Today at the end of the very first week of publication of our brave new India Streets, we like to take a page out of the book of our associate editor Pallavi Pant who wished us all today “Happy Diwali”. And since I for one (“I” in this case being Eric Britton, an editor of India Streets) really did not understand what it was about beyond a kind of “Hindu New Year + Thanksgiving” (sorry!), I had to look it up. And for those of you who share my ignorance and want to know more, well here is what Wikipedia tells us about Diwali:
“While Deepavali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the most significant spiritual meaning is “the awareness of the inner light”.
“Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this inner light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality.
“With the realization of the Atman comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (joy or peace). While the story behind Deepavali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things (Brahman).”
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And while our streets are for all without distinction, we can still look with open eyes and learn from each other and our many differences. So let us, you and I, catch our breath this weekend, and look to and celebrate our inner light. Thank you Pallavi. Happy Diwali.
Editor, India Streets
PS. Many, most in fact, of what we call our “religions” are more notable by their high walls than their open doors. A recent book by Wendy Doniger, “The Hindus: An alternative history” (ISBN: 9780199593347) concentrates on the open doors. Happy Diwali.