The biggest celebration of them all is less than a fortnight away, but what is Diwali (or is it Deepavali) all about? This idiots guide will give you some of the answers.
The story of Diwali goes something like this, but remember to read the disclaimer at the end of this passage.
Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I shall begin.
Isn’t it great? What? You haven’t heard? Sita is back where she belongs. Lord Ram, Lakshman and Hanuman ji, have rescued her from the evil Ravana. Remember? Last week? Ram battled with Ravana in Lanka and killed him on Dusserha.
They are travelling back home now. It will take them 20 days from the date of Dussehra to reach Ayodhya. They are riding on Ravana’s Flying Chariot (Pushpaka Vimana).
I know. It’s awesome. And get this. There’s more good news. Lord Ram will be crowned King on Diwali (or is it Deepavali). Let’s celebrate the victory of light over darkness.
Okay, here’s the disclaimer
There are huge omissions and there may well be the odd error. They are acknowledged and accepted, but give me a break.
For a layman trying to accurately condense Hindu mythology into a mere 100 words is a task that only Lord Ram himself could successfully complete.
Here’s a bit more background
For many foreigners (and no doubt a few Hindus) it’s hard to figure out what’s happening when it comes to many Indian festivals. Each festival is part of a far bigger event and that means joining up the dots can be a task and a half.
The Ramayana, which contains the Diwali story, is one of the largest books in the world. It contains a staggering 24,000 verses, broken down into 500 chapters which are themselves contained in seven books. Now, do you see what I am working with?
No, well, there’s more. If I understand it correctly, the Ramayana should read alongside the Mahabharata, which itself contains an abbreviated version of the Ramayana.
The Mahabharata is said to be the longest poem ever written. It’s 1.8 million words make over 200,000 individual verse lines, making it about ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. Phew.
So, what about the five days of Diwali again?
In the north Diwali is celebrated like I’ve described, but in the south of India’s there’s a different take on the story. It’s believed by many Hindus to be the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon king Narakasura, whilst in western India it’s celebrated as the day when Lord Vishnu sent the demon Bali to rule the underworld.
Confused? There’s more. In Jainism the date is recognised as the spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira, whilst Sikhs celebrate it as the day Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru, was freed from imprisonment.
Like many Indian festivals, celebrations vary and different things will happen on different days depending on where you are and who you are talking too. But what we can agree on is that the 30th is the big day as it is when good defeats evil, light overcomes darkness.
Simple. Oh yes. The five days. Here’s the list
October 28 is Dhanteras
October 29 is Naraka Chaturdasi
October 30 is Diwali
October 31 is Kartika Shudda Padyami
November 1 is Bhai Dooj
For more information about what happens on each day of the festival, its origins and more about its meaning, take a look at this link. Alternatively, speak to your Indian friends and neighbours, and see what they agree on.
Whatever the story, here’s wishing you a happy Diwali whenever and however you celebrate.
I need a lie down.