The Festival of Lights

slide_376716_4433620_compressedDiwali is a festival of renewal and celebration observed by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs around the world and by just about everyone living in India today. The festival follows the lunar calendar, so its dates vary from year to year, but generally fall in mid-autumn (late October/early November). This year, Diwali begins on the night of October 23 and continues for the next five days. During this time, families come together, the house is given a thorough cleaning, new clothes are bought or made, and neighbors exchange treats or other gifts with one another. But most of all, there are lights.

In religious traditions and cultures across the world, the triumph of good over evil, of order over chaos, and of love over fear are all represented by the universal symbolism of light, and Diwali is known as the festival of lights, celebrating all of these themes. People hang lights in their homes and across streets, they light lanterns, kindle fires; and in the evenings, fireworks light up courtyards, patios, rooftops, and the night sky as people celebrate their lives together.

In Hindu communities, it is also customary during Diwali to reenact the Ramayana, the epic story of the divine Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana. At the climactic moments of their cosmic battle, Rama is empowered to vanquish Ravana through the words of a hymn that invokes the divine power of the sun:
He is the lord of stars, planets, and all constellations.
He is the Omnipresent One who pervades all with countless rays.
He is the power behind the seven sense organs,
the dispeller of darkness, bestower of happiness and prosperity,
the remover of misfortunes, the infuser of life.
Inasmuch as light is a universal symbol of human hope and divine guidance, it is altogether good for Latter-day Saints and for all people of good will to wish their sisters and brothers a happy Divali today and to join with them in praying:

Asato ma sat gamaya | (असतो मा सद्गमय ।)
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya | (तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।)
Mṛtyor ma amṛtam gamaya | (मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।)
Om shanti shanti shantihi || (ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥)

Translation:

From untruth lead us to Truth.
From darkness lead us to Light.
From death lead us to Immortality.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.


Mormon Lectionary ProjectDiwalimormon_lectionary-100x100px-rgba

The Collect

O Father who sent thy Son to be the light and the life of the world, be thou in every change our constant hope. Make new our joys and freshen our loves through the ministry of thy Holy Spirit as we share in the joy of the festival of lights together. Amen. 

Scriptures

Isaiah 58:8–10 (JPS):

Then shall your light burst through like the dawn
And your healing spring up quickly;

Your Vindicator shall march before you,
The Presence of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then, when you call, the LORD will answer;
When you cry, He will say: Here I am.
If you banish the yoke from your midst,
The menacing hand, and evil speech,
And you offer your compassion to the hungry
And satisfy the famished creature—
Then shall your light shine in darkness,
And your gloom shall be like noonday.

Psalm 104:1–5 (JPS)

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
O LORD, my God, You are very great;
You are clothed in glory and majesty,
wrapped in a robe of light;
You spread the heavens like a tent cloth.
He sets the rafters of His lofts in the waters,
makes the clouds His chariot,
moves on the wings of the wind.
He makes the winds His messengers,
fiery flames His servants.
He established the earth on its foundations, 
so that it shall never totter.

John 8:12 (NRSV)

Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

3 Nephi 19:13–15, 25 (LDS)

And it came to pass when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire. And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.

And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them.

And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof.

D&C 88:6–13 (LDS)

He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; as also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; and the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

Hymn

Christ, Be Our Light

Comments

  1. Thank you for bringing Diwali to the Mormon Lectionary Project! I’m very glad to have this reminder of light at this moment of my life.

  2. I love that song. It’s beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wonderful stuff for us to seek to increase our light even as the hemisphere up North is heading into darkness for the winter.

  4. This is awesome. I wasn’t expecting this — though I should have been! Thank you! Very meaningful Mormon Diwali celebration. This is especially touching for me given years living in London with many Hindu or Indian neighbors and major Diwali celebrations every year.

  5. (and what a stunningly perfect hymn for the occasion. again, many thanks — really needed this today.)

  6. Yay Asian topics. :)

  7. melodynew says:

    Thanks for this and, yes to light! My daughter served her mission in Fiji. A large portion of Fijians are of Indian descent and are practicing Hindus. Lauren celebrated Diwali with native companions and their families during her mission. I’ll never forget the bright, brilliant, colorful photos. Near the end of Lauren’s mission, I spent time with her on Viti Levu, where she served. The community was preparing for Diwali. It was electric, joyful, jubilant. I loved the energy. I love the universal human celebration of Light and how It makes us One.

  8. Thank you, melodynew, for that wonderful first-hand perspective!