Diwali the Festival of Lights
Firecrackers going boom, bang, crack seem to deafen my ears, the brightness of the non-exploding fireworks light up the night, bright enough to blind the weak eyed, dogs and cats in the neighborhood scamper for cover to escape from the chaos and fire. Kids too afraid of the noise and color take refuge in their mother's loving embrace. Adults enjoy conversation, eat sweets, and give gifts to each other and to their family members. This used to be the typical scene at the Diwali celebrations when I was growing up in India.
As a growing kid all that I was concerned was that the school would be closed for 2-3 days depending on when the festival is and I'd get to wear new clothes, eat tasty food, burst crackers/ fireworks, get together with my cousins and then of course receive gifts of cash and kind. It was only during my teenage years I began to explore the inner meaning of celebrating this festival.
What actually started my exploration was when I heard some rationalists say it is a waste of money and environmental pollution to burn fire crackers during Diwali. Yet others would say that this festival has become too commercialized and there is no spiritual or religious significance to it anymore. I wanted to learn about the festival and the best way to start was to ask my parents and other elders in the family.
I got several different stories from the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata about why we celebrate Diwali. In the Ramayana the people of Ayodhya celebrated Rama's return from Sri Lanka after vanquishing Ravana the demon king by lighting lamps around their homes and thus was born the tradition of Diwali. In the Mahabharata the Pandavas defeated the Kauravas and reclaimed the country for the good.Continued on the next page