Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

Dīvālī 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.

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.

Below is the NASA image of India with Divali Lights.

 NASA photo from space of India during Divali

The Purāṇas list many reasons for the celebration of Dīvālī 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 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: half Siva half SaktiWomen and unmarried girls observe this Viratham (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 a Svambhu-lingam (Kètārīśvarar). Sakti-form Parvati performed Viratham and became Ardha-nāri. The day she became part 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, circumambulated Siva excluding Parvati and paid homage to him. 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 showed its presence. He concluded it was Ambika's presence for the brilliance.

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 researched Purāṇas and other sacred texts and came up with a solution: Kètèsvara Viratham.

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

Parvati observed the Viratas for a 21-day period. She became the left half of the body of Siva and offers grace to the devotees.

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

Divali lights in a row

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;

Sikh Temple and Jain Mahavira

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