Today is the festival of Diwali 2012 (dee-vaah-lee) or Deepavali (deep-uh-vaah-lee) – the Indian festival of lights. Deepa means light and avali means a continuous line.
Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama back home after a 14 year period of exile. The residents of Ayodhya (I-yo-the-yah) celebrated his homecoming by lighting rows and rows of lights, or diyas and waving sparklers. Rama symbolizes the past of righteousness or dharma. His return is a metaphor for the victory of our good over evil.
Indians celebrate Diwali by wearing colorful, new clothes and honoring the goddess Lakshmi (luck-shmee), the goddess of prosperity and beauty. Some also regard Diwali as the day in which Lakshmi and Vishnu were married. Homes are cleaned from top to bottom so that Lakshmi can grace the home with her presence.
Traditionally, Indians celebrate new year’s by going to their local temple first thing in the morning, starting off the year on a reverential note and receiving blessings for the coming year. The first money spent that year is an offering to a temple or some charity, to begin the year with an act of giving. Women cook and share sweets with friends and family. Sweets stand for the sweetness in life, which we all savor. Sukhadi (soo-khuh-dee)- a sweet made from butter, jaggery and wheat flour is usually cooked and offered for the New Year.
Tomorrow marks the first day of the Indian new year. The first three items purchased in the new year in a traditional Indian household are moong dahl, yogurt and salt.
Diwali is typically a five day festival, and today is the third day. It begins on the 13th phase of the waning Moon in the Vedic month of Ashvina and ends on the second phase of the waxing Moon in the month of Kartika.
Diwali marks the celebration of light over darkness, as Rama was victorious in defeating the demon Ravana prior to his return to Ayodhya. It is also a time when we can honor our own inner light and let it shine forth into the world.
Happy Diwali 2012!