Discussion:
Happy Diwali!
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Ivo
2010-11-05 21:01:33 UTC
Permalink
Reflections of a Christian on the
FESTIVAL OF DIVALI
It is the dream of humanity to be in the light and walk according to the
light. I am happy when my Hindu brethren celebrate the festival of Diwali
(popular modification of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which means a "row or
cluster of lights"), the Festival of Lights, fireworks and colours,
rejoicing and fellowship. It symbolizes the victory of good over the evil.
This is the theme of the festival: It is symbolized by the burning of
Narakasur, the demon of darkness.

The festival takes place from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
(September-October) to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Its origin is
the incident (or legend) of Yamraja, the King of death. It is celebrated
for
one, two, three or four days. But most devotees believe that this festival
is to be celebrated for five days: from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Though all five days are often
called Divali, they in fact constitute a complex of five different
festivals.

The Origin of the Festival: There is a legend that Yamraja, the King of
death, asked his servant: "Do you feel any time bad when you snatch men's
life?" "Yes", replied the servant, "when I took the son of king Haim. It
was
just four days after his marriage, while joy and merry-making was all
around
I had to take away his life." Yamaraja felt bad about it and from then
onwards decided saying: "Today is the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
Dhantra-yodashi. From today all those who will observe the five-day
festival
of light will not die an untimely death." Thus came the custom of lighting
the lamp for five days, with special rituals. The festival came to be known
as the festival of light, Divali or Deepavali ("row of lights").

The Festival Rituals: There are five principal items (or
elements) that constitute the Divali festival: worship of wealth,
celebration of Vishnu's victory over Narakasura, worship of Lakshmi and
dice-play, celebration of the victory of Vishnu over Bali, and the exchange
of brotherly and sisterly affection. Illuminations and fireworks
characterize all the days of Divali. However, in addition, each of the five
days has some cultic features particular to it.

There are five celebrations: i) First celebration is on the 13th day. It is
called Yama-trayodasi (Yama's 13th day): worshipping Yamaraja, the King of
death. It is characterized by cleaning of courtyards, painting of the house
and washing of vessels. The day begins with a ritual bath and a pledge
taken
by the devotee to partake of saltless food and to sleep on the floor. These
acts are symbolic of one's desire to mortify oneself and to make a new
beginning in one's relationships with God and neighbour through inner
cleansing. This day is spent in special devotion to Krishna. In the evening
a lamp is lit and offered to Yama with a prayer that the devotee be
preserved from sudden and untimely death. People on this day also worship
coins and ornaments and purchase new utensils. Hence this day is also
called
Dhana-trayodasi or Dhana-teras (See Kane, Pandurang Vaman, History of
Dharmasastra, Poona (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute), 1974, vol.V,
Part I, p. 194).

ii) The second day is known as Naraka-Chaturdasi (Naraka's 14th day),
commemorating Krishna's victory over the demon Naraka. It falls on the 14th
of the dark half of Ashwin and it is known as Narak-Chaturdashi (from
Narak,
meaning "hell", and Chaturdashi, meaning "the 14th day"). The 13th of the
dark half of Ashwin is observed to procure for oneself protection against
sudden and untimely death, whereas the 14th has for its principal objective
deliverance from sickness and sin, as it is indicated by several ritual
gestures and words used on this day: the oil-bath in the morning, the
waving
of the apotropaic medicinal plant apamarga during the bath, the libation of
water to Yama, the lighting of a ceremonial lamp to keep Naraka away, the
lighting of many lamps in several places in and around one's house, the
crushing underfoot of a bitter cucumber, symbolizing Naraka, and the many
prayers offered for deliverance from personal sins or those of one's
deceased ancestors. A solemn memorial of one's departed relatives is made
in
and through the parvana-shraddha, and a meal is given to Brahmins
(Cf.PVKane, op.cit., pp.196-198; Subhash Anand, Major Hindu Festivals-A
Christian Appreciation, Bombay (St.Paul's Publications), 1991, pp.106-108).

Narakasur was a wicked king, a symbol of Satan. He had imprisoned around
16,000 (or 50,100) women, snatched away the 'chatra' of Indra, "Kundale"
from the ears of Aditiy, the mother of the gods. When Krishna heard about
the wicked deeds of Narakasur, he decided to destroy him. But it was
Satyabhama, Krishna's wife who took the challenge of killing Narakasur. She
killed Narakasur and liberated all women and, when they returned home, they
expressed their joy by lighting lamp and drawing "Rangoli". In remembrance
of this event, even to this day, people early in the morning take bath and
draw "Rangoli" to mark the celebration.

iii) Third Day: It is Divali proper, also called Lakshmi-Puja (or Kali
Puja). This day, as the title itself indicates, is one specially dedicated
to the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It is a day given to
merry-making with dancing and music, and is known as Sukha-ratri. Devotees
prepare for this day by worshipping their account-books, closing old
accounts and opening new one. Houses and their surroundings are brilliantly
illuminated with rows upon rows of lamps, and people dressed in all their
finery go around joyously greeting relatives, friends and neighbours, while
exchanging gifts. The womenfolk make arati to their family members to
implore God's blessings on them, and beat winnowing baskets and drums to
symbolically dispel evil and misfortune from their midst. On this day, cows
are specially honoured in the govardhana-puja, as an expression of
gratitude
to God for the prosperity that has come to their farming communities
through
them. They are tastefully decorated with coloured designs, festoons and
garlands, and are not milked on this day nor made to bear any burden. At
night, people gather to read edifying passages from their sacred books, to
sing songs to Vishnu, and to pass their time gambling, one way of acquiring
wealth!

It is on the moon light "Amavasya" of the Ashwin Lakhsmi that the goddess
of
wealth was taken as a slave by King Bali. Vishnu, in his fifth Avatara as
Vaman, defeated Bali and freed Lakhsmi. It is a day special to the
shopkeepers and merchants. They close their old accounts and open new one.
Cows are specially honoured and a "Govardhana-puja" is done in thanksgiving
for the prosperity bestowed by God. New clothes are bought, crackers and
other fire-works' display surrounds the houses. It is a day for rejoicing
and entertainment.

iv) Fourth celebration is called Bali-pratipada. The first of the bright
half of Kartika is regarded as one of the three most auspicious days of the
year. The most important event of this day is the worship given to Bali, a
good and popular King, of a past golden age in India, who became the
important personage in a myth that is the original nucleus of the festival
of Divali .

After an oil-bath, a picture of Bali and his wife Vindhyavali is drawn in
five colours on the floor of the house, puja is offered in which, besides
the usual gifts, kukuda (lotus) flowers and also meat and alcohol are
presented, accompanied by appropriate prayers. In the afternoon, a
proclamation is made: "Today is the rule of Bali, enjoy yourself!" Devotees
make it a point to offer alms on this day, as such an act of mercy is
believed to be specially meritorious. The night is spent in prayerful vigil
and in edifying people through sacred dramas.

v) The final celebration is called Yama-dvitiya (Yama's second
day)/Bhaiya-doo/Bhai-beej: This day, the last of the Divali festival,
commemorates the meal that Yama had at the house of his sister Yami (or
Yamuna). On this day all men should go to their sisters' houses (or, in
case
he has no sister, to the house of a close female relative), where the
sister
serves him a meal with great affection, while the brother reciprocates by
offering her ornaments and gifts. Before the meal, a ritual bath is
prescribed, as well as libations of water offered for the departed, for
their deliverance from the bondage of their sins. With these expressions
of
love and concern for both the living and the dead, the festival comes to a
close (cf.Gregory Naik, SJ, ed., Understanding Our Fellow Pilgrims, Gujarat
Sahitya Prakash, Baroda, 2000, pp.126-131).

