Diwali - Introduction
Diwali or Deepavali meaning 'rows of lights' is one of the most popular festivals within the Hindu calendar. The theme of the festival is derived from the epic Ramayana, originally written by the sage Valmiki, but the festival also marks the Hindu New Year's Eve. When His father was reluctantly forced to banish Him, Rama entered the forest- exiled along with His brother Laxman, and wife Sita. There Sita was captured and taken away by the demonic king Ravana to the island of Lanka. Desperate to find His beloved wife, Lord Rama received the help of an army of celestial monkeys and bears. The monkey race included the most mystically endowed member - Shri Hanuman. Hanuman leaped over the ocean to Lanka and met Sita languishing in the grove of trees within Ravana's palace grounds. He returned the news to Rama, and together they built a bridge across the sea.
The battle was long and hard, but eventually Lord Rama personally met with Ravana. "You have stolen my wife just like a dog steals food from the table in his master's absence. Today, I whose attempt never fails, shall punish you!" After thus rebuking Ravana, Lord Rama shot an arrow which pierced his heart like a thunderbolt.
After defeating the demonic king Ravana, Lord Rama, along with brother Laxman, his wife mother Sita, Hanuman and all the monkey warriors triumphantly returned to the city of Ayodhya so that Lord Rama could claim the throne. Whey they returned in a splendid pushpak vimana (a flying chariot of flowers), it was the new moon night: pitch black. All the citizens of Ayodhya, therefore, lit the way for the return of Lord Rama by lighting millions of lamps along the route accompanied with fireworks.
On Diwali people visit their friends and relatives, wear new dresses and exchange gifts. Local temples are also visited to pay respects to Lord Rama. Probably no aspect of the Lord is ore universally known as Lord Ramachandra, 'the moon-like Rama'. In the temple, we see Him with one hand lifted in blessing and the other holding His bow of a warrior king. He came to demonstrate the justice, moral values and heroic activities of a perfect Monarch. His activities are remembered by way of enacting His pastimes and by singing devotional hymns. To finish the day everyone treated to wonderful firework displays in which effigies of Ravana are burnt to mark the victory of goodness over evil.
Coming of Diwali has great significance in the life of people. It is from this day they pray to follow the ideals exemplified by Lord Rama. They pray that the whole world can live in peace and everyone can interact with each other just like members of a big family, just as the scriptural injunction states ‘the whole world is a family’ - all living entities are children of one God, who is known by various names by different people. Prayers are said for the poor, homeless and the underprivileged of the world. In this way Hindus celebrate this important day and they wish that darkness of ignorance be dispelled in everyone’s life by the ‘festival of lights’ and we can turn our face towards the Lord and realise that we all are eternal servants God.
The day after Diwali is the Hindu New Year. This day also marks the beginning of ‘Rama-rajya': the first day of rule for Lord Rama. Also on this day is Go-Puja, a ceremony which specially honours mother cow and 'annakut' which celebrates the worship of Gorvardhan Hill. These festivities have been practiced for thousands of years.
