Festival of Lights, Diwali: History & Origin


There are many interesting (mostly religious) stories behind the history and origin of Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and these are the well-known ones:

The return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya
Lord Rama — the son of Dashratha (the King of Ayodhya) — was banished by his father from the kingdom along with his wife Sita and his younger brother Lakshman for a period of 14 years. Being an obedient son Lord Rama left Ayodhya and went to the jungles. During this period of exile, he defeated and killed the Ravana — the demon king of Lanka who had kidnapped Sita. After this great victory of good (symbolized by Ram) over evil (symbolized by Ravana), Rama triumphantly returned to Ayodhya. He was welcomed by the people of the kingdom who expressed their happiness and love for the lord by lighting rows of clay lamps and by distributing sweets. It is said that the Festival of Lights, Diwali, owes it origin to this event. Since that day it is celebrated with much joy and religious fervor across the world.

The subjugation of King Bali by Vamana Avatar
The other story involves King Bali. He was a charitable ruler. However, he was also highly motivated and was drunk with power. Some of the Gods requested Lord Vishnu to put an end to Bali’s fast growing ambitions. Vishnu visited earth in the form of a Vamana (dwarf). He was dressed as priest. Vishnu knew well that Bali was generous and loved giving alms. So he approached Bali with a fixed plan, and asked him to give him the space covered by him with his three strides. An unsuspecting Bali readily agreed thinking that the dwarf would not cover much ground. But as soon as he agreed, Lord Vishnu appeared in his true form, and with just three gigantic strides, covered the entire Earth, the Skies and the Universe. Bali was humbled and sent to the underworld. Since that day, as a part of Diwali celebrations, King Bali is remembered on this day.

The defeat of Narkasura by Lord Krishna
Narkasura was a demon of muck, covered in dirt. He kidnapped beautiful young women and forced them to live with him. At last, their fervent cries for freedom were heard by Vishnu, who appeared in the form of Krishna. At first, he had to take on a five-headed ogre who kept watch over the demon’s palace. Narkasura hoped that his death would finally make people — especially the kidnapped women — happy. Krishna granted him this boon and the women received their freedom. For Hindus, this tale reminds them good still resides in the heart of the evil.

The rescue of Gokula villagers by Lord Krishna
Several years ago, in the village of Gokula, people prayed to the God Indra believing that the god sent the rains, which helped their crops grow. However, Lord Krishna convinced them to worship Govardhan Mountain instead, as the mountain and the land around it was fertile. This did not go down well with Indra who became furious. And to teach a lesson to the villagers, he sent thunder and torrential rain down on Gokula. Much terrified, the villagers sought Krishna’s help, who immediately came to their rescue. With just his finger he easily lifted the top of the huge Govardhan Mountain and the villagers sought cover under it. The offering of food made to the God on the occasion of Diwali reminds the Hindus the value of food.

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