Satyabhama mounted his ornithoid vehicle Garuda, attacked the fortress in Pragjyotisha and killed the soldiers and General Mura with Krishna earning the name Murari (Killer of Mura). Naraka fired missiles against Krishna, who neutralized them with anti-missiles. The USA is still perfecting anti-missile missiles (Oct. 2017). Narakasura rushed towards Krishna with a trident and Krishna beheaded him with his discus and rescued Parijata tree and 16K princesses hidden in the harem of Narakasura. Naraka requested Krishna that lights should grace his death anniversary. That was the beginning of the Divali Lights. Pārijāta tree is Indian Coral Tree-Erythrina indica. This tree came out of the milk ocean. It grows in Indira's gardens. Śacī, Indira's wife loves the flowers. Krishna's wife Satyabhama loved the tree and its flowers so much Krishna stole the tree from Indira's gardens. Indira's gardener informed Indira of the stealth of the tree by Krishna. A fight ensued. Indira stood alone with no weapons before Krishna. Krishna let him live and took the tree to Dwaraka with a promise that the tree will be returned to the paradise after his death. The trifoliate leaves represent the divine Triad, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the middle leaflet representing Vishnu and the right and left Brahma and Siva. (Harper's Dictionary of Hinduism)

The earth goddess Naraka's mother gave the stolen objects: Golden bowl, Aditi's earrings, Varuna's umbrella, and jewels. Bhumi Devi begged Krishna to spare the life of her grandson Bagadatta, the son of Naraka. Krishna installed Bagadatta as the king of Pragjyotisha.

The picture shows: Left to right and below: Krishna and Satyabhma seated on Garuda. Krishna with his forgiving left hand shows mercy to supplicating Bagadatta with opposed hands. Behind him, Mother Earth Bhumi Devi presenting to Krishna the golden bowl with stolen earrings… Below Bhumi Devi is the Lotus pond. Above and middle: The parijata tree against the black background. Right side: Bagadatta with his grandma Bhumi Devi, the attendant behind Bhumi Devi. Right and below: the garden. Opaque watercolor on paper, 1525-1540 Delhi-Agra region.

Indra Pays Homage to Krishna

Below is the picture of India at night during Divali celebration. Photo by NASA

Divali and Hanukkah: Festival Of Lights have similarities.

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival of lighting of the menorah, commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in the second century B.C. in Jerusalem by Maccabean victory over the Syrians under Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

The nine-candle menorah has eight candles at one level and the Shamash (Helper or Servant) The ninth candle only - in the center and taller - can be used to light the other eight candles.

The eight-day miracle. The Greeks destroyed the temple and very little oil, enough for one day, was available. Then the miracle happened. The oil lasted for eight days.

The Maccabees later brought in more oil for lights. The two cultures (Greek and Judaism) did not mix just like oil does not mix with water. If oil mixed with another liquid, it is absorption, assimilation, and integration, which is what Jews did not want. Eventually, the Oil of Judaism won over Hellenistic water and stayed pure as a distinct and separate culture.

The soldiers, The hidden Books, The spinning Dreidel

    Dreidel is a quadrilateral spinning top with letters on the sides saying, "nun, gimmel, hay, and shin or pey, which means, 'a great miracle happened there/here.  Spinning tops made in Israel has pey on them. The phrase is reminiscent of the Maccabees' fight for freedom. Eating latke (fried potato pancakes) is a reminder of the miracle of the oil. The words on the sides of the top have a value assigned to them: nun is none; gimmel is all; hey is half; shin means to put one in. During King Antiochus reign, the Jews, forbidden to read Torah, read Torah secretly with Dreidel by the side; as the soldiers came crashing in, they hide the books and play the Dreidel, which is made of wood, clay, metals, paper.

The menorah, a candelabrum having nine branches, is lit in the Jewish homes and synagogues to celebrate the joyous holiday.

Shamash, the ninth candle on the menorah, occupying the center and remaining taller than the rest, is lit first and the others receive their flames on successive days.