Diwali is the festival of lights. Diwali is known for its association with the story of the Ramayana, where the legendary deity – King Rama returns to his native city of Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile.  During the time of the exile Rama and his brother Laxmana are supposed to have accomplished various feats for dharma, including the destruction of Ravana.  Thus Diwali is the festival where people welcome the rightful king of Ayodhya by lighting ghee-filled lamps outside their houses and on the streets and celebrating the victory of dharma over evil.

This is also a very special time of the year according to the lunar calendar.  This is the period of Dakshinayana, which is the six-month time frame between the Summer solstice and Winter solstice.  This is when the sun travels towards the south on the celestial sphere.  The other six-months are known as Uttarayana, and this is when the Earth moves northward in the celestial sphere (as shown in the graphic below).  The Sun’s journey in relation to Earth shifts from the southern run to the northern run, or from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana; from end of Winter to Summer.  

While Uttarayana is associated with enlightenment and receptivity, Dakshinayana is the period of purification.  Spring, agriculture, harvest and coming of life are often celebrated during Uttarayana but this time is significant for harvesting of human potential as well. The Sun plays a vital role during Uttarayana and related seasons – Spring and Summer and the Moon plays a pivotal role during Dakshinayana, consisting of monsoon, Autumn and Winter.  The Sun and the Moon channels are associated with the Surya nadi and Chandra nadi within our body.  Each nadi has specific functions; the Sun gives us hope, energy, assertiveness and the Moon allows us to stay calm, heal and become stable.  Both the Surya nadi and the Chandra Nadi play important roles in cultivating harmony within our system.  

The time of Diwali becomes important to understand and convey the principles of shedding of the old and preparing to welcome new possibilities.  Since the human body is a micro representation of the larger, endless cosmos, Diwali is a reminder of the advent of new beginnings.  According to Hindu Puranas, the Dakshinayana period is when the deities are experiencing celestial sleep and soon after the period ends, and life awakens.  The story of the Ramayana therefore is a poetic reminder of the possibilities of human existence and transcendence.  

Many in contemporary times have reduced the festival of Diwali to that of celebrating with sweets, fireworks, etc.  Rituals are important and play an explicit role in a Hindu’s life.  However, a ban on firecrackers, loud sounds, etc., should not deter the spirit of Diwali.  Governments may ban certain important aspects of Diwali but they will not be able to influence the celestial pathways nor change the trajectories of the Sun, Moon, or stop the rotation of the Earth. 

The spiritual significance of Diwali and related festivals transcends petty bans.  Hindus and spiritual seeks should always keep this mind and also remember that nothing except dharma is permanent.  Governments and bans may come and go but the spirit and magnitude of Diwali will live forever.

Let the fire within always keep burning.  A very Happy Diwali to you all.

Sources: https://vigyanprasar.gov.in/ | https://spreadspirituality.wordpress.com/| National Geographic

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