Commemorating Diwali as an Indian Christian
“Commemorating Diwali as a Christan?”, sounds strange???
Well. As a Christian I am equally enthusiastic to commemorate the festival Diwali. I believe that every Indian Christian (or any Christian for that matter) can retrospect on these themes of the festival when their Indian Hindus friends celebrate Diwali.
I grew up in my village in Kanykumari along with my Hindu and Christian neighbours and relatives. Diwali for us was more of a social celebration than a religious one. I am privileged to live in India where I can learn and understand the perspectives of people following different religion. During every festival I try to study its background and try to relate it with Bible and grapple to find how it appeals to me as a Christian.
Today it is time for me to reflect on Diwali. There are lot of narratives revolving around Diwali. Commenting on different ways people celeberate diwali, reporter Ankit Mehara writes to international Business times,
“ Owing to India’s cultural diversity, the festival gets a distinct regional touch in different parts of the country. In north India, people celebrate Diwali to mark the victory of Lord Ram over demon King Ravana and his return to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakhsman after 14 years of exile… In the south, the festival is called Deepavali and marks the defeat of demon Narakasura. During Diwali, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi are worshipped. The festival also holds a special importance to farmers across the country. Diwali marks the end of the harvest season, which is why the farmers celebrate it” 1.
Swami Chidanand Saraswati ,who conceived the idea of and laying the foundation for the 11-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism, talks about Diwali his blog 2 as:
“ The time of Diwali is one of the most festive and beautiful times of the year. Diwali literally means a “Row of Lights.” …It is the darkest night of the darkest period, yet it is a celebration of light! Diwali is heralded as the triumph of good over evil”.
He also mentions about some of the important themes of diwali like the celebration of light, the triumph of good over evil, of righteousness over treachery, of truth over falsehood, and of light over darkness, a fresh start and worship of Maha Lakshmi (prayer for prosperity). We can find parallel Christian theme for most of them in the Holy Bible as well.
Though I can elaborate on each theme, this year I would like to dwell on the theme of celebration of light from the Bible. I am excited to know how “celeberation of light” can be very much Christian as well. The very first book of The Holy Bible has a mention about Light:
“And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good”. 3
Even the Bible ends with a beautiful declaration about the light. Talking about the new heaven and earth Bible says in the last chapter:
“ And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever”. 4
The declaration about light by Jesus is simply incredible for me. He claimed
“ Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” 5
“ I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. ” 6
Having declared himself as the Light of the world, He gave a higher responsibility to His followers. He called them as Jagdeep (Light of the World)
“You are the light of the world.” 7
Christians are encouraged to walk in the light
“ for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light ”. 8
Yes. diwali is definitely important for me as a Christian. As my friends and neighbours light crackers, I have to introspect myself how am I reflecting Christ’s expectation of being the light of the world! Christian community should think of different ways of being light of the world in these days of darkness.
If the Christian community is the light of the world in Indian context, how is it reflecting it in politics, higher education, media, judiciary, social involvement, policy making, civil service and so on. We Christians were quite successful in being the “light of the world” in terms of proclaiming the good news of light and being light in the area of school education and providing medical facility. What about other areas??? Now its time for us to enlarge our diwali. What step we can take to be the Diwali in all spheres of life?
4Revelation of John 22:5
5 John 8:12