Diwali, or Deepavali, is a major Hindu festival celebrated across India. Whether it is to commemorate the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya, celebrate the destruction of Narakasura, or welcome Goddess Lakshmi, the entire country shimmers and glitters around this time. The preparations begin days in advance - from cleaning the house, buying new clothes, making delicious snacks, and decorating the house with diyas, lamps, and flowers. While every community celebrates uniquely, the flavor is the binding factor.
Diwali usually sends me on a trip down the childhood lane. The memories of our home erupting in a heady fragrance of gram flour and ghee as moms, aunts, and grandmoms got together to prepare an elaborate spread of sweets and savories, the excitement amongst us kids to wear new clothes and burst crackers, waking up at dawn break, bathing with warm sesame oil and aromatic home ground ubtan, the clamor to be amongst the first ones to light up a lakshmi bomb and rouse the neighborhood warms the cockles of my heart each year.
With modern-day lifestyle taking over, many of these rituals have changed faces and are just a pale shadow of how our parents and grandparents celebrated. Targeted debates around the need for elaborate rituals, the basis of faith, and the narrative of regressive customs force one to take a stand and wedge a divide between the current generation, separating those who want to uphold age-old traditions from those who perceive these to be extravagant and irrelevant.
In a world that's getting increasingly materialistic, hoards symbols of wealth and seeks to compete and conquer, talks about virtues like minimalism and environment are mostly a fad: more about preaching than practising. People in the metros feel no qualms about driving around cities in large SUVs, using the air conditioner all year around, choosing branded clothes for every fashion trend, taking yearly vacations to foreign locales, and drinking or dining in fancy restaurants each week. Ironically, they transform into social activists when it suits them and sermonize about how bursting crackers can be a health hazard and cause grave damage to the environment.
Adopting an environment-friendly attitude should be holistic, apply to all aspects of our lives, and not on convenient occasions to drive home a point. A logical approach would be to have policies that allow exceptions on festivals and special occasions rather than moral police and force people to abstain from customs integral to their cultural identity.
As I dive deeper into our culture, I realize rituals have a spiritual significance. The tradition of spring cleaning, discarding clutter, donating, and cleaning the corners of our home before Diwali teaches us to let go of attachment, greed, and impulsive habits and use grounding to accept change.
What's appreciable about merely letting go of physical possessions when the mind swims in confusion? What about the pile of unresolved emotions we fiercely safeguard in our hearts and minds? The feelings of self-pity, disappointment, resentment, anger, envy, and helplessness become self-made prisoners until we decide to take control and release them.
Purging tangible possessions and clearing out the cobwebs around the house is a metaphor for cleansing the inner self and heightening higher consciousness. Our ancestors were spiritually aware and passed on their wisdom through practices that fueled one's inner journey. We are encouraged to practice this sadhana to awaken the light within us.
As a festival of illumination, Diwali implores us to dwell within and dispel the darkness around our thoughts and perceptions. It is about practicing gratitude for what we already have and creating space for newer and better experiences. The good over evil is a legend that applies to us on a personal level. The divine and the demon are within; the free will to invoke either resides with us. The traditions serve as our anchor.
Instead of brushing off everything our ancestors did as superstition or superficial, the current generation would do well to learn and pass on the nuggets of wisdom in our rich culture.
A society that cares for its senior citizens is a civilized and enlightened society. The aging happens on its own without any prompting from our side! It is an issue of mind over matter…if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!
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