The most important festival celebrated by all classes of Hindus is the Deepavali. For the benefit of those readers of this journal who have not had the occasion to know its origin, a few words may be said by the way as to what it is. The origin is explained in two different ways one by Saivites and the other by the Vishnavites.
According to the Saivites, a Rakshasa, named Narakasura, endowed with brutal energy, committed fearful havoc in the camp of the Devas. After a time the Devas went to God, and told him what had happened and solicited His help. God Parameswara, the fountain of love and mercy, readily sent His son Subramanya to help them against the Asura. The Son-God proceeded against him, fought him and slew him. To commemorate this grand triumph of God, the Hindus have ever since celebrated the festival once a year on the anniversary day of the defeat.
According to the Vishnavites, the Asura, had imprisoned all the Gopis. When Sri Krishna heard this, His face began to grow pale and bloodless. He felt very uneasy. He went against the Asura, fought with him and left him dead on the field. Having been released, the Gopis then joyously went home and illumined their houses. Having bathed at the break of day just as the hour corresponding to that at which Narakasura died, they all partook of a sumptuous feast. The Hindus have since that day celebrated the feast.
From the pure secular considerations, this Puranic story may appear to be unreasonable, useless and superstitions, but when viewed in the light of philosophy, its usefulness will at once be perceived. Understanding this properly a person may attain to bliss.
God Subramanya stands for Atmagnana. The Devas represent Satwaguna. The Rakshas is said to be the evil principle. The oppression of the Devas by the Rakshas implies that the Satwaguna is interfered with by wickedness. The Devas, when in misery, applied for help; that is the miserable man seeks a spiritual guru. God gave Subramanya, for help should be known by us thus they were taught by Him the knowledge of self. With the help of this knowledge the man conquers the wicked principle and regains Satwaguna.
Generally this festival is celebrated on the dark night. The night is not something different from Ahankara. The illumination stands for Atmagnana and the sounds of the crackers represent the din of the contest with the wicked principle.
Our Puranic stories are not without their philosophic significance. One may take up story after story for study and learn a chapter of the Vedanta. This would be a useful exercise to the religious student tending to the growth of his intuitive faculties – Gnanodaya.