Photo credit: Mahesh Basedia (Creative Commons license)

Photo credit: Mahesh Basedia (Creative Commons license)

Dipavali (Deepavali, Deewali) is India’s great Festival of Lights. It is one the the most important celebrations of the year. The day is dedicated to Mahalakshmi, who signifies prosperity and abundance in all areas of life. 

It is celebrated on the darkest night of the year and in that darkness, people light dipas, little clay lamps, and put them in and around their homes. Traditionally, these are filled with ghee or oil, but it has become popular to use candles. Of course, there are also huge displays of electric lights. Where I’m staying right now, nearly every house is covered with long strings of lights draped down the front, with sometimes other lighting displays, as well. Many people liken it to Christmas as it is also the time when there is much gift giving. Also, it’s the time when people put on new clothes and bring new household goods, etc. It’s a day of jubilation and togetherness.

On a deeper level, a great saint commented that the significance of this tradition is in the reality of the possibility of gaining enlightenment in the midst of utter ignorance. He said that when no one is enlightened, it’s possible for everyone to get enlightenment. Makes sense to me. There is certainly an over-abundance of ignorance in the world right now, so it’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way.

Here are some slokas (Sanskrit verses) that are traditionally recited on this day:

Subham Karoti Kalyanam, Arogyam Dhana Sampadah

Shatru Buddhi Vinashaya , Dipa Jyotir Namostute

“I fold my hands before the light that brings prosperity, auspiciousness, good health, abundance of wealth and destruction of enemies”

Asato Maa Sadgamaya, Tamaso Maa Jyotirgamaya,

Mrityurma Amritanagamaya, Aum Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

“Lead me from untruth to truth, lead me from darkness to light,

lead me from death to immortality, Aum Peace Peace Peace”

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