Deepavali is one of the most popular festivals in India. It is the festival of lights symbolising the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. The word `Deepavali’ literally means rows of Deepa or Diya (clay lamp). Deepavali is a festival for lighting rows of lamps.
There is also a deeper meaning associated with this. Lamps give light, which is a symbol of Gyana (knowledge). Knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievements can be accomplished. Lakshmi (wealth) increases only in the environment of knowledge and light, where the intentions and motives are clear and full of wisdom.
Wherever there is Agyana, that is darkness or ignorance, it leads to loss of wealth and even if it is acquired it is not long lasting. Hence we light lamps to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.
The symbolism of light is essential to this festival. It is understood that without light there can be no life. Light is responsible for the development of all living things. Light is associated with heat, the sun and the divine.
It is also stated that during this day Goddess Lakshmi resides in the flame of the Deepa or Diya making the purpose of lighting the Deepa even more significant.
The traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual and scientific significance. The spiritual significance being that the oil or ghee in the lamp symbolises our Vaasanas (negative tendencies) and the wick, the ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the Vaasanas get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The scientific reason can be stated in a way that ghee lamp is a mode of purifying the environment and distributing what one has to give to a large number of people.
The festival is celebrated by worshipping Lord Ganesha, the God of wisdom and Goddess Lakshmi – the mother of all – and worshipping pen, paper and account books just to remember that we should not be careless in our expenditure and remain within our budget.
But in recent years there has been some criticism about the celebration of Deepavali in India. The most common issue is the noise pollution caused by crackers, which greatly affects infants, pets and older people. The chemicals like copper cadmium, lead, magnesium, potassium, nitrate, nitrite, phosphorus in PO4 and sulphur in SO4 used in crackers cause severe eye, throat and breathing problems. They even result in headache and reduces mental acuity, allergic bronchitis, acute exacerbation of bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases), laryngitis, sinusitis, pneumonia.
Children, pregnant women and those suffering from respiratory problems suffer the most due to excessive noise. It results in making them hyperactive or withdrawn. Also, pet animals like cats and dogs have horrible time during this festival as the cracker sounds they hear are many times more louder than what we humans can hear. And you will hardly find any of them in the open as they will be hiding under the bed or in some remote corner away from the sounds. Feel sorry for those poor animals.
Why can’t we celebrate Deepavali for just what it is — The festival of lights and not noise and pollution? Imagine such a Deepavali — quiet and serene with a thousand lamp lights glowing like stars in a clear sky!