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Diwali- Significance in Indian Culture

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Feminine angle to Diwali Celebration

India, the land of festivals, is all geared up to celebrate the festival of lights and sounds, Diwali.  Every household gets decorated with colourful lights, oils lamps and candles and people never miss on a single chance to make their homes look the best ever glowing and lighting place. Homes are decored with China lights forgetting about the Sino-Indian rift and the forever troubling high electricity bills. With the flames of Diya and the sound of “firecrackers” the evils have a tough time during these days and even some people can’t! All the above words are very common and can be found everywhere if you scroll down the Internet. But let’s not confine to the known side of Diwali this time. Let the Diyas of this Diwali glow the other side of the story and explore the special hidden relation between Diwali, woman and some facts which will enkindle our knowledge of Diwali.

What is Diwali?
Talking about Diwali, the shorter name for Deepavali, ‘Deep’ means ‘earthen lamp’ and ‘Avali’ means ‘row’ or ‘line’. By applying your common sense you can definitely derive to the conclusion that earthen lamp symbolises female gender as soil is feminine. So Diwali has a deep connection with woman, and this aspect is generally under the veil.

Why is Diwali celebrated?
Almost more than half of our population connects Diwali with the homecoming of Lord Rama, after he killed the demon king ‘Ravana’.

But as it is said “Har sikke ke do pehlu hote hai”.  There are many more explanations about Diwali and its origin than actually we know.

Focusing on Bhagawat Purana, the story entails Hiranyayaksh was a very bad demon and in order to escape from Lord Bishnu, he tried to hide Mother Earth. When he touched the earth to push from its axis, an Asura was created out of the contact between Bhumadevi (Mother Earth) and Hiranyayaksh. Ultimately Hiranyayaksh was killed but the Asura, named ‘Narakasura’, became very much powerful and after performing severe penance, Lord Brahma gave him a boon that “Nobody could kill him except his mother, that is, ‘Mother Earth’. Knowing that no mother would kill her own son, however evil he may be, he became vigorously powerful and full of vices. But as Lord Krishna has said, “Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata, abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srijamyaham” (Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself ); after a robust war between Shree Krishna accompanied by Satyabama, his third wife, and Narakasura, the end of the demon was brought by Satyabama. Krishna then explained that Satyabama was an incarnation of Bhumadevi and hence was destined to kill the evil. This is a story where Diwali is celebrated as Satyabama’s victory over Narakasura or the victory of good over the evil, which remained unknown to many of us.

Diwali from Sita’s viewpoint:
The popular story behind Diwali goes- Lord Rama; the seventh Avtaar of Lord Bishnu killed Ravana, the demon, and freed his wife Sita who had been kidnapped by the latter (which again has many stories and interpretations). When Rama returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, all the citizens celebrated his homecoming and also the victory of good over evil by decorating their house with earthen lamps. Hence since then Diwali is celebrated. But the question here is even Sita had spent 14 years in exile then why only Rama’s name is predominant? Well, let’s not be ardent feminist and shift our focus to one event prior to their homecoming.

After killing Ravana, Sita was taken to vibhishan’s palace for Sringaar and then Vibhishan ordered to take Sita to Rama. But for Sita, another surprise was awaiting as ‘Maryada Purushottam Ram’ told Sita that she should have killed herself rather than stay under the roof of another man and that her presence was of no joy rather she was grit in his eyes. The lady who crossed the Lakshman Rekha for upholding the reputation of the Raghu kula had no idea that her act of duty to protect the family’s reputation would cause the loss of her own reputation and dignity. To prove her purity, she ordered Lakshmana to set up a bonfire and enters into it (popularly known as Agnipariksha).

Imagine before entering your home if you step in puddle and then your entire house is carpeted, how would you feel? I guess that homecoming won’t be a celebrated one!

Kali Pujo:
For the Eastern region, Diwali is celebrated as Kali Pujo. We all know the rituals of the Pujo but we never think of why Maa Kali is so different from other female deities of Hinduism? The first written document that gives a glimpse about the Hindu deities is the ‘Vedas’. But who wrote the Vedas? Probably some sages and Rishis did.

But how did they give bodily structures to the deities?

Why Maa Durga is so pretty and not Maa Kali? Let’s think once. From the ancient age, woman is considered as fragile and meek and the only positive thing about her was “beauty”. Maa Kali is the symbol of power, death, on one hand she nourishes and on the other she destroys. All these qualities cannot be attached to an ordinary woman, therefore she needs to be differentiated from the rest of female figures and hence she is black and unclothed, which shows how she is not a regular woman! Why Maa Durga is not black? Maybe according to Rishis a black feminine figure would have not attract the Asura and hence it would be impossible to defeat him.

Every festival is a time of joy, happiness, victory of good over evil and so on. But the main thing is that we all celebrate these festivities on the Earth, or the “Mother” Earth. Happy Diwali!

 

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