Diwali, as we often hear, is about light and dark, and the success of one over the other – which is certainly the case, and long may it last.
As we enter Diwali week, and as world leaders begin their discussions about the future of the planet, in Glasgow, I thought it opportune to maybe broaden our understanding of the Diwali festival.
Diwali means ‘row of lights’, and we are told this refers to the rows of lamps offered by thousands of people lighting the way of Rama and Sita, as they made their way back to Ayodhya. The lights were offered with affection for this glorious couple after their success in reuniting after the dark Ravana kidnapped Sita.
Everyone encountering the tale joined in the celebration being enlightened by its goodness, its virtuous principles, and the example of Rama. Rama had left all his riches and any chance of power on the eve of his coronation as king, and then rescued his stolen beloved, who had endured her difficulty with great courage and strength.
I hope and pray that when the statesmen and politicians, the kings of our day, journey home we will feel affection for the glorious deeds they exemplified in Glasgow. That we will be enlightened by their wise decisions, and feel secure for our families, our planet, and ourselves because they did the right thing – regardless of opportunities of financial gain and advancement in power.
Do I hope too much? Maybe, but then I remember how Rama, as an avatar, is green in colour, how he lived in a forest, how his army was made up of monkeys, bears, vultures, and squirrels, and how Sita was described as emerging from the earth at birth. Rama was not speciesist in who he accepted into his army, and he rescued Sita, Mother Earth herself.
So maybe I should pray that our leaders show a bit of Rama’s love for Sita this week. Even a little bit of love could help, and future generations – who cannot vote for them – may none the less love them in return.
I wish you a happy, peaceful Diwali, with a hint of enlightened thanks for what we have, and what we should preserve.
Shaunaka Rishi Das
Director, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies