Deepaavalee symbolises a fresh start, a new beginning. It is a time when families, friends and communities come together in a spirit of celebration and joy
Deepaavalee symbolises a fresh start, a new beginning. It is a time when families, friends and communities come together in a spirit of celebration and joy. The most commonly celebrated aspect of Deepaavalee is that it is the festival of light. ‘Deepaavalee’ is a combination of two Sanskrit words ‘deep’ (the lamp from which light radiates) and ‘aavalee’ (array.)
Deepaavalee is a multi-faceted festival with various connotations, inter-alia
(1) Worldly (the cleaning of houses, wearing of new clothes, closing of accounts for businesses, distribution of sweets & gifts);
(2) Mythology (associated with the return of Rama to Ayodhya);
(3) Scientific (environmental cleansing through Yajna or havan using special herbs, freshly harvested dhaan & grains);
(4) Religious (special prayers, nirvan of various religious figures);
(5) Spiritual (striving to discover spiritual reality).
Deepaavalee is fundamentally a festival to light up the spiritual side of mankind. However the glitter currently surrounding its celebrations has reduced this festival to the mere level of the lighting of lamps, sharing of gifts, sweets and lip-service wishes… undeniably a deep plunge in ignorance, uncertain and/or contrary knowledge (avidyā).
Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya is commonly understood to be a prayer to the Almighty to lead us from darkness unto light. Alas! … We have cramped ourselves into obscurity, unaware of the fact that the lack of true knowledge is worse than the darkness related to the absence of physical light. This verse by the rishis (Vedic sages) is a call upon mankind to rise above the physical illumination and contemplate on spiritual enlightenment:
The human body is an altar
Where he who ignites
The light of awareness within
Gets true light.
At the twilight of dusk (sandhya) of the darkest day of the darkest cycle of the moon (kartik amavasya) a fabulous glitter of brightly lighting diyas (earthen lamps), fireworks, decorative ornaments, garlands of electrical bulbs, flowers, music, and tears of joy all, in concert, sparkle graciously. The rows of beautiful lamps are not only meant to light up, for one night, the outer environment. They denote a means to an end, to dispel the real darkness of our inner environment, that is, the darkness within us.
Deepaavalee night is relished as moments full of divine concourse, harmony, congeniality, and bliss, whereby we all pledge (i) to ward off the darkness of ignorance, anger, temptations, untruth and the duality of self-seekers, (ii) to uphold Dharma (virtue, truth, righteousness, selfless service, etc.), (iii) to alleviate sufferings (physical, moral and other forms of exploitation), (iv) to spread the light of wisdom, love and freedom, and more importantly (v) to be instrumental to reinstate the era of the global family or universal love of humanity (vasudaiva kutumbakam).
We need to first ignite the lamp of divine love, eternal life and divine beauty within our self. Thereafter, our actions will leave behind a trail of divine beauty where each footprint shall be an exhilaration of ecstatic divine joy and delight of lights, as the many lights coalesce to symbolise the victory of truth over untruth and light over darkness. Only then we shall achieve immortality, i.e. our deeds be ever-living and ever-inspiring in the minds of future generations after our departure from this life.)
The Vedic philosophy has an analogy: the stars, the moon, and all the planets brighten and altogether make the night sky. Similarly the earth, veiled by ignorance, is lit with an array of lights of knowledge to lead mankind towards truth in delightful moments with divinity (sat-chitta-ananda).
Man is the only species of the millions forms of life to be bestowed with the rarest gift, seated in each one’s soul divine. It enables us to travel beyond the manifestations of the mind and the ego, and empowers us to listen to the subtler spirit of life. When we listen to the inner voice and apply the learning from our experiences we start living beyond the boundaries of our physical self. We start living the Vedic concepts which enjoin us to place the welfare of society before our own. Then only we shall succeed in sharing the light of knowledge and dispel the darkness of ignorance. Knowledge is the one asset which increases in value when we share it. When we stop sharing, we cease to love one another!
Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj attained nirvana on the night of Deepaavalee, lighting the light of knowledge in the hearts of millions of his contemporaries and to seekers of true knowledge. His life illustrates the real significance of Deepaavalee: although we live in the age of darkness and falsity (kalyug), we need to connect to the divine by lighting the lamp of divine wisdom within our consciousness. We shall then understand the environment and strive for the uplift of the physical, moral and social standards of humanity as a whole.
The true meaning of Deepaavalee would be perpetuated only if every one of us ceaselessly endeavours to light a lamp of hope and give someone guidance through wisdom.
The celebration of Deepaavalee should not be limited to the lighting of lamps and fireworks, the distribution of sweets, the cleaning of the outer environment and the wearing of new clothes and ornaments. Deepaavalee is the time to light a lamp in the life of the needy. Compassion brightens our personality. Giving unconditionally to someone poor, less fortunate, deserving, be it material things – clothing, food, or intangible things – knowledge, sound advice, etc. during the festival of lights confers the immense radiance of million lights to the spirit of the other person.
Deepaavalee is time where we are mindful and compassionately considerate of others. What really makes me a great human being is not what I am on the surface, but who I am within myself and who I am towards the world around me. The following is a small list of what really matters to become a role model:
- That I may simply laugh and love to be myself without any pretence!
- That my mind and the inner voice (from my heart) are in unison, whereupon when I am alone, I am happy in my own company, thus truly experiencing divinity;
- That I guide without creating followers and give light of hope without creating my cocoon;
- That I grant solace to the needy and give love without expecting anything back in return;
- That I learn to listen to my spiritual faculties to draw upon my own courage, strength and internal will, which will allow me to let go of the things which I cannot change but at the same time give me the courage and the determination to change the things I can to accomplish everlasting peace, happiness, harmony and divine bliss;
- That I groom myself to receive the wisdom of the soul divine and realise within it the radiance of many lights.
Deepaavalee brews new hope for health, abundance and happiness. We pray to the Almighty – the Great light of lights to enlighten our minds and empower us to shun falsehood and live truthfully, to move from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge, and rise above short-lived materialism to the infinite divine spiritual bliss. May we all put up all our efforts to consolidate unity, harmony, objectivity and justice! May we all harmonise our inner and outer environment! May there be peace in the universe!
Acharya Bramdeo Mokoonlall
Arya Sabha Mauritius