Today is the third and most important day of Diwali, the joyful Hindu festival of lights, which is celebrated by millions in India and around the world.
Diwali symbolises the victory of good over evil, the triumph of light over darkness, and hope over despair. Families and friends gather in homes brightly lit with oil lamps and candles. Women dress in their finest, most colourful saris and decorate their doorway floors with bright powders in intricate Rangoli designs. Sweets and cakes are freely offered and gifts are exchanged amid joyous family reunions that culminate in firework displays.
In Hindu mythology, Diwali marks the return of the virtuous Lord Rama (representing God) and his idealised wife Sita (symbolising the mind) to their kingdom Ayodhya after spending 14 years in exile. Their story is told in the ancient Indian saga, the Ramayana – traditionally attributed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and one of world literature’s biggest epics consisting of some 24,000 verses. The story narrates the life of Rama and his struggle to rescue his wife from the 10-headed demon king Ravana (representing the ego) who had kidnapped and absconded Sita to Lanka. With the help of his faithful friend, the monkey god Hanuman who symbolises prana, Rama rescues Sita after a terrible battle in which he shoots an arrow into Ravana’s one weak spot, killing him.
To celebrate the return of their king and queen, the residents of Ayodhya lit rows of clay lamps – to light the path on a dark, new moon night – as flowers and garlands rained from the heavens above.
Diwali has rich spiritual meaning – the rows of lights represent not just the essence of light in our lives but also gives us time to reflect on all that is good in life. The mythical stories told all point to the importance of knowledge, self-inquiry and seeking the right path in life.
Each day of the five-day festival has a special thought or ideal attached to it. The first day is known as Dhanteras, the Dhan meaning “wealth”; on this day prosperity is celebrated. The second day is known as Narak Chaturdasi – on this day it is said the goddess Kali and Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasaru and freed the world from evil power. The third day – this year on 7th November – is Amavasya, the new moon day and most important day of Diwali, when the goddess Lakshmi is celebrated. The fourth day marks Lord Krishna’s defeat of Indra, the god of thunder and rain. And the final day of Diwali celebrations is known as Bhai Duj; it celebrates the love between sisters and brothers.
Here at triyoga we will be celebrating the happiest of Hindu holidays with candles, Indian sweets, lights and Rangoli patterns on the floors. We hope you enjoy this splash of colour and use it as a reminder to reflect on all that is good in your life too.
Genny is the yoga manager and a teacher at triyoga. Her teacher, Hamish Hendry, is the UK’s only certified Ashtanga teacher and the author of “Yoga Dharma”. Together, they publish and edit Pushpam Magazine.