Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy Diwali - The Hindu Festival of Lights

There was a new student in class today. I asked her name and she said Deepa, which means "light." Before I could edit myself, the mouth said, "Happy Diwali!" with great enthusiasm.

Up on Devon Avenue this afternoon, I was saying "Shuba Deepavali" to anyone who would listen. Many did, although most said, "WHAT-T?", as they expect English (and not terribly-accented Hindi) to come out of my mouth. And then we all smiled and wished each other Happy Diwali. I ended up getting a 30-gram Lakshmi coin at the usual place - Vitha Jewelers - where we talked about the deities and how they are celebrated during the Diwali holidays. I also had a quarter-cup of chai at Annapurna, which took me straight back to India. And I realized, you don't have to be in India to enjoy India.

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Friday is Diwali, the most popular holiday in India, which means, “Row of lighted lamps" - a reference to the rows of lamps that were lit to welcome the return of Lord Rama after his victory over the demon, Ravana. Or it could be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Or, in Bengal, the festival is dedicated to the worship of Kali Ma, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day.

In Sikhism, Diwali celebrates the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Ji and 52 other princes from the Gwalior Fort in 1619., which they celebrate by lighting the Golden Temple.

In Jainism, Deepawali marks Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana.

Lights are displayed to represent the importance of good over evil. Each of Diwali’s five days has special significance. The fourth day is New Years and the fifth, falling on November 7, honors siblings.

From now through Sunday, it is good to buy gold or silver Lakshmi coins (honoring the goddess of wealth) to insure wealth in the coming year. It's also a good time to make investments - as is next Wednesday.

Tonight is a good night to pray to Hanuman, the monkey god who served Lord Rama, and represents courage, loyalty and humility.

Friday night is for Saraswati, the goddess of music, knowledge, wisdom and the arts.

Wednesday is for the five deities, including Lakshmi.

Tonight, you can sing to Hanuman, do the splits (Hanumanasana) and light some candles.

And learn more here.


  1. Oh I so want to visit India again some time soon. Am making do with Salman Rushdie novels for now.

  2. It'd be great to be in India on this day. At the end of last night's lecture, RS said something like, "On this not very auspicious night before the very auspicious night..." before he wished us well in our journey inward.

  3. I am increasingly of the opinion that India is (for me) a “feeling” rather than a place. If the right combination of sensory experience comes together – or even a taste, a scent, or some musical notes – I’m there. This may be my imagination, of course, but the goose bumps are definitely real.