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The Significance of Diwali

Diwali celebrations in the UK cities have become probably the largest outside India. Diwali is celebrated at the residence of the Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, at the House of Commons with cross Party Parliamentarians joining in the celebrations as we are today. Diwali at Trafalgar Square is attended by thousands of people, including tourists visiting the capital who are mesmerized to see the colourful pageant of music, dance and food …. Writes Lord Rami Ranger

Lord Rami Ranger CBE

Diwali is the most important, grandest and an immensely popular Indian festival which is now celebrated all over the world as the globally dispersed Indian Diaspora spreads this epic message of the triumph of good over evil. As the Indians across the globe become increasingly successful and vibrant, they are able to celebrate their festivals, especially Diwali with great pomp and show.

By preserving and propagating their culture, they have made the countries of their domicile richer and more colourful. Indian cuisine, music, jewellery and dresses are becoming increasingly popular with people from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Diwali is perhaps the only festival for which the celebrations last for several weeks and even months as there are pre Diwali and post Diwali parties which run right up to Christmas. Gifts and sweets are exchanged with near and dear ones.

In fact, Diwali brings happiness and lifts everyone’s mood and spirits, which in turn induce a fresh zeal in everyone. As this is a family event, it is enjoyed by everyone, including the host communities. As a matter of fact, many Governments across the world encourage and celebrate Diwali with the local population. Diwali celebrations in the UK cities have become probably the largest outside India. Diwali is celebrated at the residence of the Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, at the House of Commons with cross Party Parliamentarians joining in the celebrations as we are today. Diwali at Trafalgar Square is attended by thousands of people, including tourists visiting the capital who are mesmerized to see the colourful pageant of music, dance and food.

As a matter of fact, this is the only day when the three great religions of the world, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrate this day jointly but also for different reasons too. The Hindus celebrate the return of Lord Rama with his wife and brother to his Kingdom of Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. During his return, the streets and towns were lit up with Diwas (candles) to welcome them home.

The Sikhs on the other hand celebrate Diwali as ‘Bandhi Chhorh Day’. On this day their 6th Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib arrived in Amritsar after being released from Gwalior prison by the then Mughal King, Jahengir. The Guru refused to leave the prison unless the 52 Hindu princes who were also in prison at that time were also released. The Emperor agreed on one condition that who so ever could hold on to the Guru’s cloak would be free to leave the prison. The Guru had a cloak especially made with 52 corners with strings attached so that each prince could hold onto one. Thus all 52 princes were free to walk out of prison with the Guru holding on to the corners of the cloak.

The Jains celebrate Diwali as on this day Lord Mahavira, the last Jain Tirthankaras, achieved Nirvana at a Pavapuri. Sri Ganadhar Gautam Swami also achieved absolute wisdom on this day. This is what makes Diwali a very special day for so many.

As a matter of fact behind these celebrations there is serious message of preserving self-respect, family honour and sacrifice for others. Lord Rama left the comforts of his kingdom with his devout wife and loyal brother to uphold self-respect and family honour.

In the process, he showed the world that without these attributes, the world would be a more selfish place. Presently, we are witnessing how even now in the world today how some rulers for their selfish gains hold onto their power by suppressing and oppressing their own people. Lord Rama on the other hand walked away from the throne to demonstrate that nothing was more important than preserving honour, be it his own or that of his family.

Lord Rama also demonstrated that if one’s path was righteous, then even the cleverest and most powerful Kings with huge armies could be defeated. The message of loyalty was shown to the world by wife Sita and brother Laxman too. The Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib demonstrated care and concern for others as a prerequisite for a civil society. He did not leave prison until his fellow inmates were also released. Regrettably, we now see more and more of an “I am alright Jack” approach in the world with a dire consequence to everyone. Increasingly we are showing less care and concern for the elderly, the young and the weak in our society.

This is a sad indictment of our behaviour when we choose to ignore the ideals Lord Rama and Gurus who paid supreme sacrifices and set examples by living a life of high morals so that we too could lead fuller and happier lives. I would like everyone to reflect on the actual and deeper meaning of Diwali and follow the ideals of Lord Rama.

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