Saturday, October 21, 2006

Namaste....Happy Deepavali

In Year 2006, Deepavali (The Festival of Lights) is celebrated on October 21st.

Deepavali (also known as Diwali) is a Sanskrit word which is broken down into Deepa (which means light) and avali (meaning a row). Yes, you've guessed it, that is why this joyous celebration is known as the Festival of Lights (an equivalent to Chinese New Year :P) which marks the victory of good over evil and it is a joyous occasion celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.

In India, the Hindu calender has 2 versions which are used in different regions. The Amantnm (ending on the no-moon) version is prevalent in southern India and the Purnimanta (ending on the full moon) version is prevalent in northen India. The Amantnm version of the Hindu calender has been adopted as the Indian national calender. However, according to the Prunimanta version, Deepavali is marked as the new year's day and regardless of the differences, Deepavali is worshipped on the same days throughout India in which it is a 5 day celebration where it is customary to fast for 3 days.

There are slight differences in the significance of Deepavali for Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. Nevertheless, generally speaking, this festival celebrates life and the strengthening of relationships.

I was particularly fascinated to learn that Hindus find cause to celebrate this festival for different reasons: (will not be covering the significance of Sikhism and Jainism)
1) As per sacred text, on this day, Lord Shiva accepts Shakti (a goddess) into the left half of form (body) and appeared as Ardhanarishvara.(synthesis of masculine and feminine energies - go figure, its worth while to view Indian art on this :) )
2) To celebrate the return of Lord Rama from a war which he killed the demon King Ravana.
3) To commemorate the killing of Narakasura (an evil demon) by Lord Khrisna's wife Sathyabhama.
4) Daitya king bali, who is allowed to return to earth once a year.

The 5 days of Deepavali are named as follows: (abbreviated to capture meaning only)
Day One: Dhan meaning wealth. Auspicious day for shopping!
Day Two: Narak meaning "of a new era of Light and Knowledge"
Day Three: Diwali - the moon completely wanes (something like new years eve for the chinese)
On this day, there are lights and lights galore!
Day Four: Padwa - Beginning of the new year.
Day Five: Bhayiduj - On this day, brothers and sisters meet to express their love and affection.

For more information: The Story of Diwali

In Singapore, deepavali is a public holiday and if you drive down Little India, you can enjoy the beautiful light-up. Also, one of the special things celebrated by the minority Indians here is the fire-walking ceremony (which is not practised as part of the festival in other countries!). And if you are wondering what the fire-walking ceremony is the act of walking barefoot over a bed of hot coals!!!

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