In an earlier post, I mentioned that I dislike baseless rituals. To give you my perspective, let’s consider the same custom in that post – Women not entering the temple during menstruation.
In ancient times, there were no proper sanitary arrangements for women. Therefore, they had restricted movement during menstruation. Besides, temples performed Agnihotra round the clock. Those fire-based rituals could increase the body temperature of a woman. In turn, that could cause her pain and discomfort. Considering the above, women weren’t allowed to enter temples or appear in public gatherings during menstruation.
These days, with the advancement of consumerism, women can work, run, and even swim during menstruation. Also, most temples don’t perform Agnihotra daily. Since the problem itself has ceased to exist, what’s the point of solving it?! As you can see, it makes no sense! Hence, the ritualistic belief of women not entering temples during menstruation is obsolete. Consequently, it has to be retired, and that’s what Swami indicated to me.
That’s just one example of how people follow baseless rituals blindly. There’s no end to these, and I can go on and on there! However, this post is about a tradition I like and observe. For eons, many cultures have practiced it during Deepavali.
- The entire household wakes up before sunrise on Deepavali. Deepavali celebrates the victory of light over darkness. So, everyone gets up while it is dark. Then, they worship the rising sun. That is the triumph of wisdom over ignorance.
- One by one, each family member is made to sit near the Divine. That’s done to remind everyone that the Divine exists in each one of us.
- Invoking the Divine in each family member. The eldest person in the family chants an invocation to the Divine that exists in us. Typically, it is the Sri Suktam or Sri Lakshmi Gayatri.
- Rubbing sesame oil to our heads. Now that the Divine has been invoked, it is time to honor Her presence. The first Abhisheka is done by rubbing sesame (gingelly) oil on the person’s head. That is done to regulate our body temperature and cool us down mentally.
- Smearing sandalwood paste and turmeric on our face. The next Abhisheka is done by spreading sandalwood paste and turmeric (a teeny bit). This honors the masculine and feminine energies in us. Sandalwood paste represents Vishnu, and turmeric is Devi.
- Applying sandalwood paste and Kumkum to our forehead. Dots are kept on our foreheads, similar to what Swami wears. These represent the masculine and feminine from a Yogic standpoint.
- The Kundalini energy is feminine, and her presence at the forehead (Agya Chakra) denotes the power of concentration. Kumkum is applied between the eyebrows to honor Her.
- The final stage of enlightenment is the Kundalini energy reaching the Sahasrara Chakra. This is viewed as masculine. Sandalwood paste is applied to honor Him. Instead of placing the sandalwood at the top of our head, it is symbolically placed at the top of the forehead.
- Feeding sweets or savories. We have invoked the Divine, and cultural hospitality requires us to feed anyone who visits us.
- Giving gifts. If we love someone, we wish to shower them with gifts! The same applies to the Divine. Hence, new clothes and money are given with a feeling of love for the Divine in each person.
- Taking a bath. We clean our bodies with the remembrance that the Divine in us has been invoked. Not just that, henceforth, we try to perform all activities throughout the year with Divine sentiments. Once again, next year, we renew this ritual. That’s because our mind needs repetition to learn anything new!
So, that’s a ritual I greatly enjoy and perform with joy. I hope you liked reading this post. If you wish, you can do this ritual with your kids while you explain the significance. They’ll learn a lot about spirituality in a fun way.
Finally, let me end this post in my characteristic on-the-face style! Candidly, I’m not too fond of the word Diwali. There is no W in Sanskrit (or Hindi). So, it must’ve been spelled Divali! Further, some lazy people shortened Deepa or Diya into Di. Hence, Deepavali became Divali to a misspelled Diwali. What can I say? God save us from our laziness! 🙂
I wish you all a Bright and Happy Deepavali. 🪔