Deepavali, or Diwali, is the joyous festival celebrated on the new moon day in the month of ashvina/ karthika (October 24th this year). Deepavali literally means a row of lights and is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘deepa’-lamp and ‘awali’ - row of.
Why do we celebrate Deepavali? In the thretha yuga, in the time of the Rama avatara, Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana stayed in exile for 14 years. After defeating the evil Ravana, they came back to Ayodhya, their home. The whole of Ayodhya was overjoyed to welcome their Lord Rama, and all the houses were decorated with rows of lamps. Till today, we celebrate the return of Rama on Deepavali, and light lamps in our own homes.
In the dwapara yuga, in the time of the Krishna avatara, lived Narakasura, the son of Bhooma Devi (Mother Earth). Earlier, after severe penance, Narakasura had obtained a boon, that he could only be killed by his mother. After all, what mother would kill her own child? Narakasura was sure that he had obtained immortality. With that power came corruption, and Narakasura thought himself to be greater than all others, proclaiming himself God. He tortured and killed the powerless and the pious. To save his devotees, Krishna challenged Narakasura. Krishna came accompanied by his wife Satyabhama, who was the avatara of Bhooma Devi. After a long battle, Narakasura was defeated by Krishna and Satyabhama. Narakasura, at that minute, realized all his mistakes and begged a boon from Krishna: he asked that the day he was vanquished be celebrated by all as Deepavali. He asked for Ganga to be present in the bath-waters on that day, purifying all those who celebrate Deepavali. Till today, we celebrate on this blessed day, the defeat of evil and victory of Dharma.
Many get confused about the different origins ascribed to Deepavali. Consider this analogy. If your birthday is on August 15, and India’s Independence Day is also on August 15, you do not wonder with disbelief at how two important events happened on the same day! Similarly, that two different events happened on the same calendar day, thousands of years apart, should not be surprising. This Deepavali, let us get up early in the morning, take the gangasnanam, wear new clothes, joyously brighten our homes with lamps and enjoy scrumptious treats with our friends and family.
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In our day to day lives, we express our bhakti (devotion) by reciting slokas in praise of Bhagavan. Slokas explain to us the philosophy of dharma. We believe that the power of reciting any sloka is enhanced when one understands the meaning of the verse in the correct context. In this series, we bring you well researched meaning of the verses to start your journey towards the goal of understanding the slokas.