Mumbai Memoir 19- From Darkness into Light!
On a typical new moon night Mumbai already glitters brightly as traffic indicators, street lights and vehicle headlights seems like millions of ‘ fire flies’ moving around the ‘maximum city’, but on arrival of ‘Diwali’- the festival of lights, the city dazzles with an additional glow. Roughly scheduled in the month of October-November, ‘Diwali’ is to Mumbai what Christmas is to London.
Diwali literally means ‘rows of lamps’. ‘Diwa’ means lamp and ‘ali’ means row. Earthen oil lamps are traditionally placed outside every celebrating home. Primarily it is a symbol propagating values of ‘the dark been conquered with light’, i.e ‘may knowledge triumph over ignorance’ and ‘may good win over evil!’
According to ancient Hindu mythology, Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom by defeating the demon king Ravan. It is believed that on his return, Lord Rama was greeted by his subjects by lighting the capital city of Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh) with thousands of oil lamps. The Jain and Sikh (religions derived out of Hinduism) communities too have their respective spiritual reasons to celebrate Diwali with faith and devotion. The Jains celebrate Diwali in memorial of the day when Lord Mahavir, the last prophet of Jainism attained ‘nirvana’ (spiritual enlightenment) and the Sikhs celebrate the festival to commemorate the freedom day of their 6th spiritual leader, Guru Hargobind Singh’ji, who returned back from enemy captivity to the town of Amritsar in Punjab.
Unlike other publicly celebrated festivals of Mumbai, Diwali is mostly enjoyed privately along with one’s families and friends. A visiting tourist is thus recommended a homestay with a family that celebrates Diwali in the most traditional way. Here is a link of homestay options in Mumbai http://www.homestay.com/india/mumbai Inspite of the cold weather setting in during the course of Diwali, the festival creates an atmosphere of warmth among Mumbaikars (citizens of Mumbai) who enjoy it with pomp and delight.
Diwali is an ideal time when family members meet up and bond over collective activities that are enjoyed as per the traditional norms every home follows. Activities like lantern making, preparing special sweets & snacks for Diwali, creating rangoli designs (powder based artistic designs adorning the doorsteps of homes) enjoying fire-works together and playing card games are typical events which everyone looks forward to attend at a relative’s or friend’s home. Diwali is also a time to reflect and express one’s gratitude to loved ones. Sweets and gifts are thus exchanged and there is a general mood of reassurance and well-being around. The glow of the burning earthen lamps and the swinging paper lanterns in the cool night breeze, adds glamour to the late evening get-togethers and fun that Diwali brings along. Relishing special snacks with family and friends with light instrumental music being played in the background is a blissful experience for many. While adults are busy socializing indoors, the kids enjoy bursting fire crackers in the open.
In the ever busy lifestyle of Mumbai, ‘Diwali’ acts as a culturing agent that strengthens the roots of family as an institution. Traditional ceremonies wishing long life and prosperity to one’s spouse, siblings and well-wishers is of prime value during this festival. Besides this, special ceremonies are performed with religious sentiments that mark the worship of health, knowledge and wealth. Every Mumbai’kar, rich or poor, is seen celebrating Diwali as per one’s financial capacity. During the week before Diwali, the city buzzes with shopping activities for new clothes, gifts and decorative materials. The four day Diwali celebration acts as a grand finale as it concludes the annual Indian festival season in Mumbai.Myself being a practicing Psychologist, I am scientifically aware of the effects of how novelty in life lifts one’s mood. Festivals like Diwali and the preparations that goes in celebrating it, certainly acts as a positive distraction and a morale booster for all celebrating it with due faith. Philosophically speaking, when a lamp is lit, it has the power to light another lamp. The same is true of one good act to start a chain of good acts around. Diwali comes with this spiritual message that has the power to cleanse the soul and thus kindle an inner wisdom for bringing oneself ‘from darkness into light!’
Photos and Captions:
Photo courtesy: Aditya Chichkar, Shraddha Sankulkar and free internet download sources