Shed Light

This is not going to be a typical Diwali post. It may not be a Diwali post at all. I have been quite measured in my approach today in looking regularly at all of my social media accounts as well as my phone for the best message or most inspiring text. It seems to be some sort of unofficial competition. Who can get the most interesting, yet relevant image, matched with a caption from a distant great thinker that is unique yet recognizable? It is even more prevalent on Twitter with people showing pictures of them buying and eating mithai (Indian heart-blockers/stoppers) while they go out and enjoy themselves. I do not begrudge any of them, but I can’t help feel like the most important piece of the puzzle is missing. The moral.

Aesop’s fables without the familiar lessons at the end are strange and sometimes ludicrous situations, normally involving some sort of animal. They are meaningless without a moral though. Why am I talking about Aesop? Well relate this to Diwali, or any other festival in any religion – if we just hear the stories and perform the rituals, but do not see to understanding the meanings behind them, then they are just bedtime stories. We must think about what these things represent. Don’t worry, I am not about to give you a lecture on the symbols in Hinduism and what they represent (if you really want to know then we can have a separate discussion). But asking a question for the sake of it is folly…actively striving to find the answer is what is required.

I am sick of people saying that religions and especially Hinduism is superstitious and ritualistic. What they fail to see is that these rituals have a meaning and an understanding behind them, but if we choose to be ignorant then who are we to criticize? It is not easy to discover these meanings, but that does not mean that it is not worthwhile. Our parents and grandparents may not have asked these questions, but unless we take this opportunity to find out, how can we expect our children to adopt our culture and our values when we never bothered to find out ourselves? Think about it.

It will not be easy and we will make mistakes. We will get the wrong end of the stick and we will not look deep enough. But every year, we hope to learn something new, to make a new discovery, to come one step closer to understanding. And that is what we hope to celebrate! Because that is what Diwali is about: illumination. So it is great to buy fireworks, to visit family that we don’t visit enough and to smell the homemade sweets as they drift through the house, but that isn’t enough. Today, tomorrow, this year make a resolution – that you will try to find out one more thing that you didn’t understand, one more thing that you can shed light on. Because this is the festival of light. So make the most of it.


50 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. segmation
    Nov 15, 2012 @ 23:13:48

    I am not familar with Diwali but thanks for making me aware of it.


  2. kuku1
    Nov 15, 2012 @ 23:52:46

    Nice write-up.Thank you. It is indeed a shame that I belong to the richest culture and not know much about it. As a novice,I would only add this. There’s nothing wrong in following traditions without understanding them as long as we can fight the temptations and social pressures to commercialize these traditions,not falling into the traps of marketing giants.


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:04:11

      Thank you very much for your kind words, they are really appreciated. Absolutely agree with you. We cannot stop doing things that we don’t understand but we should strive to appreciate and try to learn a bit more at a time. If we are just doing things blindly, then we get nothing out of them.


  3. alienredqueen
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 01:22:58

    Meanings are found in different places by different people. What is meaningful to some means nothing to others. Ritualistic or not, superstitious or not, it is nobody’s business to judge what should have meaning to another person. To some the Bible and the rituals of the Catholic church may seem superstitious or ritualistic. To some, those rituals mean everything. The same can be said of Diwali, I imagine.
    The photograph is beautiful, BTW.


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:03:22

      I agree with you somewhat but in order to judge what is meaningful and meaningless, there has to be an element of understanding or a desire to understand. The rituals are important in order to endorse regularity, but you cannot do things without knowing why because before too long you will question why you do it in the first place. You need a balance of both, but I am really glad that you commented…it is always nice to speak to people with different points of view!


      • alienredqueen
        Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:07:28

        Really, I agree. I think it sounds like I was disagreeing but I was really just commenting on the remarks you said people had made regarding the ritualistic manner of Diwali. I actually agree with you. While rote performance of a ritual may be soothing, if you don’t understand why you do it, it’s pretty pointless and far an enlightenment goes.

      • hiran1
        Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:58:23

        I think the agreeing and disagreeing is irrelevant. I am just touched that you took the time out to comment and give me your opinion, because that is what I really value. I am truly touched the you liked the post and it would be great you keep in touch in the future. Thank you 🙂

  4. Kavi
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 01:28:40

    What a beautiful message! These days, I think many of us are guilty of forgetting the true meaning behind holidays. I absolutely love your resolution, and I’m going to make a point to follow it!