Its Significance: There are three elements to understand the meaning of
Divali, namely the myth regarding Bali, the five-day celebration which
begins and ends with the commemoration of Yama, and Diwali as a festival of
lights.

The myth of Bali is central to the celebration of Divali. According to this
myth, Bali, who had become very powerful, had incurred the displeasure of
the gods. One day, as he was offering an ashvamedha sacrifice, Vishnu
appeared to him in the avatar of a dwarf Brahmin student, Vamana, and
begged
him for as much land as he could cover in three paces. Bali,
notwithstanding
a warning from his teacher that the request was an insidious one,
generously
acceded to it. Thereupon, Vamana grew larger and larger and in two steps
covered heaven and earth. When Vamana asked Bali where he could place his
foot for his third step, Bali told him to plant it on his head. Vamana at
once did so and thrust Bali into the netherworld! However, Vishnu was so
pleased with Bali's adherence to his pledged word that he raised him to the
status of Indra.

Divali is rightly the Festival of Lights. It firmly emphasized where true
wisdom and values lie. Light symbolizes wisdom, truth, certitude, joy, and
life. He, therefore, who always strives to live a life of godliness is the
one who is eminently qualified to truly and rightly celebrate this great
festival (maha-utsava) of Divali. Furthermore, one who strives to
experience
God in everyone and everything rejoices in the brotherliness and
sisterliness that bind not only human beings here on earth but also those
ho
have passed over to a better life, not only cows, animals, and other mute
creatures, but also inanimate creation.

The five-day celebration of Divali is, therefore, meaningful for all of us.
We grope in darkness for light and happiness. God is Light. Only God can
remove darkness and vices, and usher in a day of brightness, joy and
happiness. For us, Christians, Jesus of Nazareth is the "Light of the
World"
(cf.Jn 8:12). We share in his divine light and life, and try to communicate
it to others through our service and communion. There are women who are
victims of so many evils, injustice, oppression and pain. Who will come to
their rescue? Can we be voice to the voiceless? What is our prophetic role
in being at their service, at the service of love and brotherhood?

Though Bhaibeej seems to limit to the blood relations or close
relatives; Christian love, however, has been expanded even to those who
persecute you. "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt.
5:44).

Our greetings to our Hindu brethren on the festival of light. It is
interesting to visit our Hindu friends during the festival, since we can
taste delicious sweets, like halwa, burfi and laddu. We need a national day
of celebration which may unite us. We have to be united in fighting against
corruption and injustice. We should be at the service of truth and love. I
wish you all a happy Divali!

Regards.

Fr.Ivo
Ivo
2010-11-05 21:01:33 UTC
Permalink
Reflections of a Christian on the
FESTIVAL OF DIVALI
It is the dream of humanity to be in the light and walk according to the
light. I am happy when my Hindu brethren celebrate the festival of Diwali
(popular modification of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which means a "row or
cluster of lights"), the Festival of Lights, fireworks and colours,
rejoicing and fellowship. It symbolizes the victory of good over the evil.
This is the theme of the festival: It is symbolized by the burning of
Narakasur, the demon of darkness.

The festival takes place from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
(September-October) to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Its origin is
the incident (or legend) of Yamraja, the King of death. It is celebrated
for
one, two, three or four days. But most devotees believe that this festival
is to be celebrated for five days: from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Though all five days are often
called Divali, they in fact constitute a complex of five different
festivals.

The Origin of the Festival: There is a legend that Yamraja, the King of
death, asked his servant: "Do you feel any time bad when you snatch men's
life?" "Yes", replied the servant, "when I took the son of king Haim. It
was
just four days after his marriage, while joy and merry-making was all
around
I had to take away his life." Yamaraja felt bad about it and from then
onwards decided saying: "Today is the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
Dhantra-yodashi. From today all those who will observe the five-day
festival
of light will not die an untimely death." Thus came the custom of lighting
the lamp for five days, with special rituals. The festival came to be known
as the festival of light, Divali or Deepavali ("row of lights").

The Festival Rituals: There are five principal items (or
elements) that constitute the Divali festival: worship of wealth,
celebration of Vishnu's victory over Narakasura, worship of Lakshmi and
dice-play, celebration of the victory of Vishnu over Bali, and the exchange
of brotherly and sisterly affection. Illuminations and fireworks
characterize all the days of Divali. However, in addition, each of the five
days has some cultic features particular to it.

There are five celebrations: i) First celebration is on the 13th day. It is
called Yama-trayodasi (Yama's 13th day): worshipping Yamaraja, the King of
death. It is characterized by cleaning of courtyards, painting of the house
and washing of vessels. The day begins with a ritual bath and a pledge
taken
by the devotee to partake of saltless food and to sleep on the floor. These
acts are symbolic of one's desire to mortify oneself and to make a new
beginning in one's relationships with God and neighbour through inner
cleansing. This day is spent in special devotion to Krishna. In the evening
a lamp is lit and offered to Yama with a prayer that the devotee be
preserved from sudden and untimely death. People on this day also worship
coins and ornaments and purchase new utensils. Hence this day is also
called
Dhana-trayodasi or Dhana-teras (See Kane, Pandurang Vaman, History of
Dharmasastra, Poona (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute), 1974, vol.V,
Part I, p. 194).

ii) The second day is known as Naraka-Chaturdasi (Naraka's 14th day),
commemorating Krishna's victory over the demon Naraka. It falls on the 14th
of the dark half of Ashwin and it is known as Narak-Chaturdashi (from
Narak,
meaning "hell", and Chaturdashi, meaning "the 14th day"). The 13th of the
dark half of Ashwin is observed to procure for oneself protection against
sudden and untimely death, whereas the 14th has for its principal objective
deliverance from sickness and sin, as it is indicated by several ritual
gestures and words used on this day: the oil-bath in the morning, the
waving
of the apotropaic medicinal plant apamarga during the bath, the libation of
water to Yama, the lighting of a ceremonial lamp to keep Naraka away, the
lighting of many lamps in several places in and around one's house, the
crushing underfoot of a bitter cucumber, symbolizing Naraka, and the many
prayers offered for deliverance from personal sins or those of one's
deceased ancestors. A solemn memorial of one's departed relatives is made
in
and through the parvana-shraddha, and a meal is given to Brahmins
(Cf.PVKane, op.cit., pp.196-198; Subhash Anand, Major Hindu Festivals-A
Christian Appreciation, Bombay (St.Paul's Publications), 1991, pp.106-108).

Narakasur was a wicked king, a symbol of Satan. He had imprisoned around
16,000 (or 50,100) women, snatched away the 'chatra' of Indra, "Kundale"
from the ears of Aditiy, the mother of the gods. When Krishna heard about
the wicked deeds of Narakasur, he decided to destroy him. But it was
Satyabhama, Krishna's wife who took the challenge of killing Narakasur. She
killed Narakasur and liberated all women and, when they returned home, they
expressed their joy by lighting lamp and drawing "Rangoli". In remembrance
of this event, even to this day, people early in the morning take bath and
draw "Rangoli" to mark the celebration.

iii) Third Day: It is Divali proper, also called Lakshmi-Puja (or Kali
Puja). This day, as the title itself indicates, is one specially dedicated
to the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It is a day given to
merry-making with dancing and music, and is known as Sukha-ratri. Devotees
prepare for this day by worshipping their account-books, closing old
accounts and opening new one. Houses and their surroundings are brilliantly
illuminated with rows upon rows of lamps, and people dressed in all their
finery go around joyously greeting relatives, friends and neighbours, while
exchanging gifts. The womenfolk make arati to their family members to
implore God's blessings on them, and beat winnowing baskets and drums to
symbolically dispel evil and misfortune from their midst. On this day, cows
are specially honoured in the govardhana-puja, as an expression of
gratitude
to God for the prosperity that has come to their farming communities
through
them. They are tastefully decorated with coloured designs, festoons and
garlands, and are not milked on this day nor made to bear any burden. At
night, people gather to read edifying passages from their sacred books, to
sing songs to Vishnu, and to pass their time gambling, one way of acquiring
wealth!

