The Festival of Lights
Monday, October 20 – Friday, October 24, 2014
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated throughout India over a series of days in the months of Ashvin and Kartik (corresponding, in 2014, to October on the Western calendar). This festival comprises five celebration days: Govatsa Dvadashi, Dhanteras, Narak Chaturdashi, Diwali itself, and Bali Pratipada (or Indian New Year).
The Hindi name Diwali derives from the Sanskrit dipavali, which means "row of lamps." During the festival, small clay lamps, diyas, are lit, signifying the triumph of divine light. Diwali celebrates the inner light—the light that brings joy, compassion, and the experience of oneness with all creation.
Monday, October 20, 2014
The first day of the Diwali celebrations is Govatsa Dvadashi. It is a tradition in India to offer a puja to cows and calves on the evening of this day, as the sun is setting. Cows are considered one of the most sacred animals in India, and performing puja to cows is a way to honor the divine power that exists in all animals and in nature. Before the puja, the cowsheds are cleaned and decorated with mango leaves and flowers, and lamps are lit. People worship the cows by placing fragrant oils, sandalwood paste, and kumkum on their foreheads, and then performing arati to the cows and feeding them sweets.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
On Dhanteras, Shri Lakshmi and Lord Kubera, the deities who embody wealth and prosperity, are worshiped. On this day, it is traditional to offer gold to the Guru as well as gold-colored fruits, flowers, and cloths. As a symbolic offering of gold, Siddha Yogis give dakshina.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
On this day, Lord Krishna conquered the demon Naraka. It is traditional to take a ritual oil bath on Narak Chaturdashi to receive blessings from Shri Lakshmi and the sacred river Ganges. It is believed that taking this bath before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky, is equivalent to taking a bath in the holy Ganges.
The night of Narak Chaturdashi is one of the three most auspicious nights of the year according to the panchanga, the traditional Indian calendar.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Diwali commemorates Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya with his wife, Sita, and his brother Lakshmana. They returned from a fourteen-year exile after vanquishing the demon Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya illuminated his pathway with earthen oil lamps.
Diwali is a time of both completion and new beginnings, filled with the spirit of friendliness, generosity, and goodwill. On this day, the Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped. She resides in places that are orderly, clean, and beautiful. So to welcome her, people clean their homes and offices and put up decorations. They also honor Shri Lakshmi by preparing special food, performing pujas, and offering spiritual practices.
Bali Pratipada—Indian New Year
Friday, October 24, 2014
The day after Diwali is Bali Pratipada, the Indian New Year. This is when Lord Vishnu, as the dwarf Vamana, conquered King Bali. The New Year is filled with the vibrant energy of new beginnings, and it is one of the three and a half most auspicious days of the year. It is a time to formulate intentions and resolutions, to renew friendships, and to clear conflicts.
It is traditional to spend this day doing things one wants to do for the rest of the year. On this day, people wear new clothes, exchange gifts and sweets, and ask for blessings from their elders. Businesspeople in India honor this new beginning by starting new ledger books. This clearing of the ledgers makes room for Shri Lakshmi to enter.
On the Siddha Yoga path, we celebrate by making a resolution for our sadhana, engaging in the spiritual practices, and offering our gratitude to Shri Guru for the Siddha Yoga teachings.