As we all know Diwali is the pan-Indian festival of light with the light symbolizing triumph of good over evil, freedom over forces of ignorance and cruelty. All Indian traditions be they Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh have their own way for celebrating this festival.
The religious significance of Diwali for the Hindus varies regionally within India, depending on the regional myths and beliefs.
In most cases, Diwali is linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and wife of Vishnu. The five -day festival of Diwali begins on the day Lakshmi was born from the churning of the cosmic ocean of ambrosia by the devas and the asuras. However in many regions, the festival of Diwali celebrates the return of Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya from an exile of fourteen years, as told in the ancient epic Ramayana.
In India’s eastern region, such as West Bengal, the goddess Kali is worshipped instead of Lakshmi, and the festival is called Kali or Durga Puja. In the Western and Northern parts of India, the festival of Diwali marks the start of a new Hindu year.
For South Indian Hindus the prevalent mythology of Diwali is the killing of Narakasura, a demon born when Vishnu rescued Earth from chaos. Narakasura, though born of divine parents, had an uncontrollable urge to conquer the entire universe. In the end he was met in battle and vanquished by Vishnu’s Krishna avatar, who was aided by an incarnation of Mother Earth herself.
The Jain traditions believe that Lord Mahavira the last of the Jain Tirthankaras, attained Nirvana or Liberation on a Diwali dawn while according, to Sikhism the third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Dhas made it a tradition that Sikhs should gather together on the day of Diwali and receive the Guru’s blessings. It was also the day the foundation stone of Har-Mandir Sahib was laid.
The day of Diwali also marks the Bandi Chhor Divas, when Guru Har Gobind freed himself and a host of Hindu kings from Fort Gwalior, from the prison of Mughal ruler Jahangir, and arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Ever since then, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Choorh Divas, with the annual lighting up of the Golden Temple, fireworks and other festivities.
For the Sikhs, this festival also symbolizes sacrifice as the following extract from this piece states:
As we celebrate Diwali we cannot forget the kind of sacrifices associated with it. One such is that of Bhai Mani Singh of the Khalsa Panth who in 1737 CE sacrificed his life for the right to celebrate Diwali in the Golden Temple (Harmandir) of Punjab. He was cut limb by limb and tortured for his “offense” in organizing the Festival of Light. With the choice either to embrace Islam or death under torture, Bhai Mani Singh, with his being fixed in Ek Onkar allowed the executioner to cut every inch of his body. Sikh tradition remembers how the martyr compassionately reminded the executioner to carry out the torture, when at one stage the executioner himself staggered at his own brutality. ‘I do not want you to get punished because you did not torture me properly’, the martyr said his hesitant torturer in a supreme display of compassion. To this day Sikhs remember this super-human sacrifice ……
Cut from this glorious tradition of piety, devotion, courage, and sacrifice to “modern,” secular India.
This piece of news comes from Karuna Medical College, Palakkad, Kerala. For some reason, the management of Karuna Medical College finds this Diwali unacceptable to the extent of issuing this circular:
As seen in the circular, the college authorities have imposed a penalty of Rs.5000 on its students for lighting a couple of candles to observe Diwali which according to them was against the “good order and discipline of the college and the hostel.”
Earlier last month, many eminent personalities were advising the citizens for a noiseless/peaceful Diwali since Diwali is a festival of light and not a festival of noise.
But strangely, the students of KMC are being punished for following that very advice. The KMC authorities should clarify what exactly is the fault of these students: did they force others to light candles? Did they steal the candles from the college authorities? Did they burn any college property while lighting the candles?
If none of the aforementioned misbehaviour occurred, then it is perfectly correct to call the KMC authorities anti-Hindu. On a side note, it would be interesting to see if the KMC hostel is decorated during Christmas or New Year celebrations or if they observe any special rituals or celebrations during Muslim festivals.
As the college’s website clearly states, Karuna Medical College is run by “the Safe Development Alms Trust” which is a “registered Charitable Trust constituted by the Minority Community of Muslims.” Does a tale hang thereby?
Now if the college authorities state that they are against any form of religious celebration, their case is weak even there because there was nothing overly religious in the manner in which the students celebrated Diwali.
Also for argument’s sake if the KMC authorities were thinking of punishing the student for violating the ‘secular record’ of the hostel, what is the reason for imposing such a hefty penalty? Surely the candles were not that expensive, were they?
It seems the KMC authorities have a lot of questions to answer for their anti-Hindu decision.