It is on the moon light "Amavasya" of the Ashwin Lakhsmi that the goddess
of
wealth was taken as a slave by King Bali. Vishnu, in his fifth Avatara as
Vaman, defeated Bali and freed Lakhsmi. It is a day special to the
shopkeepers and merchants. They close their old accounts and open new one.
Cows are specially honoured and a "Govardhana-puja" is done in thanksgiving
for the prosperity bestowed by God. New clothes are bought, crackers and
other fire-works' display surrounds the houses. It is a day for rejoicing
and entertainment.

iv) Fourth celebration is called Bali-pratipada. The first of the bright
half of Kartika is regarded as one of the three most auspicious days of the
year. The most important event of this day is the worship given to Bali, a
good and popular King, of a past golden age in India, who became the
important personage in a myth that is the original nucleus of the festival
of Divali .

After an oil-bath, a picture of Bali and his wife Vindhyavali is drawn in
five colours on the floor of the house, puja is offered in which, besides
the usual gifts, kukuda (lotus) flowers and also meat and alcohol are
presented, accompanied by appropriate prayers. In the afternoon, a
proclamation is made: "Today is the rule of Bali, enjoy yourself!" Devotees
make it a point to offer alms on this day, as such an act of mercy is
believed to be specially meritorious. The night is spent in prayerful vigil
and in edifying people through sacred dramas.

v) The final celebration is called Yama-dvitiya (Yama's second
day)/Bhaiya-doo/Bhai-beej: This day, the last of the Divali festival,
commemorates the meal that Yama had at the house of his sister Yami (or
Yamuna). On this day all men should go to their sisters' houses (or, in
case
he has no sister, to the house of a close female relative), where the
sister
serves him a meal with great affection, while the brother reciprocates by
offering her ornaments and gifts. Before the meal, a ritual bath is
prescribed, as well as libations of water offered for the departed, for
their deliverance from the bondage of their sins. With these expressions
of
love and concern for both the living and the dead, the festival comes to a
close (cf.Gregory Naik, SJ, ed., Understanding Our Fellow Pilgrims, Gujarat
Sahitya Prakash, Baroda, 2000, pp.126-131).

Its Significance: There are three elements to understand the meaning of
Divali, namely the myth regarding Bali, the five-day celebration which
begins and ends with the commemoration of Yama, and Diwali as a festival of
lights.

The myth of Bali is central to the celebration of Divali. According to this
myth, Bali, who had become very powerful, had incurred the displeasure of
the gods. One day, as he was offering an ashvamedha sacrifice, Vishnu
appeared to him in the avatar of a dwarf Brahmin student, Vamana, and
begged
him for as much land as he could cover in three paces. Bali,
notwithstanding
a warning from his teacher that the request was an insidious one,
generously
acceded to it. Thereupon, Vamana grew larger and larger and in two steps
covered heaven and earth. When Vamana asked Bali where he could place his
foot for his third step, Bali told him to plant it on his head. Vamana at
once did so and thrust Bali into the netherworld! However, Vishnu was so
pleased with Bali's adherence to his pledged word that he raised him to the
status of Indra.

Divali is rightly the Festival of Lights. It firmly emphasized where true
wisdom and values lie. Light symbolizes wisdom, truth, certitude, joy, and
life. He, therefore, who always strives to live a life of godliness is the
one who is eminently qualified to truly and rightly celebrate this great
festival (maha-utsava) of Divali. Furthermore, one who strives to
experience
God in everyone and everything rejoices in the brotherliness and
sisterliness that bind not only human beings here on earth but also those
ho
have passed over to a better life, not only cows, animals, and other mute
creatures, but also inanimate creation.

The five-day celebration of Divali is, therefore, meaningful for all of us.
We grope in darkness for light and happiness. God is Light. Only God can
remove darkness and vices, and usher in a day of brightness, joy and
happiness. For us, Christians, Jesus of Nazareth is the "Light of the
World"
(cf.Jn 8:12). We share in his divine light and life, and try to communicate
it to others through our service and communion. There are women who are
victims of so many evils, injustice, oppression and pain. Who will come to
their rescue? Can we be voice to the voiceless? What is our prophetic role
in being at their service, at the service of love and brotherhood?

Though Bhaibeej seems to limit to the blood relations or close
relatives; Christian love, however, has been expanded even to those who
persecute you. "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt.
5:44).

Our greetings to our Hindu brethren on the festival of light. It is
interesting to visit our Hindu friends during the festival, since we can
taste delicious sweets, like halwa, burfi and laddu. We need a national day
of celebration which may unite us. We have to be united in fighting against
corruption and injustice. We should be at the service of truth and love. I
wish you all a happy Divali!

Regards.

Fr.Ivo
Ivo
2010-11-05 21:01:33 UTC
Permalink
Reflections of a Christian on the
FESTIVAL OF DIVALI
It is the dream of humanity to be in the light and walk according to the
light. I am happy when my Hindu brethren celebrate the festival of Diwali
(popular modification of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which means a "row or
cluster of lights"), the Festival of Lights, fireworks and colours,
rejoicing and fellowship. It symbolizes the victory of good over the evil.
This is the theme of the festival: It is symbolized by the burning of
Narakasur, the demon of darkness.

The festival takes place from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
(September-October) to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Its origin is
the incident (or legend) of Yamraja, the King of death. It is celebrated
for
one, two, three or four days. But most devotees believe that this festival
is to be celebrated for five days: from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Though all five days are often
called Divali, they in fact constitute a complex of five different
festivals.

The Origin of the Festival: There is a legend that Yamraja, the King of
death, asked his servant: "Do you feel any time bad when you snatch men's
life?" "Yes", replied the servant, "when I took the son of king Haim. It
was
just four days after his marriage, while joy and merry-making was all
around
I had to take away his life." Yamaraja felt bad about it and from then
onwards decided saying: "Today is the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
Dhantra-yodashi. From today all those who will observe the five-day
festival
of light will not die an untimely death." Thus came the custom of lighting
the lamp for five days, with special rituals. The festival came to be known
as the festival of light, Divali or Deepavali ("row of lights").

The Festival Rituals: There are five principal items (or
elements) that constitute the Divali festival: worship of wealth,
celebration of Vishnu's victory over Narakasura, worship of Lakshmi and
dice-play, celebration of the victory of Vishnu over Bali, and the exchange
of brotherly and sisterly affection. Illuminations and fireworks
characterize all the days of Divali. However, in addition, each of the five
days has some cultic features particular to it.