Summary of the Epic Ramayana
From Shrimad Bhagavatam (9.10)
By A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lord Ramachandra appeared in the dynasty of Maharaja Khatvanga. The son of Maharaja Khatvanga was Dirghabahu, and his son was Raghu. The son of Raghu was Aja, the son of Aja was Dasharatha, and the son of Dasharatha was Lord Ramachandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Lord Ramachandra went with Vishvamitra and killed Rakshashas like Maricha. After breaking the stout and strong bow known as Haradhanu, the Lord married mother Sita and cut down the prestige of Parashurama. To obey the order of His father, He entered the forest, accompanied by Lakshmana and Sita. There He cut off the nose of Shurpanakha and killed the associates of Ravana, headed by Khara and Dushana. Ravana’s kidnapping of Sitadevi was the beginning of this demon’s misfortune. When Maricha assumed the form of a golden deer, Lord Ramachandra went to bring the deer to please Sitdevi, but in the meantime Ravaaa took advantage of the Lord’s absence to kidnap her. When Sitadevi was kidnapped, Lord Ramachandra, accompanied by Lakshmana, searched for her throughout the forest. In the course of this search, They met Jatayu. Then the Lord killed the demon Kabandha and the commander Vali and established a friendly relationship with Sugriva. After organizing the military strength of the monkeys and going with them to the shore of the sea, the Lord awaited the arrival of Samudra, the ocean personified, but when Samudra did not come, the Lord, the master of Samudra, became angry. Then Samudra came to the Lord with great haste and surrendered to Him, wanting to help Him in every way. The Lord then attempted to bridge the ocean, and, with the help of advice from Vibhishana, He attacked Ravana’s capital, Lanka. Previously, Hanuman, the eternal servant of the Lord, had set fire to Lanka, and now, with the help of Lakshmana, the forces of Lord Ramachandra killed all the Rakshasha soldiers. Then Lord Ramachandra personally killed Ravana. Mandodari and other wives lamented for Ravana, and in accordance with Lord Ramachandra’s order, Vibhishana performed the funeral ceremonies for all the dead in the family. Lord Ramachandra then gave Vibhishana the right to rule Lanka and also granted him a long duration of life. The Lord delivered Sitadevi from the Ashoka forest and carried her in a flower airplane to His capital Ayodhya, where He was received by His brother Bharata. When Lord Ramachandra entered Ayodhya, Bharata brought His wooden shoes, Vibhishanaa and Sugriva held a whisk and fan, Hanuman carried an umbrella, Shatrughna carried the Lord’s bow and two quivers, and Sitadevi carried a waterpot containing water from holy places. Angada carried a sword, and Jambavan (Riksharaja) carried a shield. After Lord Ramachandra, accompanied by Lord Lakshmana and mother Sitadevi, met all His relatives, the great sage Vashishtha enthroned Him as King.
Reasons for the Appearance of Lord Rama
Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared hundreds of thousands of years ago at a place called Ayodhya, north India. The reason for His advent are told in the Bhagavad-gita, the essence of all the Vedic scriptures, where Lord Krishna tells Arjuna:
yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
tadatmanam srjamy aham (4.7)
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.
vinashaya cha dushkrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge (4.8)
To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.
Lord Rama’s Qualities
From Shrimad Bhagavatam (9.10)
By A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The Diwali Celebration
This day is known as Dhan-Trayodashi or Dhan Teras, which falls on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kartik. The word Dhan denotes wealth and the festival has a great importance for the mercantile community. Residences and business premises are renovated and decorated and their entrances are extensively decorated with traditional patterns of Rangoli designs to welcome Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth. Small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermillion in the houses to show her long-awaited arrival. Lamps are kept burning throughout the night. New utensils and/or gold are purchased by the household. Goddess Laxmi is worshipped in the evening with great pomp and ceremony and traditional sweets are offered to her.
This day is also known as Yamadeepdan and an offering to Yama, the superintendent of death, is made. There is very nice story to illustrate this: a king’s son was cursed to be bitten by a snake on the fourth day after his marriage. When that day came his wife did not allow him to sleep but rather engaged him in hearing many Puranic stories and sang bhajans. She also placed a lot of gold and silver ornaments in a big pile at the entrance of the resting chamber and lighted many lamps. When Yamaraj arrived in the form of the serpent, he was blinded by the glare generated by the lights and the ornaments, which prevented him entering the resting chambers. So he climbed on top of the heap of the ornaments and sat there listening to the wife recounting stories. The next day Yamaraj quietly went away and the power of the curse was over. Thus the young wife saved her husband’s life from the clutches of death. Since then this day is also known as Yamadeepdan. As an offering to Yama lamps are kept burning through out the night in the direction of South.
This day is known as Narak Chaturdashi and falls on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kartik. On this day Lord Krishna killed the demonic king Bhaumasura, who was also known as Narakasura, happened to be the son of the earth personified.
‘This demon, Bhaumasura, having become very powerful, took by force the umbrella from the throne of the demigod Varuna. He also took the earrings of Aditi, the mother of the demigods. He conquered a portion of heavenly Mount Meru and occupied the portion known as Mani-parvata, plaground of the demi-gods.
