Friday, November 5, 2010

Deepavali -- The Festival of Lights

Deepavali, or Diwali is an important five-day festival in Hinduism and Jainism, occurring between mid-October and mid-November. For Hindus, Diwali is the most important festival of the year.
Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps (divas) filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. Some Indian business communities begin the financial year on the first day of Diwali, hoping for prosperity the following year.

The Origin of Diwali

Vishnu(one of the Hindu Trinity) had a son by the name of Narakasura. Despite being the son of a deity, Narakasura's nature was evil. He brought all the kingdoms on earth under his control. Next, he turned his eyes towards heaven. Even the mighty Indra, the head of all devas(dewa in Malay language, meaning god) could not withstand the assault of this son of Vishnu and had to flee the heavens.

Vishnu. Image:
Now Narakasura had become the overlord of both the heavens and earth. His reign of oppression was in full swing. Addicted to power, he abducted 16,100 women and imprisoned them in his personal harem. He stole the earrings of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess, and usurped some of her territory.

Indra on a divine elephant. Image:
All the Devas, led by Indra went to Vishnu to ask him for help. Vishnu promised them that he will attend to this matter when he is incarnated as Krishna.

Krishna. Image:
Vishnu had had ten incarnations in the history of the world, often to save the world from evil. He incarnated as Rama in the story of Ramayana to destroy the demon king Ravana, and also incarnated as the Buddha himself during his tenth incarnation. This is how people relates Buddhism and Hinduism.

Now back to the story.
Narakasura had gained a boon from Brahma that he would die only in the hands of his mother. Hence it is almost impossible to kill Narakasura. Note that Brahma is one of the Hindu Trinity made up by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Satyabhama, Krishna's consort, transformed herself into the avatar of Bhudevi, Narakasura's mother and went to war with her husband.

Krishna battering Narakasura. Image:
During the war, Krishna couldn't defeat Narakasura. Spotting a chance, Satyabhama, now as an avatar of Narakasura's mother Bhudevi, fired an arrow towards Narakasura and killed him. Before dying, Narakasura requested a boon that his death anniversary should be celebrated by all people on earth. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' - the first day of Diwali.

There are several versions of the story however, but I have no time to relate them all here. There is a video on that tells the story of Krishna and Narakasura. You can watch the video here.




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