I am neither a religious person nor an atheist. Of course I am a proud Hindu and I believe Hinduism is one of the most liberal religions in the world since it allows me to live life my way without any restrictions. I do respect all other religions and I am proud that India is a multicultural and multi-religious society, where we respect all religions and celebrate each other’s festivals with life and vigour.
I realised albeit a bit late in my life that most of our rituals in all religions are meant to make us more human. We tend to follow religious rituals blindly either because they have been followed over ages or because we believe that by following them something good is likely to happen to us.
Today is Deepawali. In the northern parts of India, it is believed that Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after his vanavas ( exile into the forests) and was reincarnated the King on his return. So the citizens celebrate Diwali by lighting lamps and bursting crackers to welcome back their beloved king.
In the southern parts of India, it is considered that Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakaasura and hence the victory of good over evil is celebrated with the bursting of crackers at the advent of dawn. It could be other stories in the west and east of India.
The rituals guide us to clean our homes and light lamps to celebrate the victory of good over evil. This is symbolic. This could mean it could be a day when we can clean our body and souls too. It is a way of the religion telling us to light a lamp in the life of others who are not as privileged as we are.
Most of us today are in the rat race. We are not only competing with others to get ahead in the race of life but sometimes are competing against ourselves too so that we cannot be beaten by anyone else. There could nothing wrong to be competitive in life. However, it is unhealthy competition which leads us to be greedy and ungrateful to what we have and make us want more than what we need in life.
In my definition, being good to others and serving them unconditionally is the best form of religion. If we are able to dedicate ourselves today to help someone,who is drowned with sadness and darkness, it may be the best way to celebrate this Festival of Lights.
Many of us are privileged and we have a place to stay, family and friends to support us and are bestowed with good health and wealth. While we need to be grateful to many who made us what we are today, the best way to repay their debt may be to help people who needs that kind of support today.
In our worldly affairs, we may have forgotten to express our gratitude to all the people who moulded us into a better human being today. Today this festival of Diwali gives us an opportunity to light a lamp in the lives of those who need the most.
We need not think of changing the world. I would appeal to each one of us to make an impact on any individual, who needs it the most. That may be the best way to celebrate this festival. Let us spread happiness around us. Let us bring a smile into the face of those who need it the most. Let us meet and be grateful to the people who have made us what we are today.
Let us celebrate Diwali by lighting a lamp into the life of someone today.
S Ramesh Shankar
24th October 2022