Deepawali is celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm throughout the world these days. In India almost on all 365 days of the year, one festival or the other is celebrated in some part of the country. Visitors to India would genuinely feel that festivity is a synonym for the Indian way of life, and this is natural too.
Right from the Vedic period to the present day, there has been a tradition of festivities in India which, of course, has matched the occasions at different periods of time. We have also witnessed the courage to do away with outdated traditions. And, the transformations in the manner of celebrating these festivals according to changing times and changing social mores have been accepted and adopted very naturally.
However, we can very well discern one characteristic that this entire journey of Indian festivals, its widespread effect, its depth, its reach to each individual are all interlinked with one spirit which exhorts evolution from the ‘self’ to the ‘whole’, the ‘collective existence’.
The idea is that there should be a development of individuals and their personalities, the limited scope of thinking must expand and cover not only the whole society but, in fact, the whole universe. And this is achieved through these festivals. Indian festivals at times appear like community feasts, but in that also the consciousness has been to there as to what should be or should not be eaten during that particular season.
What crop has been harvested by the farmers, and how that yield is to be made a part of the festivities, what food habits will be appropriate in a particular season from the health point of view.
Our ancestors had very scientifically encompassed all these aspects in our festivals. Today, the whole world is talking about the environment. Destruction of nature is a matter of great concern. India’s tradition of celebrating festivals has been one to strengthen our love for nature and to develop each individual, right from childhood, as a cultured person.
Festivals have evoked a sense of responsibility towards everything, be it trees, plants, rivers, animals, mountains, birds, etc. Nowadays we observe Sunday as a holiday but in our older generations, labourers, fishermen and others from such sections of society used to observe holidays on New Moon, that is Amavasya and Full Moon, that is Poornima.
And science has proved that on these days, changes take place impacting the sea-water; other factors affect nature, and these also influence the human mind. Thus we had developed the tradition to observe our holidays also intertwined with the phenomena of the universe, keeping the scientific aspects in focus.
Now when we celebrate Diwali, as mentioned earlier, each of our festivals carries a message and teaches us something. The festival of lights Deepawali conveys the message of Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya’ to move from darkness to light.
And, this darkness here does not merely signify the absence of light; it is also the darkness of superstition and blind-faith, darkness of ignorance, the darkness of poverty and also the darkness of social evils. By lighting lamps on Diwali, we try to overcome the darkness of these social shortcomings and individual blemishes – attaining freedom from this darkness is the real essence of the festival of lights Deepawali, which we celebrate by lighting an earthen lamp, a ‘diya’.
The festival of Deepawali is not confined to the borders of India. In almost all countries of the world, Deepawali is celebrated in one way or the other.
Waitakere Indian Association initiated the celebrations in New Zealand Parliament and was also one of the first Indian organisation to celebrate Diwali publicly - 19 years ago. Last year, the Rt Hon PM Jacinda Ardern released a commemorative stamp at Auckland Diwali. Deepawali is becoming a festival of inspiration for the world community also to move from darkness to light.
In India, the celebration of Diwali lasts for a number of days. It is not restricted to just one day. With a string of festive events such as Govardhan Puja, Bhai Dooj, LaabhPanchmi till Kartik Purnima – this festival of lights goes on for quite a long period of time. Alongside the festivities of Deepawali, we also prepare to celebrate Chhathh Pooja.
This Chhathh Pooja is a very important festival in the Eastern parts of our country. It is a big occasion there, which lasts for four days. But this also has a unique significance in that it gives a very special message to society. Chhathh Upasana is actually an occasion to pray to the Sun God who gives us so much directly and indirectly that it cannot even be measured by us.
And this Chhathh Pooja is for paying obeisance to the almighty Sun. But the adage is that people only pray to the rising Sun. However, during the Chhathh Pooja, people worship the setting Sun as well. There is a very profound social message behind this tradition.
At Waitakere Diwali this year, you will find something new and something traditional. While there will be food from various parts of India and Pacific tastes, there will be outdoor and indoor performances, last-minute shopping for Diwali, activities for kids, try out your doosra at the cricket nets, performances from young and old, segment dedicated to traditional dances of India, segment dedicated to Ram Lila in English and not to forget the world-famous in New Zealand fireworks to finish off the evening.
We would love if you would join us on Sunday 20 October from midday at The Trusts Arena, Central Park Drive, Henderson, Auckland. Entry is Free.
Our best wishes and greetings on Diwali to all of you. We wish that all your dreams and resolves get fulfilled in every possible way! May your lives be blessed with success and happiness. Many, many thanks.
Sunil Kaushal is President of Waitakere Indian Association.