Diwali or Deepawali – the festival of lights – is very widely celebrated in India. There are a number of practices and observances that are usually associated with it. Let us assess spiritual and philosophical meanings and people’s enthusiasm of these festivities.
A personality-portrait of Lakshmi
The word ‘Lakshmi’ is derived from the word ‘Lakshya’ or Lakshma. Both these mean: ‘The goal’. So by semantic implication, Lakshmi represents ‘the final goal’ of life. The symbols associated with her and the rituals and practices followed on the day of Deepawali, all imply that she stands for the highest stage of perfection and development, which a human soul can reach.
The Sanskrit word ‘Laksha’ stands for hundred thousand (rupees or property worth this amount) so that a person possessing wealth of this amount is called Lakshpati, and Shri Narayana, the consort of Lakshmi is called Lakshmipati. Because of phonetic closeness and similarity of meanings Lakshmi is considered ‘goddess of wealth’. However, wealth is not the only possession of Lakshmi.
Symbols associated with Lakshmi
The Symbols, associated with Shri Lakshmi clearly bring out that she represents the goal of human endeavor or perfection of human life:
1) Her four arms or hands signify Dharma, Arth, Kama and Mukti, i.e. the stage of Fruition or Beatitude. There is nothing left to be achieved. Health, Wealth, Virtue and Happiness are all included in this. Her ‘Abhaya Mudra’ shows the pose of assurance and safety.
2) The hundred-petal Lotus on which she sits is symbolic of hundred percent purity and detachment or her perfectly Sattwic stage. The hundred petal open lotus, which she holds in her right hand, is symbolic of full development. Then there are many lotus flowers shown floating in Kshira Sagar – the ocean of milk. These are symbolic of purity, peace and prosperity. Gold coins continually coming from the left hand signify unending material prosperity.
An interesting feature of her portraits is that, in all pictures of Shri Lakshmi, four elephants are shown pouring water on her. Four Elephants, in Indian tradition, are symbolic of the four directions-East, West, North and South. Moreover, elephant is an emblem of strength, wisdom and faithfulness to the master. It is a sign of grace and majesty. Thus, four elephants constantly pouring water, from the golden vessels, on Lakshmi – are signs of the faithfulness of all her subjects and of constant affluence. It shows her unchallenged sovereignty.
Invoking Shri Lakshmi on a pitch-dark night (Amavasya) ‘by lighting lamps and candles, is symbolic of enlightenment of the souls (when complete ignorance of Knowledge prevails in the world) so as to attain the stage of perfection or the three- fold goal of life-purity, peace and prosperity. Complete cleaning of houses and business houses in advance is indicative of the observance of complete purity. The use of four elephants, each holding a lamp on it, is symbolic of keeping in mind the goal of complete victory over the self so as to attain world sovereignty or Chakravarti Rajya in the world of sattwa, i.e. Golden Age.
Keeping the door open all night is to let knowledge, virtue and fulfilment of goal be achieved. But the pity is that people worship only money on this day, forgetting God and lakshya or the goal of life. This Diwali, rather than remember Nakad Narayana (cash or money), let us remember Shri Narayana— the goal of life. When keeping the doors and windows of the house open (even running the risk of a thief coming instead of Shri Lakshmi) let us not have the doors of knowledge shut!