Celebrating the festival of lights – Diwali

Celebrating the festival of lights – Diwali

As we approach the auspicious time of Diwali or Deepavali celebrated by many Hindus in South Africa, we have decided to pay tribute to the history of this celebration also known as the festival of lights. Since there is sometimes a negative connotation attached to the celebration due to the loud noises from the fireworks, which affect many animals, we thought it was necessary to highlight what the festival of lights is all about.

“The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (or deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians.” The festival originated as a harvest festival that marked the last harvest of the year before winter. “India was an agricultural society where people would seek the divine blessing of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, as they closed their accounting books and prayed for success at the outset of a new year…” Reenita Malhotra Hora

Celebrations ensue with family gatherings, brightly lit clay lamps, fireworks, strings of sparking lights, sharing of sweetmeats and offerings to worship Mother Lakshmi, (the goddess of wealth and prosperity). There is a belief that Lakshmi wanders the earth looking for homes to be welcomed into and therefore many people leave their doors and windows open and the clay lamps are lit to guide and invite Lakshmi into their homes.

Regardless of the interpretations of the celebration, one commonality exists – the festival marks the victory of good over evil.

Now bearing all this in mind, we have to admit that there definitely is a deeper meaning behind the festival and that by attributing Diwali to lighting fireworks alone is presumptuous and disrespectful. Although fireworks play a role in the celebration and keep everyone high spirited with the beautiful colours and patterns, it must be said – there should be an overall understanding from all religions and cultures during this celebration towards those celebrating – a form of respect for both each other and for our animals. We are and always have been a diverse nation, so if we cannot respect our differences with a little bit of harmony then we are surely letting our pride as South Africans to shame.

From all of us at GoRhino, we would like to wish all those celebrating the festival of Diwali, good health and prosperity and may you all have a delightful time with family and friends. Be safe!

Thanks to Reenita Malhotra Hora and National Geographic Kids for the information.

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