The third instalment from Hitesh.. read and enjoy!
Almost all of us know the story behind the Festival of Lights. Ramanand Sagar and his tele-serial 'Ramayana' have ensured that our generation is knowledgeable about atleast the basic plot of the legend of Lord Rama (I suspect that the future will hail Ramanand Sagar as an incarnation of Valmiki/Tulsidas). For those who would still like a retelling of the eternal tale, I have something different - a video I found on the net. It uses scenes from the animated movie 'Ramayan - The Legend of Prince Ram'. It can be found at \\loki\public\hitesh10\diwali.avi
For those who like the video better than my drabbles, forget it - there is no escaping me! I will talk about the lesser known trivia about Diwali.
First, have you wondered, if Diwali is about Lord Rama's return, why do we worship Goddess Laxmi instead? Well the answer is simple really. Remember the churning-of-the-sea (Sagar Manthan) the Dhanteras post mentioned? As was mentioned in that post, Goddess Laxmi had appeared from the sea then. She 'later' married Lord Vishnu through a Swayamvara. You guessed right - the 'later' was 2 days after that - the evening of Diwali! This being her marriage anniversary, the Goddess is said to be in her best mood and willing to listen to all her devotees. Strange - in today's age if I were to disturb a kind lady on her marriage anniversary she would ask me to buzz off. Thats what makes them only human I guess.
But I digress. Sikhs also celebrate this day with great fervour. For them this day is 'Bandi Chhorh Diwas' - 'Release from Imprisonment Day'. It was on this day that the sixth Guru Hargobindji was released from prison by Emperor Jahangir. An interesting legend surrounding this is that the guru agreed to be released only if the 52 princes detaineed with him were limited too. Jahangir, to limit the number declared that any number of princes could leave, as long as they were holding the guru's cloak while leaving. The foolish emperor didnt realize that all the Guru had to do was wear a longer cloak. He did and the 52 princes left prison clutching onto one knot each on the guru's cloak. That left the emperor in knots. It is said that a few years later he had turned into a drunkard and invalid. I think he always was - this emperor was once known as Prince Salim (Anarkali's-royal-lover-fame).
I seem to have digressed again (its becoming a habit!). The Jains too have their own reason to celebrate Diwali. The24th (and last) tirthankara, Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana on this day in 527 BCE at Pavapuri. A freedom from the cycle of birth and death, this Nirvana is a reason for celebration. This day also marks the end of the Jain year (Veer Niravana Samvaat). Interestingly, the oldest historical reference of Diwali is in a, not Hindu, but Jain text dating around 700 CE. I do not wish to question the antiquity of the festival, for this would bring into question the historicity of Lord Rama itself - a debate that has bored many of us out of our wits in more ways than one!
Nepal calls the festival 'Tihar' :D (I wonder why India naming its maximum security prison by that name didn't cause a diplomatic standoff). While their celebrations also strech over 5 days, they worship cows on Dhanteras, dogs on Naraka Chaturthi, Goddess Lakshmi on Diwali, oxes on the day after that and on the last day brothers and sisters exchange pleasentaries. Cows, dogs, Lakshmi, oxes - I wonder why this hasn't caused the Goddess to unleash her fury. I have long given up understanding Goddesses!
Rest in the next instalment!