Diwali, which falls on the darkest new moon night of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar, celebrates light and knowledge that comes from inner cleansing.
The festival is celebrated by people of various faiths, but for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, it commemorates special events that symbolise the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.
Before Diwali, people clean or decorate their homes and workplaces.On Diwali night, they light oil lamps or candles in their homes and offer prayers, usually invoking Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
These practices have become ritualised over time, but they have deep spiritual significance, related to the renewal and rejuvenation of the human soul in its journey through time.
The cleaning done prior to Diwali is an expression of the cleansing that the soul needs to undergo in order to hold the wealth of wisdom and virtues that God grants it. It is said that Goddess Lakshmi avoids places that are not clean, so people discard disused items lying around their homes and make sure that every corner of their dwelling is clean before Diwali.
While it may be possible to hoard material wealth in a grimy home, the real wealth of the soul, which is spiritual awareness, purity and contentment, cannot be sustained in an impure mind.
A person whose mind is fouled by vices will have no inclination to seek wisdom or cultivate the finer qualities that divinise humans. Even if such a person is given spiritual knowledge, he will not retain it for long, and will shed it just as soiled cloth repels water instead of absorbing it. The cleaner the mind, the more one is attracted to all that is good and noble, and it is such a mind that seeks enlightenment. The multifarious lights that illumine homes during Diwali are a symbol of the human yearning for the light of true knowledge.
Just as darkness inspires fear and causes sorrow in the form of mishaps, ignorance of one’s true identity leads to all human suffering, as bodyconsciousness gives rise to vices such as lust, anger, attachment and ego, which corrupt our thoughts and actions.
There is something beyond the physical body and mind, which is pure and eternal, called the soul. The celebration of Diwali refers to the light of this higher knowledge, dispelling the darkness of ignorance which masks one’s true identity as an immortal, immanent being.
Happiness is the fruit of tions, which in turn flow from good actions, which in turn flow from pure thoughts and feelings. Noble thinking will come naturally to us only if we have cleansed the mind and culti vated virtues such as love, kindness, purity and truth which enrich human life and bring joy to relationships.
The deities worshipped during Diwali are symbolic representations of virtues.Goddess Lakshmi, the deity most commonly associated with the festival, is shown seated on a lotus flower, holding a lotus blossom each in two of her four arms, while one palm is raised in blessing and another showers gold coins. The lotus is a symbol of purity , as the flower remains untouched by the mud in which it blooms. The blessings and gold signify generosity and abundance.
Such are the qualities we need to invoke during Diwali in order to enrich our lives, as without them no amount of material wealth can bring us happiness.