Opinion: If there is one occasion which is all joy and jubilation for the entire Hindu world, it is Deepavali, the festival of lights.
Even the humblest of shacks are lit by a row of earthen lamps on this day. Fireworks light up the earth and the sky.
The belief in the Divine is fundamental to this celebration and it is the basis of Hindu Dharma.
Such is the intensity of this belief that in the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna “believe in me and I shall protect to you”.
It is strongly believed by Hindus that failure to acknowledge and respect the Divine is a road to disaster.
According to the Bhagavad Gita (5:16): “When one is illumined with the wisdom by which ignorance is destroyed, then this knowledge lights up all things, just as the sun reveals the world at dawn.”
Deepavali signifies victory of divinity and righteousness over evil and unrighteousness. Deepavali always falls on the new moon day and it is considered auspicious for the worship of Mahaluxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
In the northern parts of India, Deepavali is associated with the return of Sri Ram to Ayoddhya after vanquishing Ravana. Faith in prayer and the power of the Divine was seen as the only reason why Ram was able to vanquish Ravana. The people of Ayoddhya were overwhelmed with joy and welcomed Ram through jubilation and illumination of the entire Ayoddhya.
For us in South Africa, this is our 111th Deepavali celebration. Our forefathers, brought to this country as indentured labourers, battled against the authorities for 50 years before Deepavali was officially recognised as an important occasion for Hindus. It was only in 1910 that the first Deepavali celebration took place.
The South African Hindu Maha Sabha continues to advocate for Deepavali to be declared a national public holiday.
Of course, amidst all these special events, we recall 27 years of democracy for all South Africans. We must pray that the dark forces that threaten to undermine our democracy and plunge our country into lawlessness and chaos are vanquished. When South Africans seek inspiration and enlightenment, they inevitably turn to the words of Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela, and his views on Deepavali are apposite:
“At this time of Diwali and as I light this sacred lamp, I am aware of how this lamp symbolises the triumph of: Enlightenment over blind faith; prosperity over poverty; knowledge over ignorance; good health and well-being over disease and ill health; freedom over bondage.”
The occasion of Deepavali also has the added attraction of indulging in sweetmeats and the exchange of gifts, and the getting together of families and communities – wishing each other good health, prosperity and happiness. It is that time of the year in the lives of Hindus when only joy and jubilation fills homes. However, this year we must be careful and avoid social gatherings because of Covid-19 protocols.
Covid-19 has bedevilled our lives since March last year and we are far from over it. So please, please vaccinate if you haven’t as yet, adhere to the protocols – wash your hands regularly, sanitise, wear a mask and keep a social distance. More than that, we must avoid social gatherings.
Finally, let us celebrate but respect the rights of others – enjoy fireworks during the designated times responsibly, no big/loud bangs and please ensure that you respect the rights of your neighbours too!
And let us not forget those that do not have. Let us dedicate this Deepavali to helping those who do not have and bring the joy of light in their dark lives by sponsoring food hampers. The South African Hindu Maha Sabha has an ongoing food hamper distribution initiative,which we urge all to support.
*Ashwin Trikamjee is the President, South African Hindu Maha Sabha.*