Festival of Light

Niru Trivedi looks forward to the festival of Diwali, celebrated in November and one of the key Hindu festivals of the year

This year, Diwali – the festival of lights – will be celebrated publicly for the first time in Peterborough in partnership with Peterborough City Council. Diwali is marked as the end of Hindu year. Traditionally, this is the time of the year when people light candles and clay lamps filled with oils to eradicate ‘darkness’. On this day, houses will be decorated, and sweets and presents will be exchanged.

The time of Diwali is one of the most festive and beautiful times of the year. Diwali – or Deepawali – literally means an ‘array of lights’ or ‘cluster of lights’. It is a time filled with light and love; a time when Indians all over the world rejoice. Diwali is celebrated on the 15th day in the dark half of Ashvini month (October – November). It is the darkest night of the darkest period, yet it is a celebration of light! Diwali is heralded as the triumph of good over evil. Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world celebrate Diwali.

To Hindus, darkness represents ignorance, and light is a metaphor for knowledge. Diwali is therefore a festival of the light which dispels the darkness of our ignorance; it is a festival of light which shows us the way on our journey through life. The purpose is not to glorify the light of the candle, or the light of the firecracker. The purpose is to glorify the light of God. It is He who bestows the real light, the everlasting light upon the darkness of this mundane world. A candle burns out. A firework is a momentary visual experience. But, the candle of a still mind and the fireworks of a heart filled with bhakti (devotion) are divine and eternal; these are what we should be celebrating.

Additionally, on Diwali, we begin a new chequebook; we put last year’s accounts to rest. But, what about our own balance sheets? When was the last time we assessed our minuses and plusses, our strengths and our weaknesses, our good deeds and selfish deeds? How many years’ worth of grudges and bitterness and pain have we left unchecked?

A good businessman always checks his balance sheet: how much he spent, how much he earned. A good teacher always checks the progress of her students: how many are passing, how many are failing. And they assess themselves accordingly: ‘Am I a good businessman?’, ‘Am I a good teacher?’. In the same way, we must assess the balance sheets of our lives. Look at the last year. Where do we stand? How many people did we hurt? How many did we heal? How many times did we lose our temper? How many times did we give more than we received? Then, just as we give our past chequebooks and the first cheque of our new one to God, let us give all our minus and plus points to Him. He is the one responsible for all our good deeds. And our bad ones are due only to ignorance. So, let us turn everything over to Him, putting our strengths, our weaknesses, our wins and our losses at His holy feet. And then, let us start afresh, with a new book, unadulterated by old grudges and bitterness…

Public celebrations will take place on 2 November in Cathedral Square.

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