  5. Trackback: Shed Light « Great blogs
  6. natalieparsons8
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 01:34:19

    Spread the Light…just wanted to share this quote from Mother Teresa…while I am a Christian…I still like to see the good in other religions…I truly feel all religions at the core are trying to teach us the same thing and allow us to have a relationship with God.

    “There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Buddhist become a better Buddhist and a Christian become a better Christian.” -Mother Teresa


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:13:48

      I had no idea that that was Mother Theresa’s quote! I had heard it before, but you helped to learn something new! Thank you! 🙂


  7. makuaponijuana
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 03:10:21

    i love the Indian culture. going there during Diwali is one in my bucket list. i love the pix on your post! 🙂


  8. Masala Chica
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 03:16:58

    As an Indian American, I have often reflected on how very little I know about my religion when I think about how many pujas, temples and “other” ceremonies I was brought to. “Kiran, go do Aarti,” “Kiran, yes of course your mom will fast for 48 hours!” “Kiran, yes you HAVE to go to all three pujas we were invited to this weekend.”

    I asked a LOT of questions but did not receive many answers. When we would go to India and my mom would take me to different temples to have my “mundan” – God I had so many – I would just go along with it. But I was really sad to see some of the things that went along with it – Paying a Brahmin to bring us in, seeing the poor pushed out of our way.

    I think if I understood the true tenets of Hinduism, I would have embraced it. But I was never taught and some of the rituals I was exposed to made me step away from it. That being said, your post was a really great one in that it helps me come to terms with the fact that maybe the reason that I didn’t get answers was because my parents didn’t always have them. They had faith and for them, that was enough.

    Great post. Belated, but Happy Diwali.


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:43:13

      Thank you for your comment, I find it really interesting to see people in the same boat as me.

      Hinduism is such a diverse way of life that it is difficult to grasp everything at once. I guess that is why many Hindus are very diverse people. This also leads to affair amount of corruption and people trying to exploit people beliefs and this is the really sad part about the whole mandir and puja business in India.

      But regardless of this, your beliefs and opinions make up who you are and to understand them you must explore them. The fact that you are inquisitive is such a good thing! It means that you are not taking things for granted and you are looking to deepening your understanding and so your children will benefit for that.

      There is no quick fix to this, but you are on the right path. Answers come from everywhere and I sincerely hope that you find yours!


  9. Sapna
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 04:31:08

    Congrats on being FPed. Nice post and the pic on top is beautiful!

    I agree, there is no point following rituals without their meaning. But even doing it blindly has some benefits. When would you otherwise visit your relatives, an occasion for socializing. Giving and receiving gifts is always good 😀 For the business class in certain regions, it is the start of new fiscal year. And all the cleaning,scrubbing and re-decorating the house for Diwali makes it look like a new house. It is worth it for all of these reasons and many more 🙂


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:44:51

      It is the only time of the year that we choose to catch up with outer family and that is a great thing. You are right! Sometimes we need an excuse to do what is expected of us, but that is just the first step. We must them want to do those things and that comes with understanding and development.


  10. deepa
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 05:00:30

    Great post!


  11. bodhimoments
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 05:04:29

    Good point. It is the festival of light, so let us find at least one are of our lives to illuminate and learn.

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed


  12. Jitendra
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 07:07:21



  13. Saajida
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 07:08:30

    Such a sweet post that can relate to any religious festival! Thanks for sharing. Hope you had a blessed Diwali and learnt something new 🙂


  14. Orchid
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 07:25:55

    Thoughtful write up Hiran! There are indeed so many rituals in our system, I myself get confused at times. I google to find some of them. Thanks to the internet.Thank you!


  15. hillarysangel
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 08:21:29

    Brave post. Keep it up!


  16. Fanny Novia
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 08:59:17

    Hi Hiran, I do not know really about what is the meaning of the traditions, such as Diwali. But for me, as someone from other country who like watching India’s movie, I like Diwali then. Because there are fireworks and many sweets distributed to family there. I think I wanna go to your country and feel how if I contribute at the event…and ouch, I really wanna taste the sweets. Is it delicious, Hiran?


