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NOVEMBER 05, 2010 IS THE HOLY HINDU FESTIVAL OF DEEPAVALI
WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY AKHANDA DIWALI
Attain?Success And Bliss With Every Light that?you?glow in the Life of Others !?
Significance of Diwali
Oscar winner Hollywood star Julia Roberts says ?Diwali should be celebrated unanimously throughout the world as a gesture of goodwill?.
In her ?Diwali wishes?, published on the website of India?s leading English daily The Times of India, Roberts adds that essence of both Christmas and Diwali is the same as both ?are festivals of lights, good spirits and death of evil?.
Roberts, further points out that Diwali (Hindu festival which falls on November 5th) ?not only belongs to Hinduism but is universal in nature and in its essence too. Diwali ignites the values of self confidence, love for humanity, peace, prosperity and above all eternity which goes beyond all mortal factors? When I think of Diwali, I can never imagine a world broken into fragments by narrow feelings of communalism and religion which does not care for human benevolence.?
Deepavali is a festival where people from all age groups participate. They give expression to their happiness by lighting earthen 'diyas' (lamps), decorating the houses, bursting firecrackers and inviting near and dear ones to their households for partaking in a sumptuous feast. The lighting of lamps is a way of paying obeisance to god for attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, valor and fame.
History of Diwali
India is a land of festivals. Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated with fervor and gaiety. The festival is celebrated by young and old, rich and poor, throughout the country to dispel darkness and light up their lives. The festival symbolizes unity in diversity as every state celebrates it in its own special way.
The celebration of the four-day festival commences on Aswayuja Bahula Chaturdasi and concludes on Kartika Shudda Vijiya. The first day of the festival Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama.
'Puranas' have it that Naraka, son of Bhudevi, acquired immense power from a blessing given by Lord Brahma after a severe penance. He soon unleashed a reign of terror in the kingdom of Kamarupa, harassing celestial beings with his invincible might. Unable to bear the tyranny of the demon, the celestial beings pleaded with Lord Krishna to save them from his torture.
But Naraka could not be easily killed as he had a boon that he would face death only at the hands of his mother Bhudevi. So, Krishna asks his wife Satyabhama, the reincarnation of Bhudevi, to be his charioteer in the battle with Naraka.
When Krishna feigns unconsciousness after being hit by an arrow of Naraka, Satyabhama takes the bow and aims the arrow at Naraka, killing him instantly. Later Lord Krishna reminds her of the boon she had sought as Bhudevi. The slaying of Naraka by Satyabhama could also be taken to interpret that parents should not hesitate to punish their children when they stray on to the wrong path. The message of Naraka Chaturdasi is that the good of the society should always prevail over one's own personal bonds.
The second day is Amavasya when Lakshmi puja is performed. It is believed that on this day Goddess Lakshmi would be in her benevolent mood and fulfill the wishes of her devotees. One version says that it was on this day that Goddess Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagara (Ocean of Milk) when the Gods and demons were churning the Sagara (ocean) for nectar (Amrit)
The other version is that when Lord Vishnu in the guise of Vamana, sought three feet of land from the generous demon king Bali, the latter had to surrender his head as Vamana had conquered the earth and the sky in two strides. Lord Vishnu banishes Bali into the Pathala Loka (netherland) by keeping his third stride on Bali's head. Later, pleased by his generosity, Lord Vishnu grants him a boon and he in turn requests the Lord to guard his palace at Pathala Loka.
Meanwhile, the Goddess is unable to bear the separation and her grief affects the functioning of the entire universe. Brahma and Lord Shiva offer themselves as guards and plead with Bali to relieve Vishnu. So, on the Amavasya day, Lord Vishnu returns to his abode and Goddess Lakshmi is delighted. It is believed that those who worship Goddess Lakshmi on this day would be bestowed with all the riches.
The third day is "Kartika Shudda Padyami." On this day Bali would come out of Pathala Loka and rule Bhuloka as per the boon given by Lord Vishnu. Hence, it is also known as "Bali Padyami".
The fourth day is referred to as "Yama Dvitiya." On this day, sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
However, in the northern part of India it is celebrated as the return of Ram along with Sita and Lakshman from his 14 years of exile after killing Ravana. To commemorate his return to Ayodhya, his subjects illuminated the kingdom and burst crackers. For the Gujaratis, Marwaris and other business community Diwali marks the worship of Goddess Lakshmi and also the beginning of the new financial year.
