Indian festivals are embodiments of progression and celebration. The intent of every festival is symbolised by importance of life and its utility on the earth. Activity of life using material form is the highest celebration of the Divine and this has been well situated by Sri Aurobindo in his matchless contribution to humankind through is Integral Yoga. It lays emphasis on comprehensive unitary goal of life. That is the realisation of Divine in human form. He situated this secret of the cosmic consciousness through his seminal works-Life Divine and the Synthesis Yoga.
Besides his various writings these works are his lifelong experiences with both Agamic and Nigamic experimentation. Those are usually known as Tantric and Vedic formulations respectively. In all his works he has focussed on the light. The light of the Divine and this light is not just the literal translation of the word light. But the internalisation of light as Divine and at the same time Divine as the celebration of light. For that he emphasises the life as light. Deepawali must be seen as the light of the Divine that illumines the space and time; the expanse that we dwell in.
This internalisation of light as luminosity is not enough that dispels the darkness that we witness after the dreaded night having inauspicious connotations but light as the creator. Light creates. It creates the space. The space that is not just tangible and having material life but the space that creates place consciousness that develops aesthetics of eternity.
What has been attributed above to Sri Aurobindo in terms of understanding the meaning of light as life and life as the Divine is not isolated case of philosophy; attributed to Raj Rishi Sri Aurobindo. But it encompasses the occultism and tantric formulations of the age old seekers who experimented with the secrets of the nature. To establish this one needs to delve deep into the reality light and its celebration.
Deepawali is usually associated with these events that shaped the collective memories of the Hindus in Greater India. Greater India is not a mere geographical expanse but the cultural sphere of influence:
Lord Krishna Killed a demon called Narakasura. So we call that day Naraka Chathurdasi, literally Naraka’s 14th day.
Goddess Lakshmi came out of the Milky Ocean when Devas and Asuras churned the ocean for Amrutha, i.e. ambrosia.
Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana of Sri Lanka who abducted Rama’s wife Sita.
Pandavas came out of the forest after their 12 year banishment. So to celebrate all these things they decorated the houses and streets with row of lamps. The reason being, it was Amavasya-new moon day where there was no light. Most of other Hindu festivals fall on Full Moon day, so there is natural moon light. We have to remember there was no electric light thousands of years ago.
These events have one commonality and that is celebration. And in all the cases the celebration is for establishing the reign of prosperity devoid of regression. Another thing that is common is the numerology and constellation. That is the space and time. It has tantric significance. That marks these events to appear on the day or time.
Its answer lies in the origin of light and its domain. The question arises so what is light and how we define it. Scientifically this can be explained with the concepts of Physics and space science. But still we end up at only measuring light and hence distance of the planets and stars. That does not solve the problem. It only reduces the problem to the issue of calculating numbers and counting light years.
The answer lies in Kashmir Shaiv Darshan. Trika Parampara that originated in Kashmir dispels all cobwebs of illusion and darkness to open floodgates of secret behind light. It establishes that whole cosmos and all the material entities are expressions of the Swatantra (loosely translated as independence or autonomy) of the Para Bhairavashiva, who creates out of His free will. And as such He is known as Prakash (again the loose translation is light).Further, it does not end here. Prakash can be internalised through Vimarsh and that Vimarsh is His Shakti (power /energy). So Kashmir Shaiv Darshan uncovers the hidden secret of this creation and clearly says the creator is Prakash and He can be realised through His Vimarshni Shakti.
It makes one arrive at the conclusion that Prakash that is loosely translated as light is actually the creator Himself. Who manifest as many and has the tendency to reduce many to one. Thus Deepawali or Diwali is the celebration of Prakash or the Prakash Utsav of Festival Light. It is not just lightening of lamp but to see each one of us as a lamp that has been ignited by the Para Bhairava Himself to celebrate His free will. It has a wider meaning. That is when all the creation belongs to the Para Bhairava then all of us are His expressions and as such we all have to keep this lamp of life ignited with His Prakash. So that darkness of regression and death does not engulf it and reduce it to a mere shadow of subverted unreality.
That is why this expression of Praksh as Deepawali has almost same significance for all religious denominations in India that have same Vedic and Agamic origin. That is why all these festivals converge on the same lines with Prakash.
Jains also celebrate Diwali, because one of the greatest Thirthankaras, Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, attained Niravana- equivalent to Hindu Yogi’s Samadhi on a Diwali day.
Sikhs also celebrate Diwali because the foundation for Golden Temple in Amritsar was laid on the day. Guru Amardas called all Sikhs to get Gurus’s blessings on that day, like Hindu’s Vyasa Purnima. One of the ten Sikh gurus Hari Govinda Sing was released from imprisonment by Mughal emperor Jehangir on that day.
Arya Samaj followers consider it a holy day because its founder Dayananda Sarswati attained Samadhi on that day.
There are many more reasons. Greatest of the Hindu Kings Vikramaditya was crowned on a Diwali day. For Gujaratis and other business men it is a NEW YEAR DAY. They start their financial year on that day.
Lakshmi Puja and Kubra Puja are conducted during the four day celebrations. Gujaratis heap food and sweets like mountains in a festival called Annakut festival.
What emerges from the above is clear that Indic place consciousness internalises Prakash as the Divine and its aesthetics can be experienced in all parts of India across the geographical and linguistic divide. Thus Deepawali is the celebration of Divine and His Divinity in this life as Prakash (that we loosely translate as light. Complete translation in full accuracy is not possible as Sanskrit words like Prakash are non translatables)
(Author is strategic expert. He has recently written two books titled “Jammu and Kashmir Breaking the Subversive Web” & “A Way Forward and Exploring Heritage Tourism in Jammu- A Marketing perspective”)