Today, India celebrates Deepavali or Diwali, the festival of lights. Like any other festival, there is a story, or rather several stories behind this particular festival. Being the diverse country that India is, different parts of the country celebrate this festival for different reasons.
In South India, (where I hail from) it is celebrated in honour of Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon Narakasura. It is believed that on this day, Lord Krishna slew Narakasura thereby releasing 16000 princesses from his captivity.
North India, it is celebrated to mark Lord Rama’s return to his homeland Ayodhya. On this day, he returned to Ayodha with his wife Sita Devi and his brother Laxmana after his defeat of the demon king Ravana. The people of Ayodhya lit rows of earthern lamps to welcome their King back. It’s a celebration of homecoming. There are many other myths and legends that revolve around Goddesses Lakshmi and Kali too. Since I’m not entirely familiar with those legends, I’m not going into the details.
But basically, all of it boils down to one thing – it’s a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, hope over despair, justice over injustice, peace over war, success over failure, joy over sorrow.
It’s also one of my favourite festivals. All the shops will be lit up by strings of colourful lights of many varieties, with eye-catching lanterns, diyas and Rangoli patterns on display. It’s a sight that makes me feel happiness to the core of my being. It’s a sight that makes window shopping feel so rewarding! Also, there’s a high probability that you might end up buying something just because they are too beautiful to pass on.
Sadly, it’s also a festival that contributes much to pollution. People burst fireworks of many shapes, sizes and colours to celebrate Diwali. With India’s population, you can imagine the amount of fireworks that would be employed in honour of Diwali. Thanks to this, noise pollution and air pollution find their major contributor. Though the display of fireworks can be absolutely marvelous, it’s hard to ignore the plight of our environment.
This festival can be a nightmare for animals. They will be too scared and intimidated by the intermittent flashes of lights and ear-piercingly loud sounds. So this Deepavali, be a responsible citizen and have a bit of empathy towards this poor creatures. Here’s PETA India’s guide on how to make Deepavali (or Diwali) special for our furry friends.
Over the last couple of years, my household has drastically cut down on fireworks. Our Deepavali used to be all about sweets (read: mainly kesari) and fireworks. Now, we have confined it to mostly sweets and less fireworks. We can witness the numerous fireworks in display, courtesy of our neighbours. This year, there will be no fireworks. I’m far from home for yet another Deepavali. So I can safely say that I won’t be bursting any crackers by myself. In fact, starting this year, I’m taking a strict pledge to save the environment. It’s the feeling of happiness and being together with your loved ones that count. Not the number or variety of fireworks that you burst.
To all my fellow Indians, wish you a very happy Deepavali/Diwali. With every diya that we light, let us dispel the darkness within each one of us and that of the world around us too.
I wish you a very happy and safe Deepavali/Diwali.