What a marvellous system Indian culture has set up! Through the regimen of festivals, Rishis have laid down the path of realization of the Ultimate Truth and have taught us how we can joyfully proceed towards the Eternal with the help of the transient body, fugitive resources, fleeting time and short-lived relationships. In other religions, there are six or seven festivals but in Indian culture, there are about forty festivals and the crowning festival is the festival of Deepawali. Deepawali is a bouquet of five festivals – Dhan-Teras (the thirteenth day of the dark half of Kartik), Kali (dark) Chaudas (the fourteenth day of the dark half of Kartik), Deepawali proper, Indian New Year day and bhai dooj (a festival when sisters apply tilak on the forehead of their brothers).
Dhan-Teras is the day when we worship Mother Lakshmi and pray for wealth – not only material wealth but also spiritual wealth – that of inner peace, inner love.
That wealth alone is real wealth, which is useful for God-realization, whether the wealth is in the form of money, cows, elephants, intellectual wealth or the wealth of public support. On the Dhan-Teras day, think of the spiritual wealth and spend some part of your wealth for good causes so as to attain Self-Bliss. The wealth, which is unjustly earned, inevitably ruins one’s family and one’s children. Therefore, guard against filthy lucre; take care not to earn wealth by corrupt means. Wealth has sixty four vices as against sixteen virtues. To purge the wealth of vices, Mother Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped on the Dhan-Teras day as the consort of Lord Vishnu and resolution is made to use the wealth for noble purposes.
Wealth brings in its wake, desire, anger, greed, luxuriousness and egotism. One indulges in things one should not. But there are virtues as well in wealth. If one has wealth, he can make offerings to manes; he can serve his parents and his religion; one can also use one’s wealth in furthering Guru’s divine works and in propagating spiritual knowledge and study of scriptures. Thus one should steer clear of vices and should cultivate virtues. This way by guarding against the vices of wealth and revealing it’s positives, the wealth will become such as to bring happiness and joy. This is what is meant by worshipping Mother Mahalakshmi, the Divine wealth.
We worship Mother Lakshmi in the course of Deepawali festival so that our wealth is converted to divine wealth i.e. Lakshmi, and we get sanctified by the grace of the Indweller Lord Vishnu. The wealth used for great and noble purposes is termed Lakshmi and if wealth brings worry and maliciousness, it is just affluence. Affluence is accompanied by the fear of insecurity but Mother Lakshmi is accompanied by Lord Vishnu Himself. The wealth is the same but we adore it as Mahalakshmi by performing religious purificatory rites.
Next comes Narak (hell) Chaturdashi. It is also called Kali (dark) Chaudas or mini-Deepawali. Mini-Deepawali refers to petty joy. If one is energetic and free from carelessness, one will get some joy but absolute joy can come only when the lamp of Knowledge is lit.
Lord Krishna killed the demon, Narakasur on this day. We too should resolve to bring the Light in our lives and to weed out the hellish thoughts of pessimism, listlessness, malice, worry and escapism etc. and also the vices of laziness, carelessness, negligence and indulging in futile pursuits. Keeping vigil and doing Japa in the night of Narak Chaturdashi is immensely helpful in turning the Chit-Shakti i.e. energy lying dormant towards the Supreme Being. Rubbing oil on the body is otherwise prohibited in the month of Kartika but rubbing sesame-oil on the body and taking a bath thereafter on the Narak Chaturdashi day is highly beneficial.
Next comes Deepawali proper, the festival of lighting lamps and illuminating one’s life with knowledge. Light the lamp of Knowledge in your heart as well. If the house is lit with lamps but the heart is full of darkness of ignorance, one will always keep on complaining, ‘such and such thing has happened; I am miserable…’ Such thoughts actually make one miserable. On the other hand, one who thinks, ‘I am born to trample troubles and to know my Real Self’ and remains engaged in good deeds with equanimity, comes out with flying colours. So banish the darkness from your heart and live in the Light of Knowledge. Everything will pass away; there is no need to get fixated to any situation and make oneself miserable or worried nor is it advisable to take pride in anything. The river of the world is flowing; just keep swimming across it finally making your way to the Lord.
Merchants settle their old accounts on Deepawali. Similarly, we should settle our old disputes with the help of satsang that cures the body of diseases, eliminates the ignorance of the heart and eradicates the hatred from the mind. If somebody is able to do so, what better day can be there in his life!
People consume and distribute sweetmeats on Deepawali day. But the spiritual Deepawali is celebrated by having the sweetmeats of Self-bliss, by making one’s nature amicable and by purging one’s heart of all its bitterness.
You will take only some joy in lighting lamps on Deepawali day. But the moths will enjoy the lights much more, only to get burnt to death in a little while. Taking pleasure in sense-enjoyments is the way of moths; imbibing the joy of Self-bliss, of equanimity, lighting the lamp of Knowledge, bringing out the supreme Love and the supreme Bliss, is the spiritual Deepawali, the real Deepawali.
Do light earthern lamps in your house on this day, but if there is a poor neighbour, do care for him as well. Light a few earthern lamps in his house too. Distribute clothes and sweetmeats among poor children. Shun all pride and treat even the meanest of men with love and affection. One who thinks for the welfare of others and does good to others actually does good to himself. The Vedas pronounce, ‘One who aptly serves others becomes cheerful himself; he becomes exalted and distinguished too.’
Then comes the Hindu New Year day. Deepawali is the last day of the year and the next day, the first lunar day of Margshirsha, is the first day of the year (according to Gujarat Vikram Samvat). This is the day when you should turn over a new leaf in the diary of your life. On this day, Lord Vishnu in the Vamana (pigmy) incarnation took away all that the Demon King, Bali possessed. Bali too had the wise sense of giving away all to Him, Who is the Supreme Lord of the Universe and the proprietor of everything that exists therein, and thereby was successful in pleasing Him.
In the Mahabharata, Bhishma says to Yudhishthir, “Yudhishthir! One who remains cheerful on New Year day is going to be cheerful throughout the year and the one who is gloomy on this day will remain so all through the year.”
Next comes Yama (the god of death) Dwitiya (second lunar day) or Bhai Dooj. This is the festival meant to awaken divine feelings in the hearts of brother and sister, towards each other. On this day Yamuna had served a meal to her brother Yama, the God of death at her home. If a brother takes a meal prepared by his sister on this day, he is saved from punishment at the hands of Yama. No sister would like her brother to be mired in this phenomenal world, to be beset with desire, anger, greed, delusion, egotism and sin and to undergo the grind of the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, the sister applies tilak on her brother’s forehead with the wish that her brother’s third eye (of Knowledge) should be opened and he should live in the Light of Knowledge.
‘You light a series of lamps outside;
Light the lamp in your heart someday.
You have decorated your house with flowers;
How about cleaning the mind someday?
Even if he gets all the wealth of the world,
The greedy one will remain as poor as before.
Wealth earned honestly alone is prosperity
Spend it then in noble endeavours.’
Deepawali is called the queen of festivals. It is celebrated over a period of five days with great joy. From the point of view of disciples, if one gets the good fortune of lighting the lamp of Knowledge within, by virtue of Darshan of and association with Sadguru and through satsang, this great festival can be called without exaggeration the Emperor of festivals.