Grandma’s tales – The legends of Deepavali

The festival season is upon us! I wished to share the Deepavali aka Diwali stories on my blog for my non-indian readers.

Just like Haloween, there are many legends that surround this truly unique festival – The festival of lights…

Slaying of the Demon King Narakasura:

Effigy of Narakasura

Effigy of Narakasura

According to the Hindu religion, there was this demon prince called Narakaasura (Nar-uh-kaa-sur-ah –> Yeah keep trying. It’s not that hard!).

Legend has it that he became so powerful that he conquered both heaven and earth. Having done so, he couldn’t resist abducting 16,100 women and holding them in his palace (Whoa! I know!) for many many years.

Lord Vishnu was born as Krishna and when he grew up, he battled the evil king. The epic battle was fought along side his wife and Lord Krishna rode on Garuda (A large Eagle-like mythical bird).

On this day, many years back, he defeated Narakaasura and rescued all those women. Boy did they celebrate! They had fireworks and singing and dancing in both the heaven and earth!

Coronation of Lord Rama:

Ancient statue of Ravana with Rama and Sita enthroned above him

Lord Rama was a great prince. Kind, just, loving. The strength of the bond with his brother Lakshman is legendary. Lakshman was loyal to a fault and his accompanied Rama and his wife Sita to the forest when they were banished by their father.
Now Ravana, was a great Pundit and ruler of today’s Sri Lanka. He kidnapped Sita. Rama rescued his wife, slaying Ravana in the process. Mind you, this was no easy feat, because legend has it that Ravana had 10 heads!

The return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya (his kingdom) and his subsequent coronation as King is celebrated as Diwali.

There are several other coronations to mark this day, but I don’t remember them all.

Here is how we celebrate:

  • We celebrate the festival by traditional lights all around the house.
  • An Indian equivalent of an oil massage and bath is customary at an ungodly hour in the morning.
  • People wear new clothes and dress all fancy before offering their prayers. Special ceremonies are conducted in temples and homes.
  • Golden Temple (Amritsar) on Diwali

    Golden Temple (Amritsar) on Diwali

    Fire crackers in every conceivable form and size are bought and people are happy watching their money go up in smoke!

  • Sweets are made and shared with neighbors. Presents are exchanged.
  • In northern parts of India, effigies of the defeated demons are burnt after processions.
  • The best part of all this is that it doesn’t matter if you are not a Hindu. It’s a festival for everybody.
  • Although I never EVER (not even for christmas) wake up at an ungodly hour or enjoy fire crackers (except the colorful rockets in the sky). I still feel very much a part of this festival.

That’s my India for you. We eat awesome biriyani for Ramzan, make cakes and cribs for Christmas, sweets for Diwali, sundal and doll shows for golu, pori and poojas on ayudha pooja and so much more that I cannot even begin to describe…

Being an Indian is an overwhelming sense of belonging regardless of race /religion / language (over 250 registered languages you know!). Yeah we fight here and there. But in the end we stick together. Just turn back in time… Kargil, Gujarat Earthquakes, Floods, Tsunami…

India is like coming home to a warm hug. I’ll always feel a part of her open arms and inexplicably ornate culture… Jai Hind!