19 October, 2006

Diwali - the Festival of Lights

The Diwali illuminations with lighted diyas bring the supernatural brightness and joy with the hope of finding light in darkness, achieving knowledge where there is ignorance and spreading love amidst hatred. Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. Light is significant in Hinduism because it signifies goodness. So, during the Festival of Lights, 'deeps', or oil lamps, are burned throughout the day and into the night to ward off darkness and evil. Home are filled with these oil lamps, candles and lights. Some people use decorated lights candles, some decorated diya or clay lamps, and other decorative lights and put them in their windows for the festival. Traditionally, people used 'earthern lamps' with cotton wicks and oil to light up the dark night. As man progresses, tradition gives way to modernity with earthern lamps now replaced by candles of various colours and forms. Electric lights of different shapes and sizes have also come in. The idea behind the Festival of Lights comes from various versions of an ancient Hindu story. In northern India, the tale tells about Lord Rama's return from a 12-year exile and the celebration by the people for their beloved hero. The pious and rejoicing people decorated their city with candles and lights to welcome him back. In southern India, the story talks of Goddess Durga's triumph over the evil demon, Narakasura. This triumph of good over evil brought back the light of knowledge and truth to mankind. In Suva, Diwali celebrations have become contemporary in keeping with the changing times. Until a decade ago, most city households used to illuminate their houses with the warm, sparkling bright lights of earthern lamps. Now, in addition to these diyas, wax candles of various colours and forms and coloured electric lights of different shapes and sizes are used. Catch a glimpse of these lights by taking a walk or ride around on Saturday evening.

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