For Bengalis, it is the time to worship Goddess Kali or Durga. The Goddess Durga continued her "Vilaya Tandava" even after killing demon Mahishasura.
Deepavali or Diwali means "a row of lights". It falls on the last two days of the dark half of the Hindu month of Kartik (October-November).
Mythical Origins of Diwali
There are various alleged origins attributed to this festival. Some hold that they celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Kali. It also commemorates that blessed day on which the triumphant Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. On this day also Sri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura. In South India people take an oil bath in the morning and wear new clothes. They partake of sweetmeats. They light fireworks, which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day. They greet one another, asking, "Have you had your Ganges bath?" which actually refers to the oil bath that morning as it is regarded as purifying as a bath in the holy Ganga.
Give and Forgive
Everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by others. There is an air of freedom, festivity and friendliness everywhere. This festival brings about unity. It instills charity in the hearts of people. Everyone buys new clothes for the family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes for their employees.
Rise and Shine
Waking up during the 'Brahmamuhurta' (at 4a.m.) is a great blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline, efficiency in work and spiritual advancement. It is on Deepavali that everyone wakes up early in the morning. The sages who instituted this custom must have cherished the hope that their descendents would realize its benefits and make it a regular habit in their lives.
Unite and Unify
In a happy mood of great rejoicing village folk move about freely, mixing with one another without any reserve, all enmity being forgotten. People embrace one another with love. Deepavali is a great unifying force. Those with keen inner spiritual ears will clearly hear the voice of the sages, "O Children of God unite, and love all". The vibrations produced by the greetings of love, which fill the atmosphere, are powerful enough to bring about a change of heart in every man and woman in the world. Alas! That heart has considerably hardened, and only a continuous celebration of Deepavali in our homes can rekindle in us the urgent need of turning away from the ruinous path of hatred.
Prosper and Progress
On this day, Hindu merchants in North India open their new account books and pray for success and prosperity during the coming year. The homes are cleaned and decorated by day and illuminated by night with earthen oil-lamps. The best and finest illuminations are to be seen in Bombay and Amritsar. The famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with thousands of lamps placed all over the steps of the big tank. Vaishnavites celebrate the Govardhan Puja and feed the poor on a large scale.
Illuminate Your Inner Self
The light of lights, the self-luminous inner light of the Self is ever shining steadily in the chamber of your heart. Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Fix the mind on this supreme light and enjoy the real Deepavali, by attaining illumination of the soul. He who Himself sees all but whom no one beholds, who illumines the intellect, the sun, the moon and the stars and the whole universe but whom they cannot illumine, He indeed is Brahman, He is the inner Self. Celebrate the real Deepavali by living in Brahman, and enjoy the eternal bliss of the soul.
The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the stars, nor do lightnings shine and much less fire. All the lights of the world cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of the Self. Merge yourself in this light of lights and enjoy the supreme Deepavali.
Many Deepavali festivals have come and gone. Yet the hearts of the vast majority are as dark as the night of the new moon. The house is lit with lamps, but the heart is full of the darkness of ignorance.
O man! Wake up from the slumber of ignorance. Realize the constant and eternal light of the Soul, which neither rises nor sets, through meditation and deep enquiry.
May you all attain full inner illumination! May the supreme light of lights enlighten your understanding! May you all attain the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self! May you all prosper gloriously on the material as well as spiritual planes!
The Significance of Deepavali
By Swami Krishnananda
The Deepavali festival is regarded as an occasion particularly associated with an ancient event of Sri Krishna overcoming the demoniacal force known as Narakasura, recorded in the Epics and Puranas. After the great victory over Narakasura in a battle which appears to have lasted for long, long days, Sri Krishna with his consort Satyabhama returned to his abode in Dwaraka. The residents of Dwaraka were very anxious about the delay caused in Sri Krishna's returning, and it is said that they were worshipping Bhagavati Lakshmi for the prosperity and welfare of everyone and the quick return of Bhagavan Sri Krishna and Satyabhama. After Sri Krishna returned, the story goes that he took a bath after applying oil over his body, to cleanse himself subsequent to the very hectic work he had to do in the war that ensued earlier. This oil bath connected with Sri Krishna's ritual is also one of the reasons for people necessarily remembering to take an oil bath on the
day known as Naraka Chaturdasi, prior to the Amavasya when Lakshmi Puja is conducted. Everyone in India remembers to take an oil bath on Naraka Chaturdasi in memory of, in honor of, Bhagavan Sri Krishna's doing that after the demise of Narakasura. Having taken the bath, they all joined together in great delight in the grand worship of Maha Lakshmi for the general prosperity of everyone in Dwaraka. This is the traditional background, as is told to us, of the rites and the worships connected with Naraka Chaturdasi and Deepavali Amavasya.
