In the Diwali story, the gods represent positive tendencies in men and the demons the negative tendencies, but indeed not demonic but very human tendencies. One must remember that Narakasura is in fact the dear son of the goddess of Earth, Bhudevi. To pull himself out the state of ignorance man has to employ his positive tendencies to direct his attention to the higher Self. Every man has within him both positive and negative tendencies. The gods’ approach of Krishna for help signifies man’s positive tendencies reaching for the inner Self.
Desires simply cannot be conquered by positive tendencies and will power. But when the light of the inner Self within us awakens, the darkness of desires is naturally and effortlessly dispelled. When man turns inward and seeks the inner Self his negative tendencies get destroyed one by one in rapid succession. All his desires, longings and cravings get annihilated. This is what is represented by the fireworks on the night of Diwali. The battle with the ego, the fight with the negative tendencies, the destruction of the desires goes on the whole night, that is as long as ignorance lasts.
With the rising sun all darkness is dispelled, all ignorance removed, all desires destroyed. Ego, the Narakasura, is killed. Man is transformed to his original Godhead. As we have briefly mentioned earlier, Dusshera is another very popular festival of India. The festival lasts for ten days beginning on the first day of the Hindu month of Asvin (September/October). It is celebrated in various ways all over the country. It is observed as Durgapuja, as Vijayadasami celebrating the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, as Navratri or the festival of nine nights (Mitter 42).
The goddess Durga was created by the three gods — Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara, who form the trinity of the Hindu pantheon — for destroying the dasyus demons. The demons sent their most powerful representative Mahisasura in the form of a buffalo to fight Durga. The goddess fought with this great demon and killed him. The buffalo represents the lower animal instincts in man in an aggressive form. The goddess represents the higher, nobler tendencies, but also in an aggressive form — the form of Durga.
The message hidden in this symbolism is clear, that goodness or our higher nature has to get equally as aggressive as the baseness in our character already is. We have to tame the bull (i. e. , nonsense) by the horns! Goodness is of no use if it is passive. Durga, the embodiment of fierce-looking aggressiveness sitting on a tiger and brandishing all kinds of weapons in her thousand hands, is nonetheless a force of good and benevolence, representing higher qualities in human nature. Our world is such a tragedy not because of the absence of goodness or nobility, for they are abundantly present.
However, this goodness has a tendency to be slow and passive, while evil has a tendency to be quick and aggressive. There is much goodness and greatness within ourselves, that can easily overcome our base instincts, and when that goodness is awakened and comes into the fore as an active force, there would be cause for great celebration. “Satyameva jayate, nanritam,” proclaimed the Upanishads: Truth ever triumphs, not falsehood. They seers of Upanishads must of course have meant, eventually, in the long run. But as one Western economist quipped once, “In the long run, we are all dead.
” If truth has to win, it has to win now, it has to become violent and aggressive, we cannot afford to wait forever for truth to take over falsehood eventually, in due course of endless time. Unfortunately, when seen in a historical perspective, this is again a message that is completely lost upon India. India has been one of the most dreadfully passive and docile nations in all the world, letting itself be conquered by anybody and everybody who desired to rule it. For a culture worshipping a host of gods and goddesses wielding all kinds of ferocious weapons and constantly battling the demons, this seems a highly odd behavior.
Yet again, this is one of those paradoxes that have plagued this great country for centuries and millennia. An equally prominent festival falling in the category of Dusshera and Diwali is the Ganesh festival which comes sometimes before Dusshera. In fact, from Ganesh Chaturthi, which itself lasts 11 days to Dusshera to Diwali, it is one long festival season for India, spanning nearly two months or more. The Ganesh festival is marked by an extremely peculiar feature, where millions of Hindus lodge a brand new idol of the elephant God, Lord Ganesh, in their homes and worship him from seven to eleven days.
After this period, however, they carry these clay statues to nearby water bodies and dispose them. Again there is profound philosophical meaning in this tradition. It seems to say that all forms of this world, including our bodies and those of our loved ones, are in fact like clay statues of Ganesh. We may worship them for a time, but we have to eventually let go of them. Only when our clinging to forms, or nama rupa, names and forms, is relinquished, do we begin to perceive the higher spiritual realities of the world. Finally, there is Holi, a major Hindu spring-break festival that comes in early March.
People spray colors all over each other in merriness and lighthearted frivolity, during the day. At night, traditionally, although the practice is becoming faded out, people gather around a bonfire where they burn either an effigy of Kama, the god of desire, or Ravana, the king of demons, and celebrate by drinking an intoxicating substance called bhang. Again, the symbolism here is very clear. The world shall be filled with myriad colors, and each moment can be filled with intoxicating ecstasy once we overcome our base nature or our desires.
The lofty Hindu philosophy may be lost to the majority of Hindus, but it still shines through the myths, legends and customs associated with many festivals.
Joshi, Kireet. “The Veda and Indian Culture: An Introductory Essay. ” New Delhi : Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratisthan, 1991 Lall, Manohar. R. “Among the Hindus: A Study of Hindu Festivals. ” New Delhi : Asian Educational Services, 2004 MacMillan, Dianne. M. “Diwali: Hindu Festival of Lights” (Best Holiday Books). Berkeley Heights, NJ : Enlsow Publishers, 1997. Mitter, Swasti. “Hindu Festivals” (Holidays and Festivals). Vero Beach, Fl : Rourke Pub Group, 1989.