November 2, 2013
Pics: Spoorthi Ullal
Light and darkness, creation and destruction, life and death, sacred and profane, good and evil, day and night, wisdom and folly, knowledge and ignorance, truth and falsehood, God and Satan (demon) are known as binary oppositions. One is more privileged and more highly valued over the other. Every religion speaks of these oppositions. People regardless of faith believe and celebrate the victory of good over evil, light conquering darkness, truth prevailing over falsehood, and God defeating demon.
During the festival of Deepavali the light of the lamps will grace millions of homes of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh brethren. Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters too certainly rejoice participating in this festival of lights, light a candle or an oil lamp and join in traditional fireworks. I, a Christian am sure to light a candle/lamp in my little room inviting God come into our hearts and bring about the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness and freedom from bondage in our troubled families and society.
Jains celebrate Diwali to commemorate the enlightenment and liberation (moksha) achieved by Mahavira, the 24th Thirthankara. For the Buddhists Diwali is to remember the conversion of Ashoka to Buddhism. That is why they call it as Ashok Vijayadhashami. For Sikhs, Diwali is the celebration of freedom of Sixth Guru Har Gobind, from imprisonment by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir along with other 52 prisoners in October, 1619. Guru Har Gobind considered as a symbol of goodness and light in dark and troubled time.
In Islam light symbolizes God’s presence, goodness and divine revelation. One of Allah’s 99 names is “The Light”. The Quran states, virtue and evil are not equal. One needs to repel evil deeds with virtuous ones. (Quran: 41:34). The Bible is filled with metaphors of light and darkness. The first recorded act of God in the creation story was to say “Let there be light.” God separated the light from darkness. “God is light; in Him there is nodarkness at all,” makes one to believe that the light is a metaphor or an attribute to God’s own character. Jesus, the Word of God, came to the world as ‘Light of the world.” His Resurrection to destroy sin and victory over death to bring life and hope is commemorated on Easter Vigil lighting a candle.
Deepavali a festival that has become universal in its origin unique to Hindu brothers and sisters. In Hindu scriptures and legends one comes across several binary oppositions: real (sat) and unreal (asat), truth (satya) and falsehood (mithya), knowledge (Jnana) and ignorance (ajnana, avidya), light (jyoti) and darkness (tamaska), liberation (mukti) and bondage (bandha), gods (devas) and demons (asuras), immortal (amrita) and mortal (mritha), and moral (dharma) and immoral adharma and so forth . Oft these oppositions linked to gods (goddesses) and demons (asuras, rakshasas). The traditional and popular accepted stories behind the celebrations are: Virtuous Rama’s (god) victory over Ravana (demon); Krishna’s killing demon Narakasura; victory of Vishnu in his dwarf form Vamana over the demon-king Bali, who was pushed into the patala. The return of Pandavas, the coronation of King Vikramaditya and the appearance of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity play a significant role to celebrate and enjoy the festival of lights year after year.
The message of Deepavali is that good always triumphs over evil. The darkness is over-powered by light. The spiritual take of this festival is “the awareness of inner light”. The Divine light dispels darkness or ignorance. Every religion loves to celebrate that God, the source of light, did not abandon the world to its darkness. Manifestations of Ravana, symbol of evil appears today in different forms. The vices which are attributed to him like Kama (lust), krodha (anger), moha (delusion), lobha (greed), mada (pride), maatsyasya (envy) and ahankara (ego) destroy peace and happiness. They make life of a human person inhuman. They beget hatred, intolerance and violence. They curtail freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of right to live. The celebration of Deepavali makes us ‘enlightened ones’ to choose good and renounce evil. Let it bring awareness in each of us that every human person is the spark of the divine light that shines. May our lighting of lamp, candle, bursting of firecrackers, lighting fireworks, colorful sparkles and bonfires open our eyes to the reality and not blind us. The celebration of enveloping presence of God who is Light reaffirm our hope to experience good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.
Wishing Happy Deepavali to everyone.
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