Celebration time!

Celebration time!

Most of the major festivals in the country are held between September and November, Ganesha Chaturthi, Navaratri, Durga Puja and Dussera and Diwali. All these festivals symbolise and celebrate victory. Victory of light over darkness and the victory of goodness over evil. We have just celebrated Ganesha Chaturthi. The rest are on their way. Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, was sent on a 14-year-long exile by his father King Dasharatha, because of a promise made to his queen Kaikeyi. She wanted her own son Bharatha to be the king. Rama willingly went on exile to honour his father’s promise. His wife Sita and brother Lakshmana also accompanied him. During his exile Ravana, the demon king, abducted Sita. A fierce battle followed in which Rama defeated Ravana.
Dussera celebrates Rama’s victory over Ravana. Navaratri and Durga Puja celebrate goddess Durga’s victory over Mahishasura, the buffalo-headed demon. In North India Diwali is celebrated in memory of Rama’s triumphant homecoming with Lakshmana and Sita, after his long exile, as the time to light the lamp of happiness all around.

In South India people remember Deepavali as the time when Lord Vishnu rescued Goddess Lakshmi from King Bali. Others remember it as the time when Lakshmi steps out from the galaxy of stars to shower her special blessings. And also as the time when Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. In Western India Diwali marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the new when businessmen start fresh accounts. In Eastern India it is the time for worshipping goddess Kali, as well as goddess Lakshmi. Lamps are lit to worship and honour them both.

Al Beruni, a famous traveller and historian, has written about how people celebrated Diwali long ago – wearing new clothes, visiting temples, meeting their friends and relatives and lighting lamps at night. He also mentions the legend of Lakshmi stepping out of the stars.

Whichever story we choose to remember, the festival of lights eventually stands for the triumph of truth. Which is another name for goodness and virtue. And it is not just true of Hinduism but true of all major religions of the world. That is why in many places we have people of all religions and communities joining in the Diwali festivities.

All festivals have another important aspect. They are meant to include everybody, from all walks of life. The idea is to remind people that everyone is equal in the eyes of God and has the same right to seek His blessings. Festivals carry an important message – ‘Sarve jana sukhino bhavantu’ (“let there be happiness for all”).

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