There is a third aspect of it which is called Bali Padya, the day following Amavasya. It does not look that the Bali Padya festival is directly connected with Lakshmi Puja or Naraka Chaturdasi. But it has another background altogether - namely, the blessing Narayana, in His incarnation as Vamana, bestowed upon the demon-king Bali Chakravarti, whom He subdued when He took a Cosmic Form in the Yajnasala of Bali Chakravarti, the details of which we can read in the Srimad Bhagavata Maha Purana.
Bali Chakravarti was himself a great devotee, an ideal king and ruler, and having submitted himself to being thrown into the nether regions by the pressure of the foot of Narayana in the Cosmic Form, it appears he begged of Him to have some occasion to come up to the surface of the earth and then be recognized as a devotee of Bhagavan Narayana Himself. This recognition, this hallowed memory of Bali Chakravarti, is celebrated on the first day of the bright fortnight following the Amavasya. Bali Puja, Bali Padya are some of the terms used to designate this occasion, the day next to Amavasya.
So, the sum and substance of the message connected with Deepavali is that it is a three-day festival, beginning with Naraka Chaturdasi, a day prior to Amavasya; then the main Lakshmi worship day, which is Amavasya itself; and the third day is Bali Padya, connected with the honor bestowed upon Bali Chakravarti as a devotee of Bhagavan Narayana. It is also an occasion for spiritual exhilaration, a lighting up of all darkness, socially as well as personally, outwardly and inwardly, for the purpose of allowing an entry of the Supreme Light of God into the hearts of all people.
Deepavali means 'the line of lights'. 'Dipa' is light; and 'Avali' means line. So, Deepavali or the festival of the line of lights is the celebration of the rise of Knowledge. It is also the celebration of the victory of the Sattvic or divine elements in us over the Rajasic and Tamasic or baser elements which are the real Asuras, the Rakshasas, Narakasura and others. The whole world is within us. The whole cosmos can be found in a microscopic form in our own body. Rama-Ravana-Yuddha and Narakasura-Vadha, and all such Epic wars - everything is going on inside us. This Deepavali is thus also a psychological context, wherein we contemplate in our own selves the holy occasion of self-mastery, self-subjugation and self-abnegation leading to the rise of all spiritual virtues, which are regarded as luster or radiance emanating from Self-Knowledge.
Bhagavati Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity, does not merely mean the Goddess of wealth in a material sense. Lakshmi does not mean only gold and silver. Lakshmi means prosperity in general, positive growth in the right direction, a rise into the higher stages of evolution. This is the advent of Lakshmi. Progress and prosperity are Lakshmi. In the Vishnu Purana we are told if Narayana is like the sun, Lakshmi is like the radiance of the sun. They are inseparable. Wherever Narayana is, there is Lakshmi. Wherever is divinity, there is prosperity. So on this day of Deepavali we worship the Supreme God who is the source of all conceivable virtues, goodness and prosperity, which is symbolized in illumination, lighting and worship in the form of Arati and a joyous attitude and feeling in every respect. So, in short, this is a day of rejoicing over the victory of Sattva over the lower Gunas, the victory of God Himself over the binding fetters of the soul.
Deepavali ? The Festival of Lights
(Spoken on Deepavali 1973)
By Swami Krishnananda
Various occasions which come annually, periodically, monthly and daily are what we call the Vratas, of which one is the Deepavali Vrata which we are observing today.
There is a story. Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, there was a demon called Narakasura. He was a very fierce, demonical element. Nobody could face him. He overthrew the gods themselves in the heavens. Mother Earth was crying, ?What sort of being is this Narakasura?? She wept. The gods entreated Mahavishnu, ?Will you save us from this terror, Narakasura?? ?Well, in due time everything shall be done,? was the dignified answer of Bhagavan Mahavishnu.