There are five celebrations: i) First celebration is on the 13th day. It is
called Yama-trayodasi (Yama's 13th day): worshipping Yamaraja, the King of
death. It is characterized by cleaning of courtyards, painting of the house
and washing of vessels. The day begins with a ritual bath and a pledge
taken
by the devotee to partake of saltless food and to sleep on the floor. These
acts are symbolic of one's desire to mortify oneself and to make a new
beginning in one's relationships with God and neighbour through inner
cleansing. This day is spent in special devotion to Krishna. In the evening
a lamp is lit and offered to Yama with a prayer that the devotee be
preserved from sudden and untimely death. People on this day also worship
coins and ornaments and purchase new utensils. Hence this day is also
called
Dhana-trayodasi or Dhana-teras (See Kane, Pandurang Vaman, History of
Dharmasastra, Poona (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute), 1974, vol.V,
Part I, p. 194).

ii) The second day is known as Naraka-Chaturdasi (Naraka's 14th day),
commemorating Krishna's victory over the demon Naraka. It falls on the 14th
of the dark half of Ashwin and it is known as Narak-Chaturdashi (from
Narak,
meaning "hell", and Chaturdashi, meaning "the 14th day"). The 13th of the
dark half of Ashwin is observed to procure for oneself protection against
sudden and untimely death, whereas the 14th has for its principal objective
deliverance from sickness and sin, as it is indicated by several ritual
gestures and words used on this day: the oil-bath in the morning, the
waving
of the apotropaic medicinal plant apamarga during the bath, the libation of
water to Yama, the lighting of a ceremonial lamp to keep Naraka away, the
lighting of many lamps in several places in and around one's house, the
crushing underfoot of a bitter cucumber, symbolizing Naraka, and the many
prayers offered for deliverance from personal sins or those of one's
deceased ancestors. A solemn memorial of one's departed relatives is made
in
and through the parvana-shraddha, and a meal is given to Brahmins
(Cf.PVKane, op.cit., pp.196-198; Subhash Anand, Major Hindu Festivals-A
Christian Appreciation, Bombay (St.Paul's Publications), 1991, pp.106-108).

Narakasur was a wicked king, a symbol of Satan. He had imprisoned around
16,000 (or 50,100) women, snatched away the 'chatra' of Indra, "Kundale"
from the ears of Aditiy, the mother of the gods. When Krishna heard about
the wicked deeds of Narakasur, he decided to destroy him. But it was
Satyabhama, Krishna's wife who took the challenge of killing Narakasur. She
killed Narakasur and liberated all women and, when they returned home, they
expressed their joy by lighting lamp and drawing "Rangoli". In remembrance
of this event, even to this day, people early in the morning take bath and
draw "Rangoli" to mark the celebration.

iii) Third Day: It is Divali proper, also called Lakshmi-Puja (or Kali
Puja). This day, as the title itself indicates, is one specially dedicated
to the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It is a day given to
merry-making with dancing and music, and is known as Sukha-ratri. Devotees
prepare for this day by worshipping their account-books, closing old
accounts and opening new one. Houses and their surroundings are brilliantly
illuminated with rows upon rows of lamps, and people dressed in all their
finery go around joyously greeting relatives, friends and neighbours, while
exchanging gifts. The womenfolk make arati to their family members to
implore God's blessings on them, and beat winnowing baskets and drums to
symbolically dispel evil and misfortune from their midst. On this day, cows
are specially honoured in the govardhana-puja, as an expression of
gratitude
to God for the prosperity that has come to their farming communities
through
them. They are tastefully decorated with coloured designs, festoons and
garlands, and are not milked on this day nor made to bear any burden. At
night, people gather to read edifying passages from their sacred books, to
sing songs to Vishnu, and to pass their time gambling, one way of acquiring
wealth!

It is on the moon light "Amavasya" of the Ashwin Lakhsmi that the goddess
of
wealth was taken as a slave by King Bali. Vishnu, in his fifth Avatara as
Vaman, defeated Bali and freed Lakhsmi. It is a day special to the
shopkeepers and merchants. They close their old accounts and open new one.
Cows are specially honoured and a "Govardhana-puja" is done in thanksgiving
for the prosperity bestowed by God. New clothes are bought, crackers and
other fire-works' display surrounds the houses. It is a day for rejoicing
and entertainment.

iv) Fourth celebration is called Bali-pratipada. The first of the bright
half of Kartika is regarded as one of the three most auspicious days of the
year. The most important event of this day is the worship given to Bali, a
good and popular King, of a past golden age in India, who became the
important personage in a myth that is the original nucleus of the festival
of Divali .

After an oil-bath, a picture of Bali and his wife Vindhyavali is drawn in
five colours on the floor of the house, puja is offered in which, besides
the usual gifts, kukuda (lotus) flowers and also meat and alcohol are
presented, accompanied by appropriate prayers. In the afternoon, a
proclamation is made: "Today is the rule of Bali, enjoy yourself!" Devotees
make it a point to offer alms on this day, as such an act of mercy is
believed to be specially meritorious. The night is spent in prayerful vigil
and in edifying people through sacred dramas.

v) The final celebration is called Yama-dvitiya (Yama's second
day)/Bhaiya-doo/Bhai-beej: This day, the last of the Divali festival,
commemorates the meal that Yama had at the house of his sister Yami (or
Yamuna). On this day all men should go to their sisters' houses (or, in
case
he has no sister, to the house of a close female relative), where the
sister
serves him a meal with great affection, while the brother reciprocates by
offering her ornaments and gifts. Before the meal, a ritual bath is
prescribed, as well as libations of water offered for the departed, for
their deliverance from the bondage of their sins. With these expressions
of
love and concern for both the living and the dead, the festival comes to a
close (cf.Gregory Naik, SJ, ed., Understanding Our Fellow Pilgrims, Gujarat
Sahitya Prakash, Baroda, 2000, pp.126-131).

Its Significance: There are three elements to understand the meaning of
Divali, namely the myth regarding Bali, the five-day celebration which
begins and ends with the commemoration of Yama, and Diwali as a festival of
lights.

The myth of Bali is central to the celebration of Divali. According to this
myth, Bali, who had become very powerful, had incurred the displeasure of
the gods. One day, as he was offering an ashvamedha sacrifice, Vishnu
appeared to him in the avatar of a dwarf Brahmin student, Vamana, and
begged
him for as much land as he could cover in three paces. Bali,
notwithstanding
a warning from his teacher that the request was an insidious one,
generously
acceded to it. Thereupon, Vamana grew larger and larger and in two steps
covered heaven and earth. When Vamana asked Bali where he could place his
foot for his third step, Bali told him to plant it on his head. Vamana at
once did so and thrust Bali into the netherworld! However, Vishnu was so
pleased with Bali's adherence to his pledged word that he raised him to the
status of Indra.

Divali is rightly the Festival of Lights. It firmly emphasized where true
wisdom and values lie. Light symbolizes wisdom, truth, certitude, joy, and
life. He, therefore, who always strives to live a life of godliness is the
one who is eminently qualified to truly and rightly celebrate this great
festival (maha-utsava) of Divali. Furthermore, one who strives to
experience
God in everyone and everything rejoices in the brotherliness and
sisterliness that bind not only human beings here on earth but also those
ho
have passed over to a better life, not only cows, animals, and other mute
creatures, but also inanimate creation.

The five-day celebration of Divali is, therefore, meaningful for all of us.
We grope in darkness for light and happiness. God is Light. Only God can
remove darkness and vices, and usher in a day of brightness, joy and
happiness. For us, Christians, Jesus of Nazareth is the "Light of the
World"
(cf.Jn 8:12). We share in his divine light and life, and try to communicate
it to others through our service and communion. There are women who are
victims of so many evils, injustice, oppression and pain. Who will come to
their rescue? Can we be voice to the voiceless? What is our prophetic role
in being at their service, at the service of love and brotherhood?

Though Bhaibeej seems to limit to the blood relations or close
relatives; Christian love, however, has been expanded even to those who
persecute you. "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt.
5:44).

Our greetings to our Hindu brethren on the festival of light. It is
interesting to visit our Hindu friends during the festival, since we can
taste delicious sweets, like halwa, burfi and laddu. We need a national day
of celebration which may unite us. We have to be united in fighting against
corruption and injustice. We should be at the service of truth and love. I
wish you all a happy Divali!

Regards.