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:51:21

      You don’t need to go to India to see it! These days Indians are all over the place and so Diwali is a global event! And the sweets are incredible, one of my fondest memories to date is coming home and smelling the homemade sweets (we call them ‘mithai’) in the kitchen and eating them why they are still hot! I think all of us have memories like that…


  17. OyiaBrown
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 11:30:01

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)


  18. Jean
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 12:54:33

    Even for those who aren’t motivated to delve deeply behind an enjoyable “ritual”/festival, it might be useful to say in 1 sentence what the original meaning/purposes of Diwali is. It’s like me mentioning the Chinese Moon Autumn Festival with its moon cakes.


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:55:37

      Well it comes from the story of Rama, defeating the evil Ravana in battle and coming home to Ayodhya, his kingdom. As there were no electricity at the time, the way was dark and dangerous and so the people lit little lamps to guide his way home to show support for him. It teaches us that however dark and dangerous the path, we can always count on light to guide our way and take us down the right path.


  19. Ricari2
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 13:02:48

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post, it’s so true. sometimes the message gets lost and we don’t even realise it


  20. 1290sampath
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:18:37

    i loved your way of describing Diwali .Our Vedas, traditions and rituals are more scientific .We ignore the truth and emphasize more on crap.”Light up our minds to brighten our lives”.


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 16:01:33

      I don’t think we focus on ‘crap’ but more on the things that we enjoy doing and we forget about the rest. We have to take a bit of one and a bit of the other in my opinion.


  21. katrinamillen
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:50:34

    Hi great picture and post, you are absolutely right some people are so ignorant, I havent actually heard of Diwali but it sounds like a lovely festival and I would certainly love to join in because i love firework displays and sweets. I will be looking Diwali up on google because I bet it has a really interesting meaning behind it 🙂


  22. phoxis
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 16:41:57

    “Rituals” good practices/bad practices cannot be absolute, they have to be changed as time flows to fit in with the present time and situation. Also it will depend on different people. Although it is definitely worth to have a look what the religions have to tell, and analyses.


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 18:43:32

      Obviously the actions that we take change with the times and change with people but the principles remain the same. The pillars of our culture and belief are notoriously difficult to understand, yet they hold the secrets to a fully enriched life and we need to tap into this.


  23. Purnimodo
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 17:25:16

    I am an atheist, always been but it doesn’t mean I think rituals hold no significance at all. At best, to me, it helps us understand who we are. Your version of why Diwali is celebrated is not the only version out there. Some link it with the Ramayana others with older scriptures such as the Mahabharata or even ancestor worship. The more you look for the true meaning behind certain rituals the more confusing it gets.

    Christmas has its origins in a religion that predates Christianity with thousands of years. Yule was a 12 day Viking feast, celebrating the victory of light over darkness – as the days became longer again. I’m not sure if it matter if people understand the significance of putting up a tree and burning lights and other rituals that come with Christmas. Nor do I think it really matters if people understand the significance of burning Diwali lights, clean your house etc. A child, without knowing what is really going on, experiences how special lighting candles in the darkness really is. Somethings don’t need an explanation.

    You just sit back, enjoy those few days with the family and enjoy the light.


    • hiran1
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 18:53:12

      Is that not the beauty of getting to the bottom of the meaning? Coming to your own conclusion, to understand what does and does not make sense to you? If there was only one explanation for everything then I would not be talking about it…the fact that we all decide for ourselves what they mean based on the answers we find is what I think is the best thing that we can do.

      Rituals do have significance in that they are practical instruments that aid our understanding and allow us to something to concentrate on. But in an age when information is at our finger tips and knowledge is all around us, I think that my generation as more inquisitive and they want to find the answers. What I really wanted to get across is that I don’t want people to take things for granted – a 5000 year old culture still survives and so there must be something about it that is so precious that it has lasted all this time. Whether you are religious or not, it doesn’t matter. But if one of these thoughts can inspire you, take you further along or confirm a belief in your mind, then there is some value in looking a bit deeper.

      I really appreciate you commenting, it really made me think! 🙂


  24. Hidden Passions
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 20:48:47

    Great post! And unfortunately politics came up with a concept of religion, in fact any kind of religion is just the “way of life” or a “practice” for making people grounded and responsible for their actions.. but who knew it would come so far that no one ever probably expected.


  25. bluebeadpublications
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 01:28:44

    Every religion is unique and beautiful. Great pic.


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