If you’ve ever lit a candle, you know the feeling of sudden warmth at your fingertips; the simple delight of having created something from nothing.
Perhaps that’s what makes it apt—the way we celebrate Diwali each year. The tea lights flicker by windowsills, float amongst flowers in clay pots, and sit proudly amidst patterned rangoli. Most of all, they create that light, that simple delight, and they say, “Today is a new day. For all that may be bad, today we start again with everything that will be good.”
As a child, I’d spend hours with my sister setting out the colorful cloth, creating garlands to adorn the idols, and sneaking a candle into every corner our mother considered a fire hazard! We didn’t always know why we were doing this, but we had a feeling.
In that same way, countless children, and even more adults, celebrate Diwali each year without necessarily understanding the reasons why, but somehow knowing the essence.
It’s a festival celebrated by many religions, Hindus most of all, but there are several significant events for which Diwali is momentous.
It marked the return of Rama to Ayodha after fourteen years of exile, having saved Sita and destroyed the evil Ravana. The people in Ayodha lit rows and rows of earthen lamps to welcome and celebrate this victory.
It was the day on which Lord Vishnu rescued goddess Lakshmi from the prison of king Bali.
It commemorated the day Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity.
It marked the day the Pandavas returned from twelve years of banishment.
Perhaps these victories seem farfetched for the world in which we live now. But there must be a reason why we’ve held on to Diwali like a photograph of the past we don’t want to forget.
Most important of all, Diwali signifies the victory of good over evil, and the constant renewal of life.
It’s an old truth, but with each Diwali, and with each light that illumines our home and our heart, this truth finds new reason, and new hope.
We might celebrate the way we’ve overcome a fear, bettered a relationship with a family member, or learned to let go of an old grudge.
Although we often find ourselves wearing new clothes and cleaning the house during Diwali, we may also do well to look within. To move from darkness to light inside ourselves—to find knowledge over ignorance, sincerity over pride, and hope over despair.
After all, while the firecrackers illumine the sky, children play games around the garden, and elders relish the endless supply of sweets–you have lit a candle and added warmth. You have created something out of nothing.