The Festival of Lights, Diwali is right here! And who is not delighted to see the Diwali lights scintillating in the stark dark night! It is a festival that is celebrated across the length and breadth of a country as diverse as India symbolizing the spirit of unity and diversity.
In North India, it is believed that Lord Rama with his consort returned to Ayodhya on this day after slaying Ravana, the king of Lanka. In South India, they believe that the demon Narakasur was slain on Naraka Chaturdashi, a day before Diwali. In the East, it is celebrated as Kali Puja and in western states, they celebrate Lakshmi puja and their new year begins a day after Diwali. Sikh community celebrates as their sixth guru, Guru Hargobind who was imprisoned by the Mughal emperor Jahangir was released on Diwali and Jains celebrate as on this day Tirthankar Mahavir attained Nirvana, salvation. Diwali is a thread that binds all regions, religions, and people in the country.
What does light symbolize? Good, knowledge and spirituality. While darkness stands for evil, ignorance, depravity. On the darkest night of the month, the kindled lamps and candles dispel all darkness and illumine our minds and the universe.
In this context, it would be worthwhile to note that the lure of lights is not confined to us Indians alone. Let’s see what other countries celebrate and rejoice this way with the splendour of lights.
Lantern Festival or the YUAN XIAO festival- China
This festival falls in the month of February and has its roots in Buddhism which was very popular in China during the Han dynasty. In honour of Gautam Buddha, the emperors of the Han dynasty ordered that lanterns be lit inside the royal palace on the first full moon day of the lunar year.
LAS FALLAS- Valencia
Apart from the Tomato festival – La Tamotino and bull-running – San Fermino, Las Fallas is another crazy festival resonating with the Spanish spirit. Las Fallas is a five-day-long festival that involves a dazzling display of fireworks and stunning sights of blazing effigies of unpopular characters.
FETE DES LUMIERES or Festival of Lights- Lyon
This festival that pays homage to Virgin Mary is celebrated for four days ending on December 8 every year. It is celebrated with dance, drama, and music depicting various themes. For these four days, Lyon becomes virtually a city of lights.
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS- Berlin
Berlin is a rather new addition to the list of light festivals. It started in the year 2004 but is extremely popular and has received international fame. The festival spans nine days starting in the second week of October. It is a high-end light art festival. All the major monuments of Berlin light up with unique patterns of laser beams to create a spectacular show. Concerts are also held where internationally recognized artists perform. Many light seeing tours are taken through Berlin to create unforgettable memories.
Obon is an annual Buddhist event in Japan. It is believed that the spirits of ancestors return to meet their relatives during Obon. Japanese celebrate by floating lanterns put into rivers, lakes, and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. Obon is observed from the 13th to 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar year which is usually mid-August.
HANUKKAH- Jewish Festival of Lights
Hanukkah means dedication. This Jewish festival begins on the Hebrew date of 25th of Kislev and lasts for eight days. It usually falls somewhere in December.
Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over Hellenic Syrians in a revolt that took place around 165 BC. The most important Hanukkah ritual is candle lighting.
Thus light is associated with festivities regardless of cultural differences. The common theme that runs through all these festivals be it LaFallas, Hanukkah or Diwali remains the same that is the celebration of good and the elimination of evil.