Fr.Ivo
Ivo
2010-11-05 21:01:33 UTC
Permalink
Reflections of a Christian on the
FESTIVAL OF DIVALI
It is the dream of humanity to be in the light and walk according to the
light. I am happy when my Hindu brethren celebrate the festival of Diwali
(popular modification of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which means a "row or
cluster of lights"), the Festival of Lights, fireworks and colours,
rejoicing and fellowship. It symbolizes the victory of good over the evil.
This is the theme of the festival: It is symbolized by the burning of
Narakasur, the demon of darkness.

The festival takes place from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
(September-October) to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Its origin is
the incident (or legend) of Yamraja, the King of death. It is celebrated
for
one, two, three or four days. But most devotees believe that this festival
is to be celebrated for five days: from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Though all five days are often
called Divali, they in fact constitute a complex of five different
festivals.

The Origin of the Festival: There is a legend that Yamraja, the King of
death, asked his servant: "Do you feel any time bad when you snatch men's
life?" "Yes", replied the servant, "when I took the son of king Haim. It
was
just four days after his marriage, while joy and merry-making was all
around
I had to take away his life." Yamaraja felt bad about it and from then
onwards decided saying: "Today is the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
Dhantra-yodashi. From today all those who will observe the five-day
festival
of light will not die an untimely death." Thus came the custom of lighting
the lamp for five days, with special rituals. The festival came to be known
as the festival of light, Divali or Deepavali ("row of lights").

The Festival Rituals: There are five principal items (or
elements) that constitute the Divali festival: worship of wealth,
celebration of Vishnu's victory over Narakasura, worship of Lakshmi and
dice-play, celebration of the victory of Vishnu over Bali, and the exchange
of brotherly and sisterly affection. Illuminations and fireworks
characterize all the days of Divali. However, in addition, each of the five
days has some cultic features particular to it.

There are five celebrations: i) First celebration is on the 13th day. It is
called Yama-trayodasi (Yama's 13th day): worshipping Yamaraja, the King of
death. It is characterized by cleaning of courtyards, painting of the house
and washing of vessels. The day begins with a ritual bath and a pledge
taken
by the devotee to partake of saltless food and to sleep on the floor. These
acts are symbolic of one's desire to mortify oneself and to make a new
beginning in one's relationships with God and neighbour through inner
cleansing. This day is spent in special devotion to Krishna. In the evening
a lamp is lit and offered to Yama with a prayer that the devotee be
preserved from sudden and untimely death. People on this day also worship
coins and ornaments and purchase new utensils. Hence this day is also
called
Dhana-trayodasi or Dhana-teras (See Kane, Pandurang Vaman, History of
Dharmasastra, Poona (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute), 1974, vol.V,
Part I, p. 194).

ii) The second day is known as Naraka-Chaturdasi (Naraka's 14th day),
commemorating Krishna's victory over the demon Naraka. It falls on the 14th
of the dark half of Ashwin and it is known as Narak-Chaturdashi (from
Narak,
meaning "hell", and Chaturdashi, meaning "the 14th day"). The 13th of the
dark half of Ashwin is observed to procure for oneself protection against
sudden and untimely death, whereas the 14th has for its principal objective
deliverance from sickness and sin, as it is indicated by several ritual
gestures and words used on this day: the oil-bath in the morning, the
waving
of the apotropaic medicinal plant apamarga during the bath, the libation of
water to Yama, the lighting of a ceremonial lamp to keep Naraka away, the
lighting of many lamps in several places in and around one's house, the
crushing underfoot of a bitter cucumber, symbolizing Naraka, and the many
prayers offered for deliverance from personal sins or those of one's
deceased ancestors. A solemn memorial of one's departed relatives is made
in
and through the parvana-shraddha, and a meal is given to Brahmins
(Cf.PVKane, op.cit., pp.196-198; Subhash Anand, Major Hindu Festivals-A
Christian Appreciation, Bombay (St.Paul's Publications), 1991, pp.106-108).

Narakasur was a wicked king, a symbol of Satan. He had imprisoned around
16,000 (or 50,100) women, snatched away the 'chatra' of Indra, "Kundale"
from the ears of Aditiy, the mother of the gods. When Krishna heard about
the wicked deeds of Narakasur, he decided to destroy him. But it was
Satyabhama, Krishna's wife who took the challenge of killing Narakasur. She
killed Narakasur and liberated all women and, when they returned home, they
expressed their joy by lighting lamp and drawing "Rangoli". In remembrance
of this event, even to this day, people early in the morning take bath and
draw "Rangoli" to mark the celebration.

iii) Third Day: It is Divali proper, also called Lakshmi-Puja (or Kali
Puja). This day, as the title itself indicates, is one specially dedicated
to the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It is a day given to
merry-making with dancing and music, and is known as Sukha-ratri. Devotees
prepare for this day by worshipping their account-books, closing old
accounts and opening new one. Houses and their surroundings are brilliantly
illuminated with rows upon rows of lamps, and people dressed in all their
finery go around joyously greeting relatives, friends and neighbours, while
exchanging gifts. The womenfolk make arati to their family members to
implore God's blessings on them, and beat winnowing baskets and drums to
symbolically dispel evil and misfortune from their midst. On this day, cows
are specially honoured in the govardhana-puja, as an expression of
gratitude
to God for the prosperity that has come to their farming communities
through
them. They are tastefully decorated with coloured designs, festoons and
garlands, and are not milked on this day nor made to bear any burden. At
night, people gather to read edifying passages from their sacred books, to
sing songs to Vishnu, and to pass their time gambling, one way of acquiring
wealth!

It is on the moon light "Amavasya" of the Ashwin Lakhsmi that the goddess
of
wealth was taken as a slave by King Bali. Vishnu, in his fifth Avatara as
Vaman, defeated Bali and freed Lakhsmi. It is a day special to the
shopkeepers and merchants. They close their old accounts and open new one.
Cows are specially honoured and a "Govardhana-puja" is done in thanksgiving
for the prosperity bestowed by God. New clothes are bought, crackers and
other fire-works' display surrounds the houses. It is a day for rejoicing
and entertainment.

iv) Fourth celebration is called Bali-pratipada. The first of the bright
half of Kartika is regarded as one of the three most auspicious days of the
year. The most important event of this day is the worship given to Bali, a
good and popular King, of a past golden age in India, who became the
important personage in a myth that is the original nucleus of the festival
of Divali .

After an oil-bath, a picture of Bali and his wife Vindhyavali is drawn in
five colours on the floor of the house, puja is offered in which, besides
the usual gifts, kukuda (lotus) flowers and also meat and alcohol are
presented, accompanied by appropriate prayers. In the afternoon, a
proclamation is made: "Today is the rule of Bali, enjoy yourself!" Devotees
make it a point to offer alms on this day, as such an act of mercy is
believed to be specially meritorious. The night is spent in prayerful vigil
and in edifying people through sacred dramas.

v) The final celebration is called Yama-dvitiya (Yama's second
day)/Bhaiya-doo/Bhai-beej: This day, the last of the Divali festival,
commemorates the meal that Yama had at the house of his sister Yami (or
Yamuna). On this day all men should go to their sisters' houses (or, in
case
he has no sister, to the house of a close female relative), where the
sister
serves him a meal with great affection, while the brother reciprocates by
offering her ornaments and gifts. Before the meal, a ritual bath is
prescribed, as well as libations of water offered for the departed, for
their deliverance from the bondage of their sins. With these expressions
of
love and concern for both the living and the dead, the festival comes to a
close (cf.Gregory Naik, SJ, ed., Understanding Our Fellow Pilgrims, Gujarat
Sahitya Prakash, Baroda, 2000, pp.126-131).

