India has been described as the Land of Festivals. The many sacred feasts, pujas, and holy days that dot the Hindu calendar, are not merely days for fun and feasting. Rather, they are vital, social, cultural, and religious celebrations that bring people together, and remind them of their great and glorious heritage as inhabitants of an ancient and still vibrant civilisation.
Deepavali is one of the most important festivals in the Indian Calendar. The Deepavali lights are symbolic of the light of love, hope and faith, which are meant to dispel the darkness of ignorance and despair in our lives.
Deepavali literally means a row of lights. It falls on the last days of the dark half of Kartik (October— November). Some celebrate it as a 3-day festival:
· Dhanteras: The 13th day of the dark half of Kartik
· Narak Chaudas: The Chaturdashi
· Deepavali: The return of Sri Rama to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana
On the sacred Deepavali Day families exchange sweetmeats. Fire works are let off in every household. On this day it is also believed that Lakshmi was united with Lord Vishnu. Therefore in every household, Lakshmi Puja is performed on this day to propitiate the Goddess of Wealth.
It is also believed that on this day, Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura. In South India, people wear new clothes after an early morning bath which is considered equivalent to Ganga Snan on this auspicious day. In Northern India, businessmen begin their new account books on this day. Houses are cleansed and earthen lamps decorate and illumine each home.
(Dada J.P. Vaswani is humanitarian, philosopher, educator, acclaimed writer, powerful orator, messiah of ahimsa, and non-sectarian spiritual leader.
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