Well, it took so many years for him to take action. By that time, this demon had swallowed so many people. I don?t know why God takes so much time. He always takes a long, long time to do a thing ? very slow action, but very powerful. He will immediately pound the man when he comes into his grips ? but is very slow. We cannot understand why it appears that God works so slowly. He gave such a long rope to that terror called Ravana. Of course, God came as Rama and destroyed him. But why not destroy him on the first day itself? The moment he?s born, finish him. [Laughter from audience] He won?t do that. He must torture so many people, kill so many Brahmins, destroy so many temples, murder poor fellows, carry away Sita, then God will do something, and not before that. This is a peculiarity of God. Whatever it is, we can?t question Him. [Laughter from audience] So we have to bear with it. So here also He took a long, long time and said, ?I will
do it when I incarnate Myself as Krishna.?
Krishna Avatara did so many miracles, wonderful deeds. One of these deeds was the encounter with Narakasura.
Lord Krishna had many queens ? Rukmini, Satyabhama, and others. Satyabhama was a very special type of queen ? very ostentatious, showy, a little egoistic and assertive in nature, contrary to Rukmini, the principal queen, who was very calm, mild, unostentatious, never asserting herself in anything. One day, Narada brought a fragrant flower from the heaven of the gods. It?s called parijata ? a very fragrant, white flower. And it was brought to Dwarka, to the palace of Lord Krishna. Satyabhama saw it. ?Oh, what is this? From where have you got this flower??
?It is not from anywhere in this world,? replied Narada. ?It is only in the heaven of the gods.?
?Oh, I must have this flower growing in my garden!? cried Satyabhama. Krishna said, ?What is this foolishness? How can you have it? It is not anywhere in the world itself; it is only in the heaven of the gods. What good is it saying ?I want it?? You cannot have it.?
?No,? she said. ?I must have it. You must get it!? See how wives pester their husbands. [laughter from audience] ?You must get it for me!? Krishna said, ?I cannot get it. It is not anywhere in the world. It is only in the heaven of the gods.?
?I don?t know anything,? she said. ?You must get it.?
?Alright, I shall try,? relented Krishna. What to do? She wouldn?t allow him to sleep. So he said, ?The only way is to go to heaven and ask Indra if he can give a branch of a parijata tree, and I?ll plant it in your garden.?
?Okay, let us go. I will also come with you. If he doesn?t agree, I?ll importunate,? she said. So she also followed Krishna to the heaven of the god Indra. Indraloka was reached. Well, there is a long story of Sri Krishna?s encounter with Indra; there was a tug of war, and he refused to give it, and finally in the battle Indra was defeated and Krishna snatched a tree of parijata. ?Oh, wonderful!? said Satyabhama, who was so happy. And they got set to return to their palace. While returning, Krishna observed that this lady has become very proud. ?So much she pestered me for this parijata, and now she thinks there is nobody equal to her in the three worlds because of the possession of this. I must teach her a lesson.?
Krishna came through Pragjyotishapura. Pragjyotishapura is now modern-day Assam. And there Narakasura is supposed to have been ruling. The moment they descended, this gentleman Narakasura geared up for war. Sri Krishna said to Satyabhama, ?I don?t know how to face this gentleman. Your parijata, everything, will be finished here itself. He will kill us.?
?No, you don?t bother. I will see to it,? Satyabhama said. She asked Krishna to be charioteer, while she herself would fight. ?Alright, you can see to it,? Agreed Krishna. And then the demon with a huge army attacked Satyabhama from all sides. She started perspiring, and it was impossible to face him. Then the lady said, ?I don?t know what to do! You please look into this. I cannot handle this, because that man is coming with a huge army and I am alone. What is this! You are teasing me like this?? Krishna said, ?I knew this already. Now, don?t talk, just take over the reins of the horses.? And Satyabhama became the charioteer, and then Narakasura was slain.