Its Significance: There are three elements to understand the meaning of
Divali, namely the myth regarding Bali, the five-day celebration which
begins and ends with the commemoration of Yama, and Diwali as a festival of
lights.

The myth of Bali is central to the celebration of Divali. According to this
myth, Bali, who had become very powerful, had incurred the displeasure of
the gods. One day, as he was offering an ashvamedha sacrifice, Vishnu
appeared to him in the avatar of a dwarf Brahmin student, Vamana, and
begged
him for as much land as he could cover in three paces. Bali,
notwithstanding
a warning from his teacher that the request was an insidious one,
generously
acceded to it. Thereupon, Vamana grew larger and larger and in two steps
covered heaven and earth. When Vamana asked Bali where he could place his
foot for his third step, Bali told him to plant it on his head. Vamana at
once did so and thrust Bali into the netherworld! However, Vishnu was so
pleased with Bali's adherence to his pledged word that he raised him to the
status of Indra.

Divali is rightly the Festival of Lights. It firmly emphasized where true
wisdom and values lie. Light symbolizes wisdom, truth, certitude, joy, and
life. He, therefore, who always strives to live a life of godliness is the
one who is eminently qualified to truly and rightly celebrate this great
festival (maha-utsava) of Divali. Furthermore, one who strives to
experience
God in everyone and everything rejoices in the brotherliness and
sisterliness that bind not only human beings here on earth but also those
ho
have passed over to a better life, not only cows, animals, and other mute
creatures, but also inanimate creation.

The five-day celebration of Divali is, therefore, meaningful for all of us.
We grope in darkness for light and happiness. God is Light. Only God can
remove darkness and vices, and usher in a day of brightness, joy and
happiness. For us, Christians, Jesus of Nazareth is the "Light of the
World"
(cf.Jn 8:12). We share in his divine light and life, and try to communicate
it to others through our service and communion. There are women who are
victims of so many evils, injustice, oppression and pain. Who will come to
their rescue? Can we be voice to the voiceless? What is our prophetic role
in being at their service, at the service of love and brotherhood?

Though Bhaibeej seems to limit to the blood relations or close
relatives; Christian love, however, has been expanded even to those who
persecute you. "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt.
5:44).

Our greetings to our Hindu brethren on the festival of light. It is
interesting to visit our Hindu friends during the festival, since we can
taste delicious sweets, like halwa, burfi and laddu. We need a national day
of celebration which may unite us. We have to be united in fighting against
corruption and injustice. We should be at the service of truth and love. I
wish you all a happy Divali!

Regards.

Fr.Ivo
Ivo
2010-11-05 21:01:33 UTC
Permalink
Reflections of a Christian on the
FESTIVAL OF DIVALI
It is the dream of humanity to be in the light and walk according to the
light. I am happy when my Hindu brethren celebrate the festival of Diwali
(popular modification of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which means a "row or
cluster of lights"), the Festival of Lights, fireworks and colours,
rejoicing and fellowship. It symbolizes the victory of good over the evil.
This is the theme of the festival: It is symbolized by the burning of
Narakasur, the demon of darkness.

The festival takes place from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
(September-October) to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Its origin is
the incident (or legend) of Yamraja, the King of death. It is celebrated
for
one, two, three or four days. But most devotees believe that this festival
is to be celebrated for five days: from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Though all five days are often
called Divali, they in fact constitute a complex of five different
festivals.

The Origin of the Festival: There is a legend that Yamraja, the King of
death, asked his servant: "Do you feel any time bad when you snatch men's
life?" "Yes", replied the servant, "when I took the son of king Haim. It
was
just four days after his marriage, while joy and merry-making was all
around
I had to take away his life." Yamaraja felt bad about it and from then
onwards decided saying: "Today is the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
Dhantra-yodashi. From today all those who will observe the five-day
festival
of light will not die an untimely death." Thus came the custom of lighting
the lamp for five days, with special rituals. The festival came to be known
as the festival of light, Divali or Deepavali ("row of lights").

The Festival Rituals: There are five principal items (or
elements) that constitute the Divali festival: worship of wealth,
celebration of Vishnu's victory over Narakasura, worship of Lakshmi and
dice-play, celebration of the victory of Vishnu over Bali, and the exchange
of brotherly and sisterly affection. Illuminations and fireworks
characterize all the days of Divali. However, in addition, each of the five
days has some cultic features particular to it.

There are five celebrations: i) First celebration is on the 13th day. It is
called Yama-trayodasi (Yama's 13th day): worshipping Yamaraja, the King of
death. It is characterized by cleaning of courtyards, painting of the house
and washing of vessels. The day begins with a ritual bath and a pledge
taken
by the devotee to partake of saltless food and to sleep on the floor. These
acts are symbolic of one's desire to mortify oneself and to make a new
beginning in one's relationships with God and neighbour through inner
cleansing. This day is spent in special devotion to Krishna. In the evening
a lamp is lit and offered to Yama with a prayer that the devotee be
preserved from sudden and untimely death. People on this day also worship
coins and ornaments and purchase new utensils. Hence this day is also
called
Dhana-trayodasi or Dhana-teras (See Kane, Pandurang Vaman, History of
Dharmasastra, Poona (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute), 1974, vol.V,
Part I, p. 194).

ii) The second day is known as Naraka-Chaturdasi (Naraka's 14th day),
commemorating Krishna's victory over the demon Naraka. It falls on the 14th
of the dark half of Ashwin and it is known as Narak-Chaturdashi (from
Narak,
meaning "hell", and Chaturdashi, meaning "the 14th day"). The 13th of the
dark half of Ashwin is observed to procure for oneself protection against
sudden and untimely death, whereas the 14th has for its principal objective
deliverance from sickness and sin, as it is indicated by several ritual
gestures and words used on this day: the oil-bath in the morning, the
waving
of the apotropaic medicinal plant apamarga during the bath, the libation of
water to Yama, the lighting of a ceremonial lamp to keep Naraka away, the
lighting of many lamps in several places in and around one's house, the
crushing underfoot of a bitter cucumber, symbolizing Naraka, and the many
prayers offered for deliverance from personal sins or those of one's
deceased ancestors. A solemn memorial of one's departed relatives is made
in
and through the parvana-shraddha, and a meal is given to Brahmins
(Cf.PVKane, op.cit., pp.196-198; Subhash Anand, Major Hindu Festivals-A
Christian Appreciation, Bombay (St.Paul's Publications), 1991, pp.106-108).

Narakasur was a wicked king, a symbol of Satan. He had imprisoned around
16,000 (or 50,100) women, snatched away the 'chatra' of Indra, "Kundale"
from the ears of Aditiy, the mother of the gods. When Krishna heard about
the wicked deeds of Narakasur, he decided to destroy him. But it was
Satyabhama, Krishna's wife who took the challenge of killing Narakasur. She
killed Narakasur and liberated all women and, when they returned home, they
expressed their joy by lighting lamp and drawing "Rangoli". In remembrance
of this event, even to this day, people early in the morning take bath and
draw "Rangoli" to mark the celebration.

iii) Third Day: It is Divali proper, also called Lakshmi-Puja (or Kali
Puja). This day, as the title itself indicates, is one specially dedicated
to the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It is a day given to
merry-making with dancing and music, and is known as Sukha-ratri. Devotees
prepare for this day by worshipping their account-books, closing old
accounts and opening new one. Houses and their surroundings are brilliantly
illuminated with rows upon rows of lamps, and people dressed in all their
finery go around joyously greeting relatives, friends and neighbours, while
exchanging gifts. The womenfolk make arati to their family members to
implore God's blessings on them, and beat winnowing baskets and drums to
symbolically dispel evil and misfortune from their midst. On this day, cows
are specially honoured in the govardhana-puja, as an expression of
gratitude
to God for the prosperity that has come to their farming communities
through
them. They are tastefully decorated with coloured designs, festoons and
garlands, and are not milked on this day nor made to bear any burden. At
night, people gather to read edifying passages from their sacred books, to
sing songs to Vishnu, and to pass their time gambling, one way of acquiring
wealth!

