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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Comprehending the Relevance of Deva Dīpāvalī

Deva Dīpāvalī falls on the first day of the ninth month of the Agrahāyaṇa or Mārgaśīrṣa month of the national civil Hindu calendar. This month commences with the Sun’s entry into Sagittarius. While the name Agrahāyaṇa may roughly be understood as ‘Equinox’, the name Mārgaśīrṣa comes from the popular Nakṣatra- ‘Mārgaśīrṣa’ which is also known as Lambda Orionis. This festival of light is celebrated on the Kārtika Pūrṇima or the fifteenth lunar day of Kārtika that falls between the months of November-December. The festival takes place in the lap of Varanasi on the divine Ghātas of Mātā Gaṅgā.

On this auspicious day, the Ghātas of Gaṅgā come alive with thousands of glittering Diyās. The beauty of Varanasi Ghātas is a sight that cannot be explained in the best of words. The grand Pūjā that takes place on the banks of Gaṅgā adds to the glory of the occasion. The euphoric fragrance of camphor, ghee and the Pūjā Sāmagri makes the entire atmosphere blissful, divine and magnificent. What makes the entire atmosphere majestic and grand is the sound of thousands of bells accompanied with divine Vedic Maṅtras. They, undoubtedly, add to the aesthetic, cultural and spiritual charm as they are chanted loudly with symphony and harmony. Deva Dīpāvalī also leads to aesthetic enhancement and beautification of the entire city and leads to immense joy for a common man, children, artists, photographers and the whole of the city.

In accordance with the Śivapurāṇa, the Divine Deities were being agonized by the demon Tripurāsura and so on this auspicious day Bhagwan Śiva had put him to rest. Just like any other Hindu festival, Deva Dīpāvalī has a deep rooted spiritual, moral, social, cultural, economic, aesthetic and psychological significance.

It is to be lucidly understood that all Hindu festivals are much more than what they appear to be. Therefore, it is much needed that we delve deeper and recognize their essence rather than robotically follow and celebrate them. Once we celebrate these festivals rooted in knowledge, we will explore newer dimensions of not only ourselves but of life in general. Deva Dīpāavalī symbolizes the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness and of wisdom over ignorance. If we contemplate, we will come to conclude that the lightening of earthen lamps outwardly is a symbolism of dispelling the darkness of ignorance and evil within. Every time we conquer languor and get in the mode of worship, it is victory of good over evil. Each time we elect to feed a human or animal instead of splurging mindlessly, it is victory of good over evil and whenever we decide to worship our water bodies instead of maligning them, it is victory of good over evil.

Descending of ‘The Divine’ in order to kill the demon is symbolic in nature. Here, ‘The Divine’ must not to be interpreted as per Abrahamic religions where ‘God/Allah’ exists exclusively in the heavens and is separate from ‘Its’ creation. Rather, the symbolism of Śiva (Īśvara) killing Tripurāsura must be recognized as of our ‘Divine Nature’ which is realised by slaying anything that brings us down and establishes us in evil.

Hindu Dharma understands ‘Īśvara’ as all-pervasive, indwelling and all-encompassing. It is devoid of exclusive existence in any particular place or being. Therefore, like any other Hindu festival, Deva Dīpāvalī goes on to promote Dhayāna, Tapa, Tayāga, Karuṇā and Maitrī. It promotes the spirit of compassion not only towards fellow beings but towards all creatures of the cosmos who are in fact the varied Vibhūtis of ‘Īśvara’. Only when one sees the Self in all and all in the Self, the true meaning of Deva Dīpāvalī can be comprehended. Merely when we put an end to the darkness of duality, greed, selfishness and animosity, will we shine with the light of non-dualism and wisdom. This light will enlighten everything around us and our entire life will become a celebration.

Deva Dīpāvalī or Ganga Mahotsav in Varanasi (Credit: vidhantravels.com)

Deva Dīpāvalī not only has a profound spiritual significance but is also imperative in terms of economic upsurge. Festivals like Deva Dīpāvalī have a lot to contribute economically for the welfare and wellbeing of the nation. It has particularly helped thousands of local vendors such as those who produce earthen lamps, sweets, Kārigars and has held high the flag of ‘Vocal for Local’. Further, the current government’s and the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji’s efforts in promoting Hindu festivals is not only generating work opportunities and awareness nationally but is also showcasing the beauty of our culture and traditions at an international level.

While many Bharatiyas who were unaware of Deva Dīpāvalī have started knowing about it, the same is becoming a strong base of international tourism in the near future. Deva Dīpāvalī also leads to exchange of culture, combating loneliness and depression and a sense of bonding with everyone around. A close knit family, community, society and nation that is rooted in Mother Nature, traditions and culture are the best medicines against the demons of loneliness, depression, suicides and other negative tendencies.

At an environmental level Deva Dīpāvalī and other Hindu festivals promote worshiping the rivers, watering the trees, feeding animals/birds and carrying out Yajñas that lead to reverence for all lives. If we educate our children in the right light, they will realize that Mother Nature, animals and birds are not meant to be dominated rather we all must delicately coexist in harmony. Without a doubt, when our symbolic festivities in the light of wisdom lead us to virtues, piety and compassion, our life will automatically be embedded in Dharma. Only when we are engrained in Dharma, our lives will be shining with the light of Divine Grace. This light will not only enlighten us inwardly but will also brighten our world outwardly.

It is time for every Hindu to rise and shine. It is time for them to understand and be proud of deep-seated philosophies of our festivities, culture, tradition and religion that stands on the beautiful concept of ‘Vasudhaivakuṭuṁbakam’. It is time that every Hindu contributes in making the country what it has always been: ‘Viṣvaguru’.

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