Now, this Naraka Chaturdashi, which is today early morning when people took oil bath, was the occasion when Narakasura was overthrown, destroyed by Bhagavan Sri Krishna with his Sudarshan Chakra. It is said the Sudarshan Charkra of Bhagavan Sri Krishna simply sliced the body of Narakasura into pieces, bits, and blood shot from his body and fell on the bodies of Satyabhama and Krishna. There were spots of blood everywhere on the bodies of Krishna and Satyabhama. It was almost sunrise time ? that is, the time when the moon rises today. So at that time Krishna and Satyabhama took an oil bath ? perhaps a hot water bath. [laughter from the audience] Maybe ? quite possible ? because the blood and other things must be washed out. I don?t know whether they used soap. [laughter from the audience] Hot water at least they must have used. So Sri Krishna and Satyabhama applied oil on their body at that time, and took a nice bath. And so we also take bath,
an oil bath, generally. It is considered very auspicious. Every person will take an oil bath today, especially in early morning. That is the speciality of Naraka Chaturdashi. And to celebrate the victory over this great demon, Narakasura, who was a terror to the gods themselves, they offered worship to the Goddess of Prosperity. Lakshmi Puja was performed by Bhagavan Sri Krishna himself and Satyabhama. They lit lamps everywhere in Dwarka. It was all a gorgeous celebration. Musical instruments were played. People danced in ecstasy that the parijata tree has been brought; and not only that, this demon has also been destroyed. They have achieved two great victories in one single adventure.
So this great gala, this great celebration ? gorgeous festival celebrated, observed in Dwarka with Lakshmi Puja as the consummating feature ? this event is recorded in the Puranas. In several Puranas this is mentioned, with different details. And while it is perhaps the main historical background of the observance of Naraka Chaturdashi with oil bath and the performance of Dhana Lakshmi, Dhyana Lakshmi, Saubhagya Lakshmi Puja today, people attach various anecdotes to the occasion - like Dasara. What is Dasara? Some people say it is the occasion when Rama killed Ravana. Some say it is the occasion when Saraswati ? Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati ? destroyed Shumbha, Nishumbha. It is also supposed to be the occasion when the gods won victory over the asuras. Likewise, various stories are attached to this event, while the prevalent one, the most prominent one known to people is this story, this historical narration of Bhagavan Sri Krishna?s
overthrowing Narakasura and bring the parijata from the heavens.
I will give you a humorous aside to this parijata story. It is not connected with Deepavali, of course, but it is something very interesting. Krishna was a mischievous man ? not so simple as people would imagine him to be. He brought the parijata tree from Indra?s heaven because Satyabhama would not leave him in peace. So he said, ?I have brought it, Very well, now I will plant it in your garden.? And Krishna planted this parijata tree just in a corner of the garden of Satyabhama so that while the tree was planted in her garden, it bore flowers into the garden of Rukmini. [laughter from the audience] The tree was bent, like this, [Swamiji gestures with his arms] so all the flowers were falling into the garden or compound of Rukmini. This lady only had the satisfaction the tree is hers. ?The tree is mine; it is my garden. But all the flowers go to her!? She was cursing. ?What is this? I got the plant, and now the flowers are hers!? This
was a little mischievous prank of Krishna. Wonderful! Complex was his life.
So Deepavali is a festival of lights, is a celebration of the rise of knowledge, and also the celebration of the victory of the sattvic, divine elements in us over the rajasic and tamasic and baser elements which are the real asuras ? which are the rakshasas, this Narakasura, etc. The whole world is within us. The whole cosmos can be found in a microscopic form in our own bodies. Ram-Ravan yudh and Narakasura ? everything is going on inside us.
This Deepavali is thus also a psychological context wherein we contemplate in our own selves the holy occasion of self-mastery, self-subjugation, self-abnegation, and all those spiritual virtues which are regarded as luster, as it were, radiance, as it were, emanating from Self-knowledge. Bhagavati Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity, does not merely mean the goddess of wealth in a material sense. Lakshmi does not mean only gold and silver. Lakshmi means prosperity in general, positive growth in the right direction, the rise into the higher stages of evolution. This is the advent of Lakshmi. Progress and prosperity are Lakshmi. In the Vishnu Purana we are told that if Narayana is like the sun, Lakshmi is like the radiance of the sun; they are inseparable. Wherever there is Narayana, there is Lakshmi; wherever there is divinity, there is prosperity. So this is the worship of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, worship of Narayana, worship of the Supreme God who is
the source of all conceivable virtues, goodness and prosperity, which is symbolized in illumination, lighting, worship in the form of aarti, and a gay, joyous attitude and feeling in every respect. In short, this is a day of rejoicing over the victory of sattva over the lower gunas ? the victory of God Himself over the binding fetters of the soul.
God?s grace be upon you all on this holy occasion of Deepavali, the festival of the line of lights ? Deepavali. Avali is a line, a series. Wherever you go in India you will find lines and lines and series of lights and lights. Krishna Bhagavan ki jai!
Ravi R. Ponangi
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