There’s Something Compelling about ‘Diyas’…

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There are fire crackers going off around me as I write these words even though Diwali is tomorrow. I took out all my diyas, collected last few years and kept safe. I have this habit of buying different kind of diyas, all shapes and sizes, some painted, others decorated with bright colours. And I keep few for next year.

 

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There is really something so compelling about these earthen lamps. Perhaps somehow they connect me to the earth. Lighting an oil lamp made of mud on Diwali, to me personally feels like somehow akin to rooted to mother earth. And not to mention that fragrance of oil, earth, soot and flame, I come across this smell in old temples that still use these oil lamps and haven’t yet resorted to ugly fluorescent lights.

Though the potters produce a tonne of these every year, I have noticed a shift to electric twinkle lights and wax tea lights. But none of these can mimic the sensual earthiness and the golden flame of mud diyas. Obviously no one wants to fuss with these anymore. You get covered in greasy soot and have to wash your hands a lot lest you soil your clothes with soot. Unlike electric lights you have to tend to these, watching with eagle eyes ready to relight when the wind blows one out or refuel when the little well inside the mud diya runs out of oil. Still the magic of their golden aura is worth the effort. Light one on a dark night under the stars and you will see for yourself.

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However, there’s something more symbolic about the diyas. Most Hindu households often light a diya once every morning and in the evening. It’s not just a customary practice but signifies the submission of one’s soul to the supreme power. The oil in the diya represents the dirt (greed, jealousy, hatred, lust etc) that humans tend to nurture while the cotton wick is symbolic of the aatman (self). So in order to attain enlightenment and unite with the Brahman (the supreme power), one must get rid of materialism. A diya emits light when the wick fueled by oil burns.

A Diya also symbolises knowledge. An ignorant person would often remain in dark and wouldn’t be able to keep a check on the events happening around him. It is only when he feels the need to gain some knowledge that he will realise the purpose of his existence. And hence in this case, a diya/jyot signifies the removal of ignorance through knowledge.

So, a Diya doesn’t merely represent a decorative item but reminds one and all to give up their materialistic desires, defeat their ignorance by gaining knowledge if they wish to merge with God. Hope we all contemplate on the same this Diwali while lighting up the diyas!

Happy Diwali to all.

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