Diwali means “row of lights” and is India’s biggest holiday of the year, celebrating light prevailing over darkness, new awakening out of the inertia of the darkest season, and ushering in the new year. Goddess Lakshmi is a central focus, symbolizing prosperity and fertility in the coming year. Tradition holds that on Diwali night, Lakshmi chose Lord Vishnu as her husband. Stories of light’s victory also play a role. In Northern India, Diwali’s happy energy of victory is associated with Lord Ram’s triumphant return to his palace after fourteen years of exile. And in much of India, Krishna’s victory over Indra is celebrated.
Both a religious festival and a secular holiday, Diwali is a time of sharing sweets, lighting many lamps, candles and twinkling lights, and creating a beautiful welcome for Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth with flowers, light, and beautiful rangoli designs made of colored powders. Homes are cleaned and doorways are decorated with flower petals and shripada— tiny footprints representing Lakshmi entering the home and abiding with us. People wish each other Diwali blessings for a year full of Lakshmi’s wealth, joy and prosperity.
The five days of Diwali in 2023
Day 1: November 10 — Dhanteras — Lakshmi is worshipped on this day. Homes are cleaned and decorated.
Day 2: November 11 — Choti Diwali — Bathing and purification, new clothes, lighting of diyas.
Day 3: November 12 — Diwali — The main festival is on this day, including a Lakshmi Puja. Many lights!
Day 4: November 13 — Padwa — Day of celebrating Lord Krishna’s victory.
Day 5: November 14 — Bhai Duj — Brothers and sisters day, sharing food, prayers and gifts.
Anandi Ma’s teaching about Diwali
Diwali, Festival of Lights, celebrates the joyous occasion when Lord Ram came back home from his exile. It is about the destruction of demons, removal of darkness, the tamas, and bringing a new chapter of light, of knowledge.
Diwali is dedicated to attaining the first fruits of life, the basic requirements we all have because we are in a physical body. So whether you’re a householder or a saint who has given up everything in life, the basics to maintain the body are always needed. There is always some need for material well-being. Basic needs of food, clothing, etc. are a necessity for everyone. Ultimately the purpose of these things, the strength, nourishment and protection that they provide, is for us to be able to follow the path of dharma and reach the goal of god-realization, self-realization.
One of the roles of Shakti, the Divine Mother of all, is that she takes care of everything— an entire spectrum from the physical to the subtle to the cosmic. She gives everything. She’s the very creator, the very root of all giving. So everything we have is by her grace.
She is all compassion as well. She loves to give and wants to give no matter what we do. She is willing to look past our flaws and be very kind and generous, keeping us comfortable and happy.
I remember Guruji’s words often: “When you go to the king, you don’t ask for pennies.” Ask for something that the king has the power to give you, something infinite, everlasting. Everything that is called wealth in this physical world is not permanent. It has a beginning and an end. It is destructible. Nothing is constant here. Every moment is undergoing some change or another, headed toward resolution.
So on this day of the Lakshmi Puja, we should ask for something that is more permanent, more eternal for us. Something that is true wealth, which she can give! First of all, ask from her and for her Love, devotion and affection for the Absolute. Unconditional love with no strings attached. Pure love for love’s sake.
When that love is so infinite you want to run to Her— that inner state of eagerness to meet and merge— that is yoga. Our path is of yoga, of union, and walking on that path along with that love and devotion, your state should be such —and we need to ask Her to create that state for us— that the desperation of separation, the longing to meet, is so strong we feel like a fish out of water.
Yoga is all about concentration. So ask Her for that light, that depth of concentration such that the mind is always focused on the feet of the guru, the feet of God, longing for that merging. In the energy of the love and the desperation to unite, what we achieve is the knowledge of “who am I?” and “who is She, who is He?” That knowledge that we are one and the same— jiva and Shiva— not any different. A state of realization. So ask for these infinite gifts, not merely the simple things in life.
If you can truly achieve this state of true asking, She will give you that siddhi, Sat-chit-ananda— the knowing that you are Truth, you are Existence, you are eternal and you are bliss. These are the reality of what we call God, and you are these as well.
A Diwali Blessing from Anandi Ma
May the Lord remove fear from every heart, from every person.
May the Mother in her form as Ma Lakshmi grant you grace that you reach Lord Ram… and with that grace may you attain all the true wealth of life.
May you attain the infinite wealth that never diminishes, is constant, and remains with you forever.
*Article quoted from Anandi Ma’s talk after the MahaLakshmi Puja on November 2, 2021.