It is on the moon light "Amavasya" of the Ashwin Lakhsmi that the goddess
of
wealth was taken as a slave by King Bali. Vishnu, in his fifth Avatara as
Vaman, defeated Bali and freed Lakhsmi. It is a day special to the
shopkeepers and merchants. They close their old accounts and open new one.
Cows are specially honoured and a "Govardhana-puja" is done in thanksgiving
for the prosperity bestowed by God. New clothes are bought, crackers and
other fire-works' display surrounds the houses. It is a day for rejoicing
and entertainment.

iv) Fourth celebration is called Bali-pratipada. The first of the bright
half of Kartika is regarded as one of the three most auspicious days of the
year. The most important event of this day is the worship given to Bali, a
good and popular King, of a past golden age in India, who became the
important personage in a myth that is the original nucleus of the festival
of Divali .

After an oil-bath, a picture of Bali and his wife Vindhyavali is drawn in
five colours on the floor of the house, puja is offered in which, besides
the usual gifts, kukuda (lotus) flowers and also meat and alcohol are
presented, accompanied by appropriate prayers. In the afternoon, a
proclamation is made: "Today is the rule of Bali, enjoy yourself!" Devotees
make it a point to offer alms on this day, as such an act of mercy is
believed to be specially meritorious. The night is spent in prayerful vigil
and in edifying people through sacred dramas.

v) The final celebration is called Yama-dvitiya (Yama's second
day)/Bhaiya-doo/Bhai-beej: This day, the last of the Divali festival,
commemorates the meal that Yama had at the house of his sister Yami (or
Yamuna). On this day all men should go to their sisters' houses (or, in
case
he has no sister, to the house of a close female relative), where the
sister
serves him a meal with great affection, while the brother reciprocates by
offering her ornaments and gifts. Before the meal, a ritual bath is
prescribed, as well as libations of water offered for the departed, for
their deliverance from the bondage of their sins. With these expressions
of
love and concern for both the living and the dead, the festival comes to a
close (cf.Gregory Naik, SJ, ed., Understanding Our Fellow Pilgrims, Gujarat
Sahitya Prakash, Baroda, 2000, pp.126-131).

Its Significance: There are three elements to understand the meaning of
Divali, namely the myth regarding Bali, the five-day celebration which
begins and ends with the commemoration of Yama, and Diwali as a festival of
lights.

The myth of Bali is central to the celebration of Divali. According to this
myth, Bali, who had become very powerful, had incurred the displeasure of
the gods. One day, as he was offering an ashvamedha sacrifice, Vishnu
appeared to him in the avatar of a dwarf Brahmin student, Vamana, and
begged
him for as much land as he could cover in three paces. Bali,
notwithstanding
a warning from his teacher that the request was an insidious one,
generously
acceded to it. Thereupon, Vamana grew larger and larger and in two steps
covered heaven and earth. When Vamana asked Bali where he could place his
foot for his third step, Bali told him to plant it on his head. Vamana at
once did so and thrust Bali into the netherworld! However, Vishnu was so
pleased with Bali's adherence to his pledged word that he raised him to the
status of Indra.

Divali is rightly the Festival of Lights. It firmly emphasized where true
wisdom and values lie. Light symbolizes wisdom, truth, certitude, joy, and
life. He, therefore, who always strives to live a life of godliness is the
one who is eminently qualified to truly and rightly celebrate this great
festival (maha-utsava) of Divali. Furthermore, one who strives to
experience
God in everyone and everything rejoices in the brotherliness and
sisterliness that bind not only human beings here on earth but also those
ho
have passed over to a better life, not only cows, animals, and other mute
creatures, but also inanimate creation.

The five-day celebration of Divali is, therefore, meaningful for all of us.
We grope in darkness for light and happiness. God is Light. Only God can
remove darkness and vices, and usher in a day of brightness, joy and
happiness. For us, Christians, Jesus of Nazareth is the "Light of the
World"
(cf.Jn 8:12). We share in his divine light and life, and try to communicate
it to others through our service and communion. There are women who are
victims of so many evils, injustice, oppression and pain. Who will come to
their rescue? Can we be voice to the voiceless? What is our prophetic role
in being at their service, at the service of love and brotherhood?

Though Bhaibeej seems to limit to the blood relations or close
relatives; Christian love, however, has been expanded even to those who
persecute you. "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt.
5:44).

Our greetings to our Hindu brethren on the festival of light. It is
interesting to visit our Hindu friends during the festival, since we can
taste delicious sweets, like halwa, burfi and laddu. We need a national day
of celebration which may unite us. We have to be united in fighting against
corruption and injustice. We should be at the service of truth and love. I
wish you all a happy Divali!

Regards.

Fr.Ivo
Ivo
2010-11-05 21:01:33 UTC
Permalink
Reflections of a Christian on the
FESTIVAL OF DIVALI
It is the dream of humanity to be in the light and walk according to the
light. I am happy when my Hindu brethren celebrate the festival of Diwali
(popular modification of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which means a "row or
cluster of lights"), the Festival of Lights, fireworks and colours,
rejoicing and fellowship. It symbolizes the victory of good over the evil.
This is the theme of the festival: It is symbolized by the burning of
Narakasur, the demon of darkness.

The festival takes place from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
(September-October) to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Its origin is
the incident (or legend) of Yamraja, the King of death. It is celebrated
for
one, two, three or four days. But most devotees believe that this festival
is to be celebrated for five days: from the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
to the 2nd of the bright half of Kartika. Though all five days are often
called Divali, they in fact constitute a complex of five different
festivals.

The Origin of the Festival: There is a legend that Yamraja, the King of
death, asked his servant: "Do you feel any time bad when you snatch men's
life?" "Yes", replied the servant, "when I took the son of king Haim. It
was
just four days after his marriage, while joy and merry-making was all
around
I had to take away his life." Yamaraja felt bad about it and from then
onwards decided saying: "Today is the 13th of the dark half of Ashwin
Dhantra-yodashi. From today all those who will observe the five-day
festival
of light will not die an untimely death." Thus came the custom of lighting
the lamp for five days, with special rituals. The festival came to be known
as the festival of light, Divali or Deepavali ("row of lights").

The Festival Rituals: There are five principal items (or
elements) that constitute the Divali festival: worship of wealth,
celebration of Vishnu's victory over Narakasura, worship of Lakshmi and
dice-play, celebration of the victory of Vishnu over Bali, and the exchange
of brotherly and sisterly affection. Illuminations and fireworks
characterize all the days of Divali. However, in addition, each of the five
days has some cultic features particular to it.

