Deepavali is the largest festival celebrated in India. It is like Christmas in India. With Deepavali round the corner, the spirit of festival is in the air.
Festivals are good, they bring people together.
Festivals unite, friends greet each other.
Festivals bring cheer, happiness fills the air.
No, not really.
Festivals only bring people of the same religion together, because most of the popular festivals are religious – including Deepavali.
Most Indians claim Deepavali being popular Indian festival. No, it is not. It is the most widely celebrated religious festival of largest religion in India. It is a popular Hindu festival. It is not like Thanksgiving holiday in US, which is a more secular festival, a more national festival. But Deepavali had the potential of becoming Indian national festival, only if we had kept the pujas and rituals out of the festivities and made it truly only a festival of lights, delicious food and fire-crackers.
There is one more thing about Deepavali that bugs me though. In northern parts of of India, the festival is mainly about ‘LaxmiPujan’, which literally means worship of wealth. Whoa , whoa … what? worshiping wealth? Hindus world over take so much of pride in claiming that Hindu is a predominantly non-materialistic religion – austerity, sacredness, sacrifice are worshiped. Guess what? the most widely celebrated Hindu festival is about worship of wealth and prosperity. Desiring wealth is one thing, but worshiping goddess of wealth so she keeps showering you with abundant prosperity? That’s non-materialistic, huh?
Deepavali is also a festival of light. There is a very good metaphor in there. The true way to fight darkness is to grow beyond the boundaries of caste, creed, race and region and evolve into a more homogeneous society, a religuless society.
The message of Deepavali is “Tamaso Maa JyotirGamayah!“, meaning ‘From darkness, I go to enlightenment’. We will celebrate Deepavali in much more meaningful way only if we truly understand what’s darkness and what’s enlightenment.