Wishing all a happy and prosperous diwali

Diwali or Deepavali is amongst the most celebrated Indian festivals.
The word Deepavali originates from two Sanskrit words 'Deepa' which
means 'light' and 'Avali' which means 'a row'. This is why
Deepavali is called 'the festival of lights'.

It is celebrated on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartik which is
a new moon day (Amavasya). Deepavali is celebrated by lighting diyas
(earthen lamps), drawing rangolis (multicoloured designs drawn on the
ground with coloured rice flour), cleaning and decoration of homes,
wearing new clothes, preparation of sweets in homes, lighting of
fireworks, veneration of cows as incarnations of Goddess Lakshmi
(Goddess of wealth) and Lakshmi Puja.

There are two main mythological stories that signify the importance of
Deepavali. The first story is that Deepavali denotes the return of Lord
Rama's return from exile after his victorious conquest of the evil
king Ravana. This story has greater significance in Northern India. In
Southern India, Deepavali marks the victory of Lord Krishna over the
mighty asura (demon) Narakasura. Narakasura had become a menace to the
gods in heaven and had snatched the magnificent earrings of Aditi (the
Mother Goddess) and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods
in his harem. In desperation, the gods led by Indra requested Lord
Krishna to destroy the demon as he was wreaking havoc. Krishna readily
agreed, fought a fierce battle and emerged victorious. It was after
this that He accepted the sixteen thousand damsels as his wives at
their request.

The meaning behind these mythological stories is that the villain of
the piece represents the desire-ridden ego. In our lives, it is our
egos and desires that create problems for us. In the story of Lord
Krishna above, the sixteen thousand damsels represent our numerous
desires. When they are controlled by our egos, they cause destruction
and rob us of our joy. However, when we work selflessly, dedicating our
actions to a higher goal, the desires remain in check, and most
importantly, get sublimated. Each one of us has positive and negative
tendencies. When we identify with the good in us, work towards
something beyond our selfish interests the lower, negative tendencies
fade away. Our desires get sublimated and through constant sadhana
(spiritual practice) we overcome our ego and desires. The darkness of
ego and desire are banished, replaced by the light of wisdom. Knowledge
that we are not incomplete and limited as we think ourselves to be. But
that we are that Divine Self that is free and independent of all the
world has to offer.

The scented bath by pouring gingerly oil from your head until your legs
and washing your hair with "shikakai" powder before the break of dawn
and the cleaning of homes during Deepavali signify the cleansing of the
personality of desires and ego. The new clothes represent our newly
acquired state of Realisation or at a more basic level our new
spiritual orientation and commitment to self-development. This change
brings sweetness in our lives which is why sweets are made and
distributed in the community. It represents the fact that once we turn
spiritual and begin looking within, we experience a quiet sense of
peace that we cannot experience while chasing objects of the world.

Thus Deepavali or Diwali has a tremendous spiritual significance in our
lives. And like all our festivals, they are reminders for us to retain
and cultivate that spiritual element in our lives. Because life is more
than just a journey, it is a search for meaning, to be one with God.