Significance of Deepavali
Illumination is a sign of victory, of triumph over some foe or some impending obstacle to happy living. It is a way of expressing one’s joy. In various parts of this country, there are different versions, about the origin of this festival. In North India the story given is that it marks the triumphant return of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana to Ayodhya after their long period of exile and after the destruction of the Rakshasa race. In other parts of India, it is associated with the destruction of the demon called Narakasura by Shri Krishna and his consort Satyabhama. In some other regions, it is supposed to celebrate the incarnation of Vamana and the blessings He invoked on Bali, the demon king after subjugating his pride.
But the most prevalent and most significant of all is the one which is related to Narakasura and his downfall. His very name indicated that Narakasura was promoting the part of Naraka or Hell. All vices and sins were patronized by him. So even his own mother, the Earth, prayed to the Lord to annihilate him and his gang of wicked demons.
People wake up very early this day and light lamps all over their homes and all along the streets to indicate that the dark days of the demon are over. They take ceremonial baths, wear new clothes, dance around light crackers and flares and enjoy themselves.
Narakasura represents the down-dragging tendencies of man and Deepavali celebrates the conquest of man over them. His capital city had a name which reveals his fundamental fault Pragajhoti-Sha-pura, means the city where people are not aware of the primordial light, the splendour of the Atma. The citizens put their faith in the body and the senses, the ego, the passions, impulses and emotions that arise there from. Narakasura is the son of Mother Earth. All men are children of the same Mother and all have in them the down dragging pulls for which Narakasura suffered. The Narakasura story is thus a challenge and warning to all mankind.
The Lord destroyed this Asura and his brood with Satya, His consort by His side. This act is fraught with a meaningful lesson that truth is the best weapon to overcome evil. Shri Krishna is the Prema principle and His shadow is Satya. They are both inseparable and complementary.
In the story popular in North India about Deepavali, there is also a profound meaning. Ayodhya means the city that can never fall into the hands of an enemy, that is to say, the Atma itself. But darkness overpowered it for 14 years when Rama was in exile. Rama means that which gives delight and nothing gives greater delight than the Atma. That is why we say Atamaram while referring to oneself. We never use the words Atmakrishna or Atmashiva. It is always Atmarama. When Rama returned, it was indeed as if Ayodhya was born a new. It was a festival of spontaneous rejoicing. Sita lighted the lamp in the palace of Ayodhya and spread delight in the heart of millions. Sita is the ‘shadow of Rama’. She embodies Shanti when Rama (i.e. Dharma) and Sita (Shanti) were restored to the empire. It became a festival of light.
It must be noted that the name Krishna also means that which attracts and gives delight. It is the characteristic of God that He acts like a magnet and draws back into the source from which they came.
The symbolism behind the long lines of lamps that are hung, on every home, marking its outlines and the strings of little lamps that hung over door is also highly illumining. For the lamps are all lit from the one original lamp, just as all the millions of individual beings are emanating from the one original source of life. Each one is a Jyoti lit from the flame of the one principle Jyoti, it does not lose its splendour or diminish in it illumining power. That is the lesson of the omnipresent Divine principle which the Deepavali (gathering of Lights) teaches. ‘Meditate on the one Param Jyoti out of which your own Jyotikas derive its power or shine; you are but a spark of that eternal universal flame. When this is realized, you are led from Tamas to Jyoti.
In Northern India, it is believed to be the day when Shri Rama was crowned Emperor after his return from exile. Another legend refers to the demon Narakasura who Lord Krishna, accompanied by His consort Satyabhama destroyed in battle, this day. The demon Narakasura was a tyrant who had no reverence towards elders and saints. He was afflicted by land-hunger. He looted and plundered, unchecked. He abducted women. He was unrepentant of his crime and sins. When the good men appealed to Lord Krishna for succour, He invaded his kingdom and directed His consort Satyabhama to slay the demon. His city is called Praaggjyotisha-Puram. He was the son of the Earth.
Significance of the above legend:
Narakasura represents ignorance- Ignorance of the Atmic splendour. It leads one to believe he is the body and to cater to its needs and its clamour. When man grows in physical strength, economical power, intellectual scholarship and political authority and does not grow in spiritual riches, he becomes danger to the society and a calamity to himself. He is a Naraka to his neighbours and his kin. He sees only the many, not the one. He is drawn by the scintillating of manifold into the downward path of predilection. They have no light to guide them, they move about in the dark; they do not recognize that they are unaware of the light.
Ignorance so fundamental and so deep can be destroyed by the flash of Satya or Truth. The Danava forces are a flame in every person as lust and greed, as hate and envy, as pride and pompousness. Only the discipline of the spirit through japa and dhyana can quench the flames and scorch the conflagration. Today, we celebrate the destruction of those traits, collectively personified as Narakasura, for they by, their collective effect, lead man into hell or Naraka.
Attention has to be paid to the discarding of worn out prejudices and predilections, the adoption of new habits of love and the mutual respect, towards one’s kith and kin and brothers and sisters of all creeds and castes, the hanging of festoons of friendship and fraternity over the door still of the heart. This will make the festival really meaningful and fruitful, instead of an occasion for pomp and barren hilarity.
The Lamp is not merely the symbol of the knowledge of Truth. It is also the symbol of the one, the Atma that shines in and through all multiplicity. Just as with one lamp, a thousand lamps can be lit and the one is as bright as ever inspite of the thousands deriving light from it, so too, the Atma illuminates the Jeeva and shines
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya:
From darkness, lead me, O Lord into light. Lead me from the blindness of ignorance into the vision of Truth, because the Truth will be reflected therein. Each one must first decide on what is worth living for and striving for. For this, one has to meet and converse with elders who have travelled along the same route inspired by their examples; one must practice what they prescribe with single minded confidence.
When man fails to use his attainments for the welfare of others, he becomes a Narakasura.
Riches, when one come by them, have to be revered as something given on trust, and must be used for the amelioration of the wants of society and not for personal aggrandizement.
Deepavali teaches the lesson of light and Love:
‘Love alone gives light, light spreads, it mingles, with the light from other sources of light, it has no boundaries, no prejudices, no favourites. Move out, spread, expand give up limit of mine and thine, his and their, caste and creed, in one limitless flow of love. That is culmination of all spiritual sadhana. When the lamp of love is shining, God manifests. Keeps it burning bright and pure, God persists. Allows all to light their lamps from it, God showers Grace’.
‘Love is born in the womb of Seva’ (S.S.S. – v.292)
‘I call upon to celebrate the Deepavali, not by feasting and exploding crackers to disturb the peach and joy of the neighbourhood but by silent lighting of lamps and silent service through love.’- Baba (S.S.S. V -292)