Open your mind’s eye and imagine…
It is one of the darkest new moon nights. Stars sparkle across the black expanse. The golden light of diyas glows like treasure, these lanterns and festive candles radiating across the city as far as the eye can see. Thunderous sound booms as bright, colorful bursts of fireworks illuminate the night. Children squeal with laughter. Families embrace, feast, exchange gifts, and join in puja to Lakshmi. She hears these prayers of gratitude, and she smiles upon the adoring. Lakshmi rules this holiday from her deific perch of munificence.
This is Diwali. The Festival of Lights. A fitting name since its Sanskrit origin means “light” or “lamp.” This ancient Hindu festival is one of the most important of sacred days, known as the biggest, brightest, and happiest of Hindu celebrations.
For a five-day period, Diwali symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness for millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains worldwide. Each of the five days represents a different aspect of the celebration, starting with Dhanteras on the first day, to begin praising Lakshmi for her bounty. The second day, Naraka Chaturdashi, centers on eradicating laziness and evil from our lives, so that bounty is possible. The third night is Diwali, the main night on which the lighting, feasting, and fun takes place. The fourth night, Diwali Padva, honors the husband and wife relationship. And the final fifth night is dedicated to the brother-sister bond.
While Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is a focal point of the merriment, this occasion asks us to look deeper. Diwali is the time when we value true riches over transient wealth – moments when we embrace good over evil, moments when we empower hope over despair. Coinciding with the Hindu New Year, this is also a time to celebrate new beginnings and set new intentions. And this year, 2015, the main night of Diwali is even more magical, as it falls on November 11th (11/11) – a powerful number in numerology.
To observe this festival in true Hindu tradition, people clean and clear out their homes, gather sweets and delicious foods to share, and dress their best. They set out offering bowls and dishes to honor Lakshmi, and their altars are filled with shining tealights or small candles.
Even if you are not Hindu, the spirit of Diwali is something that people of all faiths, walks of life, and sacred practices can recognize. Light, love, and gratitude are the quintessence of our being, the origins and roots of lasting happiness. These energies are sacrosanct and boundless across time, across cultures. I wish you a vibrant, sparkling ceremony as you banish darkness from your life and rejoice in the light.
Happy Diwali to you! So it is.