I hope everyone had a wonderful Deepavali yesterday. I know I did, even if I didn’t visit any friends or attend any open houses. I had a friend return from Roswell, New Mexico for a few weeks’ holiday in Malaysia. Her husband is coming later this month but while she was here, I made some plans and took her out for lunch yesterday. After our meal, we headed back to my condo for some catching-up. It didn’t seem long that she left Malaysia to further her studies but it did seem like forever before she came back here last weekend. We spent the entire afternoon and evening exchanging life tales on my living room carpet while my cat, Loki, had a ball of a time dashing back and forth (and occasionally crashing into the sliding door and/or dining table legs). What a silly cat. I guess he enjoyed Deepavali as much too, because it was one of those days when he was allowed out of the cat room.
Even the weather was so fine yesterday. From the balcony of my ninth floor unit, the heavy rain clouds brought forth a bright blue day and a sea of white soft clouds that make you wish you could fly upwards to Heaven and sit on those clouds while having a spot of tea and scones with God. Why not.
Evening came and went and again, from my balcony, you can see a streak of orange and red across the skies. Ever since moving out of my parents’ home in a terrace house and into a high-rise condominium, I’ve been able to catch sunsets like this almost on a daily basis. Except on hazy days.
What did you guys do on Deepavali? Did you pay any friends a visit and gate-crashed their Deepavali celebrations? Or were you properly invited to sit down with your friends and their family members for a decent vegetarian meal? Some of us Malaysians have been known to have so many friends who celebrate Deepavali that we’d do a Deepavali hop from one open house to another. And end up with a food baby (defined as “a protruding stomach caused by eating a large quantity of food and supposedly resembling that of a woman in the early stages of pregnancy.” – Urban Dictionary).
Not sure what Deepavali is all about? Here, let me help you out with that.
The history of Deepavali, better known as Diwali, is chock-full of legends tied to the stories of Hindu religious scriptures, mostly the Puranas. The theme of the legends centres on the classic truth of good over evil, with a difference in characters and presentation mode. Also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, the act of lighting lamps is equivalent to lighting the lamp of knowledge within us to reflect upon and understand the significance of each of the five days of festivities, and to bring out the thoughts in our day-to-day lives.
I have always thought that Deepavali was just a one-day event. I think many of us who don’t celebrate the festival would easily assume that. What’s worse, though, is that Deepavali is only given a one day public holiday in Malaysia, causing the rest of us to think that it’s only a one-day celebration. Actually, there is five days tied to this festive period, and here are the reasons why:
- The first day is called ‘Dhanvantari Triodasi or Dhanwantari Triodasi‘, otherwise abbreviated as ‘Dhan Theras‘.
- The second day is called ‘Narak Chaturdasi‘. It is the 14th lunar day (thithi) of the dark forthnight of the month of Kartik and the eve of Diwali. On this day, Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and freed the world from fear.
- The third day is the actual Diwali, when worship for Mother Lakshmi is performed.
- The fourth day is called ‘Goverdhan Pooja‘ is performed.
- The fifth day is called ‘Bhratri Dooj‘, and it is a day that is dedicated to sisters.
So, there you go. Diwali is actually a five-day celebration! And to think we always thought it was a one-day thing. Here are a couple of Diwali variations, one for the Sikh and the other for Jain.
The Sikh Diwali Festival is celebrated as the return of the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, from the captivity of the city, Gwailor. As a commemoration of his undying love for Sikhism, the townsfolk lit the way to Harmandhir Sahib (a reference to the Golden Temple) in his honour.
The Jain Diwali Festival celebrates the Nirvana of Lord Mahavira who established the dharma. Lord Mahavira was born as Vardhamana on Chaitra Shukla 13th in the Nata clan at Khattiya-kundapura, near Vaishali, and had obtained Kevala Gyana on Vishakha Shukla 10 at the Jambhraka village on the banks of Rijukula river at the age of 42.