After a long day at work today, I set out on my procedural return voyage to my nest to perform the daily drill- work, eat, and watch some show, sleep. Repeat. I could stride down this trail with my eyes closed on a regular day, but today was different. The usually quiet road, wasn’t untroubled anymore. There was nothing familiar about it anymore, except it was, the same! Just too many people, so much light, and much more noise. What’s special you ask? Today is one of the biggest and holiest festivals in India. Well, today is just one of the many days of this festival of lights. Not only is it celebrated on different days, but it is also called by different names and has different stories associated.
Deepawali, Dhanteras, Diwali many names but one significance – The win of good over evil! Light taking over darkness etc., and that is the moral of every story that has been imparted for many generations in our cultural melting pot. Diwali or Deepawali originates from the ancient Sanskrit language which means an array of lights. Here are a few theories I’ve compiled just for you about what this festival of light means to different people.
Diwali for People in Northern India
In most parts of North India, it is celebrated to mark the return of King Rama (The good) after he vanquished the 10 headed Demon – Ravana (The evil). According to legends Lord Rama was sent into exile for 14 years joined by his devoted wife Sita and younger brother Laxmana. It was during this time that Ravana decides to play the bad guy and kidnaps Sita and gets into Lord Rama’s bad books. So naturally Lord Rama with his brother and a gazillion devotees of his defeats Ravana and takes his loving wife back home to Ayodhya. The subjects of the kingdom adorn the whole capital with lights and burst crackers to welcome their King and Queen. People to this day, light up their homes, and burst crackers. They also buy new clothes and those with heavier pockets buy silver and gold ornaments (Let’s not even get to those with even bulkier pockets).
Deepawali for People in South India
Some regions in the South Celebrate Deepawali one day before Diwali in the North and this day is called as Naraka Chaturdashi. The story goes thus, “The people who were being terrorized by the Great demon called Narakasura were rescued by Lord Krishna (one of the many Avatars of Lord Vishnu). He exterminated this bad guy and just before Narakasura breathed his last, he requested his mother Satyabhama for a boon that everyone should celebrate his death with colorful lights.” And people to this day do so and also burst crackers.
Certain other regions in the south have another story which forms the third day of this festival, Bali Padyami. This day is celebrated a day after Diwali in the north. This story is of a very powerful and generous King called Bali who was very ambitious, somewhat like King Alexander if you may, but much before his time. Now the other deities got uneasy with his hunger for power and approached Lord Vishnu who this time bore the avatar of a priestly boy called Vamana(A Dwarf) and came to earth and posed a trick question to the king “Dear King, you own the skies and the land, can you give me some space that I can cover in 3 strides?” King Bali obviously hadn’t heard of the saying all great things come in small packages and granted the boy his wish. So our hero immediately started growing to a gigantic form and in two steps covered the skies and the earth and still had one more step left. King Bali known to keep his promise bowed down and offered his own head to Lord Vamana and at this Lord Vamana kept his foot on the King’s head, and sent him to the netherworld.
Now whether celebrated on Naraka Chaturdashi or Bali Padyami or both the days, vastly people light their houses with earthen lamps (replaced mostly by electric lights these days) and burst crackers.
That’s the story of Diwali or Deepawali and what it means to certain regions. Although called by different names and celebrated on different days, there are a few things in common: New clothes, lots of sweets, the lighting of the lamps and most importantly bursting of crackers. So let us take a look at what bursting of crackers means to the following populace
Bursting of Crackers to the Animals
There is no story or legend, no good over evil nor is it light taking over the darkness for these little creatures that go through so much trauma every year during this time. Dogs, whether pets or stray have an incredible sense of hearing and can detect noises that are extremely faint to the human ears. The sensory surplus of light, sound from crackers (read N-O-I-S-E) and not to forget the pollution it brings with it, causes anxiety amongst all animals and birds. Some even get nauseous and see a reduction in their food intake. While the Homo sapiens see a rise in their bank balances (thanks to the Diwali Bonus) and figures on the weighing scales, these poor species see a rise in the stress levels and other health issues.
Bursting of Crackers to the ‘Only Planet with Chocolates’
The layman in me obviously knew that bursting crackers cause pollution, but the Environmental Engineer in me wanted to look for scarier terms to present to you to illustrate the effects of these tiny scrolls of paper containing some weird looking powder. The most popular words that popped are Barium, Cadmium, Sodium, Mercury, Nitrate, and Nitrite. These toxic substances are released into the atmosphere by 335628176.5 people in our country during the Biggest Festival of the Year. And that is just quarter our population as on 5th November 2018 (Don’t ask me what kind of a person is 0.5. I just did the simple math – A quarter of the total population). I can go on about the Noise Pollution with noise levels of over 125dB which is more than twice the standard, and the collection of all the leftovers from these crackers which pose a threat to the auspicious “Swach Bharat Mission”
While I’m sure all you enjoy watching a spectacular display of fireworks, I’m also sure that you care! Care about the planet that you walk on, the people that you walk with, and the adorable creatures that surround you. So here are just a few things we can do to up our role on this planet (Also the only planet with Beers)
Suggestions to help the Animals
- Firstly “DO NOT BURST CRACKERS”. Obvious Innit!
- Create a safe environment for the animals around you
- Keep the doors and windows close to minimize the noise
- Take your pet and go on a vacation to a quieter place
- Feed the animals before the light and noise begins
- Keep calming and distressing medication in handy in case the pets/ strays need them
- And most importantly give them all the love they deserve.
Suggestions to preserve Mother Nature (Dude! It’s currently the only planet with Oxygen.)
- Firstly “DO NOT BURST CRACKERS”. Like Duh!
- There are other alternate ways to enjoy Deepawali
- Donate books, clothes etc to the needy. Trust me this brings more joy than causing some chemical composition to explode
- Create campaigns on Environmental Conservation. It gives immense satisfaction. It did to me 🙂
- Host a party, play some games, eat-dance and make merry
- Go on a vacation (Read my other articles for ideas 😉 )
I hope these ideas help, if not, gimme a buzz and we could discuss more over a cup of coffee (Just Kidding! I don’t drink coffee. Some desserts maybe)
Disclaimer: This article was not written to hurt any religious sentiments or alter traditional beliefs. This was only a compilation of multiple mythological stories and some facts about this festival. If you feel offended, gimme a buzz and well you know the drill 🙂
Happy and safe Deepavali folks!