Friday, October 16, 2009

Diwali -- the epic tale of a fine romance

Diwali begins Saturday. This is The Festival of Lights in Hindu, Jain and Sikh (and some Buddhist) traditions. President Obama reached out to the people of these traditions with this address, and a small ceremony at the White House.

Diwali can be up to 5 days in length (starting Saturday the 17th). Forms of celebration can differ widely depending on which religious community or country is celebrating. The monotheistic Sikh community has a very different approach than the Hindu community, for example. But regardless of the community, the emphasis is on celebration, family and charity.

(from various sections of Wikipedia)
DIWALI and the Sikh community:
The story of Diwali for the Sikhs is a story of the Sikh struggle for freedom., starting from the time of Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539), the founder of Sikhism. When the Muslim king was ruling he locked up the Guru but while the king had tried to make him eat he refused and fasted. It was then realized that outside the palace people had gathered around with lanterns, candles, torches and protested to set the Guru free and the king had eventually agreed that his greediness had got in the way of his responsibilities and released the Guru and the people celebrated his release known as Diwali.

DIWALI and the Hindu community - The return of Rama
Lord Rama's life is pictured as the ideal man and the perfect human. For the sake of an old oath taken by his father in a moment of anguish, Rama abandons his claim to the throne to serve an exile of fourteen years in the forest. His wife, Sita, and brother Lakshmana, are bereft and join him in exile. Ravana, the monarch of Lanka, sees Sita and must have her, so he takes on the guise of a young deer, who captivates Sita and leads her into the forest while Rama is hunting. After a long and arduous search for years that tests his strength,virtue and love for Sita, Rama fights a colossal war against Ravana's armies. In a war of powerful and magical beings, greatly destructive weaponry and battles, Rama kills Ravana and frees his wife. Having completed his exile, Rama returns to be crowned king in Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) and eventually becomes emperor,after which he reigns for eleven thousand years – an era of perfect happiness, peace, prosperity and justice known as Rama Rajya. The diya, or lights, were set out to welcome him home at the end of his exile.

Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is also honored by Hindus during Diwali. Some businesses even start their financial year on Diwali.

In order to ease Lakshmi's entrance, Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open. often the design of the lotus flower, her favorite blossom, are drawn on the floor to welcome Lakshmi. The Diwali lamps are placed in rows to make it simple for Lakshmi to find her way to houses.

This in a drawing of Lord Rama and Sita, enthroned after Lord Rama's triumphant return.

I love the romance of this story -- Rama enduring many trials for many years in a devoted search for his beloved wife, who has been cruelly beguiled by another, masquerading as an innocent deer. And, after they are reunited, his triumphal return from exile. It is a sweet day when the devoted hero wins, and loved ones are reunited at last. This story is one of deep devotion, honor and perseverance. It ends, thankfully, in celebration.

The story of Rama and Sita is told in one of the two major books in the Hindu tradition -- the The Ramayana, which means "Rama's Journey", an ancient Sanskrit epic of over 24,000 verses. This epic poem is considered so sacred that the reading if it is said to confer blessings on the reader and the listener. A translation of the Ramayana can be found here.

Happy Diwali to all who are celebrating it. May your year be sweet and prosperous.


Blogger POD said...

Happy Diwali (festival of lights) to you too. I hope I"m not too late to wish for you.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

thanks -- pleasant wishes are never too late :-)

6:33 PM  

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