"Indra, the king of the heavenly planets, went to Dvaraka and described the demons transgressions to Lord Krishna. Together with Queen Satyabhama, the Lord mounted His carrier Garuda and travelled to the capital of Narakasura’s kingdom, Pragjyotisha-pura. On a field outside the city He decapitated the demon Mura with His disc. Then He fought Mura’s seven sons and sent them all to the abode of death, after which Narakasura himself entered the battlefield on the back of an elephant. Naraka threw his shakti lance at Shri Krishna, but the weapon proved ineffective, and the Lord cut the demon’s entire army to pieces. Finally, with His sharp-edged disc Krishna cut off Narakasura’s head.
The earth-goddess, Prthivi, then approached Lord Krishna and gave Him the various items Narakasura had stolen. She offered prayers to the Lord and presented Naraka’s frightened son at Lord Krishna’s lotus feet. After pacifying the demon’s son, Krishna entered Narakasura’s palace, where He found sixteen thousand one hundred young women. As soon as they caught sight of the Lord, they all decided to accept Him as their husband. The Lord sent them to Dvaraka along with a great quantity of treasure and then went with Queen Satyabhama to the abode of Indra. There He returned Aditi’s earrings, and Indra and his wife, Shachi-devi, worshiped Him."
(Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.59.1 – purport by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami prabhupada)
From 'Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead – Worshipping Govardhana Hill' (Chapter 24 ) By A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This day falls on the 16th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kartik. On thisGovardhan Puja takes place. This story is related in the tenth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. It tells how Lord Krishna advised His father, Nanda Maharaja, and other cowherd men of Vrindavan not to perform a special ceremony to satisfy Indra, the king of heaven, but to worship the Goverdhan Hill, in order to chastise Indra, who was very much puffed up at being the supreme controller of the heavenly planets.
‘Lord Krishna gave them the following directions. “Prepare very nice foods of all descriptions from the grains and ghee collected for the yajna. Prepare rice, dhal, then halava, pakora, puri and all kinds of milk preparations, such as sweet rice, rabri, sweetballs, sandesha, rasagulla and laddu, and invite the learned brahmanas who can chant the Vedic hymns and offer oblations to the fire. The brahmanas should be given all kinds of grains in charity. Then decorate all the cows and feed them well. After performing this, give money in charity to the brahmanas. As far as the lower animals are concerned, such as the dogs, and the lower grades of people, such as the chandalas, or the fifth class of men, who are considered untouchable, they also may be given sumptuous prashadam. After nice grasses have been given to the cows, the sacrifice known as Govardhana-puja may immediately begin. This sacrifice will very much satisfy Me.”
They performed Govardhana worship and circumambulation of the hill. According to the instruction of Lord Krishna, Nanda Maharaja and the cowherd men called in learned brahmanas and began to worship Govardhana Hill by chanting Vedic hymns and offering prashadam. The inhabitants of Vrindavana assembled together, decorated their cows and gave them grass. Keeping the cows in front, they began to circumambulate Govardhana Hill. The gopis dressed themselves very luxuriantly and sat in bull-driven carts, chanting the glories of Krishna’s pastimes. Assembled there to act as priests for Govardhana-puja, the brahmanas offered their blessings to the cowherd men and their wives, the gopis.
When everything was complete, Krishna assumed a great transcendental form and declared to the inhabitants of Vrindavana that He was Himself Govardhana Hill in order to convince the devotees that Govardhana Hill and Krishna Himself are identical. Then Krishna began to eat all the food offered there. The identity of Krishna and Govardhana Hill is still honoured, and great devotees take rocks from Govardhana Hill and worship them exactly as they worship the Deity of Krishna in the temples.
From that day, Govardhana-puja has been going on and is known as Annakuta. In all the temples of Vrindavana or outside of Vrindavana, huge quantities of food are prepared in this ceremony and are very sumptuously distributed to the general population. Sometimes the food is thrown to the crowds, and they enjoy collecting it off the ground. The people, therefore, collect it and eat with great satisfaction.
