It is Deepavali eve and Chennai has got the fever finally. I am yet to and am sitting and wondering where all the fun has gone here. There used to be a time in the lore when Deepavali was celebrated for a week and today people are concerned with the economic crunch and Obama’s visit to India. Well he’s spending a $ billion on his trip and stands to gain some 10 $ billion. That amount in India would have gone to the locker of a Swiss bank. No wonder the Democrats have conceded the House of Representatives. There’s a world India still has to teach to those ignorant Westerners.
But come Diwali time and it’s always sweets and crackers. Any festival in India has multiple layers to it. The first and the most evident is what we do and the fun we have. There’s a lot of that in Deepavali. Next is why we celebrate it. There’s always a story that justifies the celebration. Ishtory of Deepavali down here is different from the version they spin up north. It has to do with Krishna and Narakasura and their lore. We settle for recent history and don’t go back too far in time. It’s a pain stretching the neck you see. To cut a long story short, Varaha (The Boar) kills Hiranyaksha and saves Mother Earth. Ah he was truly God! But when bringing her out of the Ocean from the cosmos, it takes them time to let go of the evil influences and lo, a child is born to them, representative of the evil. He grows up into an Asura, who gives hell, Naraka, to people. Legend has it that hell gets its name from him. He gets a boon from the Creator that only his Mother should kill him knowing fully well that no mom would kill her child.
But then come the cycle of time, 4 more of God’s incarnations and two epochs on, Narakasura rules the World from present day Assam. Krishna marries Satyabhama, Mother Earth incarnate, very much a woman of the earth, full of passion and strong in the head. Krishna goes to battle Narakasura, taking Satyabhama with him for good reasons. Narakasura battles and Krishna is no match. Krishna is not a woman, leave alone a mother. He feigns unconsciousness as an indication of having lost. Satyabhama gets livid and starts battle and ends up killing Narakasura. Hala woman power! As he dies, he realizes that she has to be his mother and calls out, “Mother!” This is straight out of a Bollywood film. She asks Krishna why the scumbag is calling her mother. Krishna tells her the story I’ve told now and he is the scumbag now. But the mother and son get over all sorrow and sense prevails. They pray for the well being of the world, pray for things that ought not to be done on the day of a death. Rub oil, take a head bath, wear new clothes, eat sweets, burst crackers and celebrate. It got all mushy and the Lord agreed. Thus was Deepavali celebrated.
Behind this cliché is the third and the innermost layer of the festival which tells us the significance of the festival and the story. A guy on his death bed and his mother would in normal cases curse the world. But in this case, all cursing was done with. They pray for good things and unlimited joy and therein lies the message. Whatever your problems are, smile because there are worse problems plaguing people out there. Pray for their well being and the world will be a better place to live in. This selflessness is the hallmark that grants this festival the approval of the religion and this is the only festival that should be celebrated by all Hindus from kids to saints. This festival has mass appeal not only with the people but also with Gods. Like Rajnikanth. It gives us a reason to rejoice and have fun, meet family and friends and have a whale of a time. What more would we ask from a festival?
Now I wonder what to do and I feel it would be better if I go out and create the atmosphere that I need. Happy Diwali folks. Have a blast. Palagaara Kadai feels honoured to have such an apt name for the festival.
PS: I stumbled upon this podcast which was the source for this post.