There are five celebrations: i) First celebration is on the 13th day. It is
called Yama-trayodasi (Yama's 13th day): worshipping Yamaraja, the King of
death. It is characterized by cleaning of courtyards, painting of the house
and washing of vessels. The day begins with a ritual bath and a pledge
taken
by the devotee to partake of saltless food and to sleep on the floor. These
acts are symbolic of one's desire to mortify oneself and to make a new
beginning in one's relationships with God and neighbour through inner
cleansing. This day is spent in special devotion to Krishna. In the evening
a lamp is lit and offered to Yama with a prayer that the devotee be
preserved from sudden and untimely death. People on this day also worship
coins and ornaments and purchase new utensils. Hence this day is also
called
Dhana-trayodasi or Dhana-teras (See Kane, Pandurang Vaman, History of
Dharmasastra, Poona (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute), 1974, vol.V,
Part I, p. 194).

ii) The second day is known as Naraka-Chaturdasi (Naraka's 14th day),
commemorating Krishna's victory over the demon Naraka. It falls on the 14th
of the dark half of Ashwin and it is known as Narak-Chaturdashi (from
Narak,
meaning "hell", and Chaturdashi, meaning "the 14th day"). The 13th of the
dark half of Ashwin is observed to procure for oneself protection against
sudden and untimely death, whereas the 14th has for its principal objective
deliverance from sickness and sin, as it is indicated by several ritual
gestures and words used on this day: the oil-bath in the morning, the
waving
of the apotropaic medicinal plant apamarga during the bath, the libation of
water to Yama, the lighting of a ceremonial lamp to keep Naraka away, the
lighting of many lamps in several places in and around one's house, the
crushing underfoot of a bitter cucumber, symbolizing Naraka, and the many
prayers offered for deliverance from personal sins or those of one's
deceased ancestors. A solemn memorial of one's departed relatives is made
in
and through the parvana-shraddha, and a meal is given to Brahmins
(Cf.PVKane, op.cit., pp.196-198; Subhash Anand, Major Hindu Festivals-A
Christian Appreciation, Bombay (St.Paul's Publications), 1991, pp.106-108).

Narakasur was a wicked king, a symbol of Satan. He had imprisoned around
16,000 (or 50,100) women, snatched away the 'chatra' of Indra, "Kundale"
from the ears of Aditiy, the mother of the gods. When Krishna heard about
the wicked deeds of Narakasur, he decided to destroy him. But it was
Satyabhama, Krishna's wife who took the challenge of killing Narakasur. She
killed Narakasur and liberated all women and, when they returned home, they
expressed their joy by lighting lamp and drawing "Rangoli". In remembrance
of this event, even to this day, people early in the morning take bath and
draw "Rangoli" to mark the celebration.

iii) Third Day: It is Divali proper, also called Lakshmi-Puja (or Kali
Puja). This day, as the title itself indicates, is one specially dedicated
to the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It is a day given to
merry-making with dancing and music, and is known as Sukha-ratri. Devotees
prepare for this day by worshipping their account-books, closing old
accounts and opening new one. Houses and their surroundings are brilliantly
illuminated with rows upon rows of lamps, and people dressed in all their
finery go around joyously greeting relatives, friends and neighbours, while
exchanging gifts. The womenfolk make arati to their family members to
implore God's blessings on them, and beat winnowing baskets and drums to
symbolically dispel evil and misfortune from their midst. On this day, cows
are specially honoured in the govardhana-puja, as an expression of
gratitude
to God for the prosperity that has come to their farming communities
through
them. They are tastefully decorated with coloured designs, festoons and
garlands, and are not milked on this day nor made to bear any burden. At
night, people gather to read edifying passages from their sacred books, to
sing songs to Vishnu, and to pass their time gambling, one way of acquiring
wealth!

It is on the moon light "Amavasya" of the Ashwin Lakhsmi that the goddess
of
wealth was taken as a slave by King Bali. Vishnu, in his fifth Avatara as
Vaman, defeated Bali and freed Lakhsmi. It is a day special to the
shopkeepers and merchants. They close their old accounts and open new one.
Cows are specially honoured and a "Govardhana-puja" is done in thanksgiving
for the prosperity bestowed by God. New clothes are bought, crackers and
other fire-works' display surrounds the houses. It is a day for rejoicing
and entertainment.

iv) Fourth celebration is called Bali-pratipada. The first of the bright
half of Kartika is regarded as one of the three most auspicious days of the
year. The most important event of this day is the worship given to Bali, a
good and popular King, of a past golden age in India, who became the
important personage in a myth that is the original nucleus of the festival
of Divali .

After an oil-bath, a picture of Bali and his wife Vindhyavali is drawn in
five colours on the floor of the house, puja is offered in which, besides
the usual gifts, kukuda (lotus) flowers and also meat and alcohol are
presented, accompanied by appropriate prayers. In the afternoon, a
proclamation is made: "Today is the rule of Bali, enjoy yourself!" Devotees
make it a point to offer alms on this day, as such an act of mercy is
believed to be specially meritorious. The night is spent in prayerful vigil
and in edifying people through sacred dramas.

v) The final celebration is called Yama-dvitiya (Yama's second
day)/Bhaiya-doo/Bhai-beej: This day, the last of the Divali festival,
commemorates the meal that Yama had at the house of his sister Yami (or
Yamuna). On this day all men should go to their sisters' houses (or, in
case
he has no sister, to the house of a close female relative), where the
sister
serves him a meal with great affection, while the brother reciprocates by
offering her ornaments and gifts. Before the meal, a ritual bath is
prescribed, as well as libations of water offered for the departed, for
their deliverance from the bondage of their sins. With these expressions
of
love and concern for both the living and the dead, the festival comes to a
close (cf.Gregory Naik, SJ, ed., Understanding Our Fellow Pilgrims, Gujarat
Sahitya Prakash, Baroda, 2000, pp.126-131).

Its Significance: There are three elements to understand the meaning of
Divali, namely the myth regarding Bali, the five-day celebration which
begins and ends with the commemoration of Yama, and Diwali as a festival of
lights.

The myth of Bali is central to the celebration of Divali. According to this
myth, Bali, who had become very powerful, had incurred the displeasure of
the gods. One day, as he was offering an ashvamedha sacrifice, Vishnu
appeared to him in the avatar of a dwarf Brahmin student, Vamana, and
begged
him for as much land as he could cover in three paces. Bali,
notwithstanding
a warning from his teacher that the request was an insidious one,
generously
acceded to it. Thereupon, Vamana grew larger and larger and in two steps
covered heaven and earth. When Vamana asked Bali where he could place his
foot for his third step, Bali told him to plant it on his head. Vamana at
once did so and thrust Bali into the netherworld! However, Vishnu was so
pleased with Bali's adherence to his pledged word that he raised him to the
status of Indra.

Divali is rightly the Festival of Lights. It firmly emphasized where true
wisdom and values lie. Light symbolizes wisdom, truth, certitude, joy, and
life. He, therefore, who always strives to live a life of godliness is the
one who is eminently qualified to truly and rightly celebrate this great
festival (maha-utsava) of Divali. Furthermore, one who strives to
experience
God in everyone and everything rejoices in the brotherliness and
sisterliness that bind not only human beings here on earth but also those
ho
have passed over to a better life, not only cows, animals, and other mute
creatures, but also inanimate creation.

The five-day celebration of Divali is, therefore, meaningful for all of us.
We grope in darkness for light and happiness. God is Light. Only God can
remove darkness and vices, and usher in a day of brightness, joy and
happiness. For us, Christians, Jesus of Nazareth is the "Light of the
World"
(cf.Jn 8:12). We share in his divine light and life, and try to communicate
it to others through our service and communion. There are women who are
victims of so many evils, injustice, oppression and pain. Who will come to
their rescue? Can we be voice to the voiceless? What is our prophetic role
in being at their service, at the service of love and brotherhood?

Though Bhaibeej seems to limit to the blood relations or close
relatives; Christian love, however, has been expanded even to those who
persecute you. "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt.
5:44).

Our greetings to our Hindu brethren on the festival of light. It is
interesting to visit our Hindu friends during the festival, since we can
taste delicious sweets, like halwa, burfi and laddu. We need a national day
of celebration which may unite us. We have to be united in fighting against
corruption and injustice. We should be at the service of truth and love. I
wish you all a happy Divali!

Regards.

Fr.Ivo

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