This day also known as Varshapratipad, which marks the coronation of king Vikramaditiya. The most popular calendar, vikram samvat, has it’s origins this coronation.
This day is known as Bhratra-Dwitiya (bhai Beej) and falls on the falls on the 17th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kartik. The story related in the Puranas is as follows: Yamaraja, the superintendent of Death, visited his sister, Yamuna Devi. She put the tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and fed him sumptuously with variety of preparations. At the end they exchanged gifts and Yamaraj announced that ‘let every man dine at his sister’s house.’ From that day this day is known as Yama-Dwitiya and it is being observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers.
The Age of Ramayana
The festival of Diwali is usually celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm in Britain. The popularity and acceptance of this famous celebration has steadily grown over the years among the indigenous British population. From schools, where the festival forms part of the Religious Education syllabus; to the work place, where it is now common to have Diwali dinners; to coverage of the festival by the media; to the Royal Mail issuing press releases about the last day on which Diwali post can be posted; to the Prime Minister and other dignitaries attending Diwali functions; to diaries & calendars having entries about the festival; Diwali is now an established part of British Life.
When it comes to being cognizant about the time when the story of Ramayana actually took place one encounters many different theories. These ideas are nearly always based on an individual’s research, personal opinions and even speculation. Most of these notions postulate that events in the Ramayana occurred somewhere between 200 BC to 7000 BC. Unfortunately none of them give an opportunity for the tradition to speak for it self i.e. what do the Vedic (Hindu) scriptures say about the date of Ramayana?
We will now look at the evidence from the Vedas to calculate the date of the Ramayana.
nandanabhyam ca samyutah
(Laghu Bhagavatamrta Text 78)
‘Splendid as a new blade of durva grass, and accompanied by Sumitra's two sons and by Bharata, He appeared in the Treta-yuga of the 24th chatur-yuga as the son of Kaushalya and Dasharatha.’
tretayuge chaturvishe ravanastapasah kshayaata
raamam daasharathim praapya saganah kshayamiyavaan
(Vayu Purana 70.48)
‘Due to his lowly behaviour Ravana was killed along with his friends and relatives
by Lord Rama, the son of Dasharatha, in the 24th chatur yuga.’
Kali Yuga in the 28th millennium of the 7th Manu in one particular day of Lord Brahma.
Satya yuga (1,728,000 years) + Treta yuga (1,296,000 years) + Dwapara yuga (864,000 years) + Kali yuga (432,000 years) = 4,320,000 years
1 Kalpa = 1000 Chatur Yugas
1 Day of Lord Brahma = 1 Kalpa (NB 1 night of Brahma also = 1 kalpa)
Life of Brahma = 100 years i.e. 7300 Kalpas =311 trillion and 40 billion years
24th part (roughly half) of Treta & full Kali, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th till part of Kali-yuga
Years passed (appx.)
432,000 + 432,000 + 4,320,000 + 4,320,000 + 4,320,000 + (4,320,000 – 427,000 left)
=17,717,000 years + or - 432,000
(+ or - 432,000 years is required because we don't exactly know in which period of Treta Yuga, He appeared).
So according to the tradition Lord Rama appeared over 17 million years ago at Ayodhya, North India, to perform His pastimes as recorded by the sage Valmiki, the original writer of the Ramayana.
Other important historical events coinciding with Diwali
Other important historical events coinciding with Diwali
1.Goddess Lakshmi's Birthday: The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi incarnated on
the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month during the churning of the
ocean (samudra-manthan), hence the association of Diwali with Lakshmi.
2.Lord Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi: On this very day (Diwali day), Lord Vishnu in his
fifth incarnation as Vaman-avtaara rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King
Bali and this is another reason of worshipping Ma Larkshmi on Diwali.
3. The Return of the Pandavas: According to the great epic `Mahabharata', it was `Kartik Amavashya' when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice (gambling). The subjects who loved the Pandavas celebrated the day by lighting the earthen lamps.
4. Coronation of Vikramaditya: One of the greatest Hindu King Vikramaditya was coronated on the Diwali day.
Click here to see a quick clip of Diwali and how its celebrated