Festival of lights purifies
Most people think of Deepawali as a day of celebrations, illuminating the dark night of Karthik Amavasya using artificial lighting, crackers and other fireworks. Actually, Deepawali is one month of internal purification and starts from amavasya and ends on amavasya - the day of Deepawali.
The purification starts a month before Deepawali Amavasya on the first day of Navratras. The nine days of Navratras dictates the dos and donts aimed at physical and mental purification. The first three days are devoted to goddess Kaali, the next three days to goddess Laxmi and the remaining three days to goddess Saraswati.
Devotion to Kaali means trying to take out the negative thoughts from the mind or not doing negative things. Praying to goddess Laxmi means wilfully doing positive acts and devotion to goddess Saraswati means dedication to reading spiritual scriptures. Nine days of Navratras involve sensory fast, restriction on motor activities and saatwik food. The nine days of purification, incorporating meditation in the morning and evening, ends tamas (ignorance) and rajas (passion) and ego within the body which is celebrated on the 10th day of Dusshera by burning the effigies of Kumbhakaran (tamas), Ravana (rajas) and Meghnad (ego).
By Dusshera one has attained mind-body union and one is in touch with his or her consciousness. For the next 20 days, till Deepawali which is the day of enlightenment, one is supposed to follow the basic spiritual process with spurts of fast on defined days. According to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali a relaxed mind and the one in union with the body is emanable to suggestions and one can acquire siddhi i.e. ability to produce miracles or ability to convert desires into fruits by doing extra efforts and with right intention within the consciousness.
The effects of Dusshera are intensified by acquiring better health on the 14th day which is Sharad Purnima. Health is the first need of the body.
Once the person is healthy he or she looks for protection as the second need. For a woman protection is in long life of her husband and sons. After the full moon on the 4th day or the chauth, women celebrate Karwachauth fast to wish for prolongation of life of their husband. Similarly, on the 8th day (Asthami) they fast again as hoi celebrations to pray for the longevity and prosperity of their sons.
Once the health and protection wishes are fulfilled one looks for the wealth and on the 13th day (dhan teras) they aim to get more wealth, by saving it more.
Finally, by the 14th day (amavasya), which is celebrated as Deepawali, one has acquired health, wealth, security (husband) and future security (son) and hence fulfilment of all desires. He or she then get inner peace (moksha) and happiness, and that is what Deepawali festival is all about.
The blessings of Deepawali festival are incomplete without observing full one month of spiritual purification. Even in Islam the roza goes on for one month and in Christianity the Easter goes on for 50 days. The process of purification takes minimum four weeks.
Deepawali, therefore, should not be celebrated only as a festival of exchanging gifts and sweets or playing cards (gambling). It is an opportunity to spiritually intensify oneself and acquire inner happiness.
(Dr Aggarwal is President, Heart Care Foundation of India, President Elect, Delhi Medical Association, Deputy Dean of Board of Medical Education, Moolchand Hospital and Member, Delhi Medical Council.)