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 Indian New Year.
The Hindi name Diwali derives from the Sanskrit deepavali, which means "row of lamps." During the festival, small clay lamps (diyas or deepas) 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 a symbol of the goddess Lakshmi, who is also called Kamadhenu, the "wish-fulfilling cow." 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 by performing a puja to one’s money and wealth, such as gold coins and gold jewelry. Dhan or dhana means “wealth” and teras is the 13th day in the lunar month of Ashvin. On this day, women traditionally take a ritual oil bath to receive blessings from Lakshmi and the sacred river Ganges.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
On this day, Lord Krishna conquered the demon Naraka. It is traditional for men 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 a 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. In 2013 Narak Chaturdashi and Diwali fall on the same day.
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. This festival is dedicated especially to Shri Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance, beauty, and luminosity. On this day in India, Shri Lakshmi is worshiped in the form of money, gold, and other kinds of wealth. It is said that Shri Lakshmi resides in places that are orderly and clean. To welcome her, it is traditional to clean one’s workplace and home during the days leading up to Diwali. Through spiritual practice, uplifting thoughts, acts of kindness, and gratitude, we are purified and experience Shri Lakshmi in our hearts.
Indian New Year
Friday, October 24, 2014
The day after Diwali is the Indian New Year, one of the three and a half most auspicious days of the year. It is also known as Bali Pratipada, the day when Lord Vishnu, as the dwarf Vamana, conquered King Bali. The New Year is filled with the vibrant energy of new beginnings. It is a day to formulate intentions and refresh resolutions, to renew friendships and clear conflicts.
Business people in India honor this new beginning by closing their ledger books from the previous year and starting new ones. This clearing of the ledgers makes room for Shri Lakshmi to enter.
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 share sweets. On the Siddha Yoga path, we celebrate by engaging in the spiritual practices and offering our gratitude for the Siddha Yoga teachings.