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Significance of lights

Jogindar Singh Kanwal
Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Every community in the world has it own fairs and festivals which reflect its religious and social traditions. Some of the festivals are associated with special days, seasons and harvest time, which have been celebrated since time immemorial.

Festivals whatever their origin or background add vigour and colour to the life of the people, and break the monotonous routine for some time because the celebrators get emotionally involved with such events.

By joining the spirit of merry-making, amusements and entertainments, they try to forget their worries and woes and brush off the dust of depression and despondency from their life jackets.

Most of the Indian festivals whether they are organised in Fiji, India or any other part of the world have their own charm and appeal.

Diwali, festival of lights, has its roots in religion and mythology. In Fiji, we celebrate it every year with great pomp and show, enthusiasm and passion.

On the night of Diwali, we see colourful lights in our homes and streets. The towns and cities look charming and magnificent. The burning candles chase away darkness of the black night but the following night we see the darkness again.

The saints and sages of all religions have talked of the lights that should continue shining throughout our lives. The holy men tell us about the inner light.

If the candle of our mind continues to glow through the year, it would enhance the beauty of life. Then the whole universe looks attractive.

Hatred, jealousy, prejudice whether racial or religious, are black spots in our personalities. Other negative qualities of our character such as anger, arrogance, fear, frustration and greed blow out the lamps of our minds.

Perhaps that is the reason the poets and religious teachers have interpreted the meaning of the word "light" in many different ways to convey its broad and deep significance to the world. They associate it with God and Divinity, truth and beauty, love and affection, hope and optimism, courage and honesty. The saints in the past used the concept of light to symbolise inner glory and divine light.

Kabir says, "The flame burns within me. It is lit by the moonlight of my God's grace. Without respite, inner music goes on within me". God is one but religious customs and traditions, rituals and ceremonies of different religions are not similar.

Many saints of the world take us out from the religion of form and ceremonies to the inner religion of the soul. Saint- poet, Sur Das, sings like this, "Where the divine melody plays, there burns the resplendent flame".

In the Sikh scriptures, the analogy of light is used many a time.

" Man! Thou art an image of light. Recognise thy essence". And also another advice to all of us: "All men are creatures of God. The whole world is born of one light and we cannot say that some people are good and others are bad."

There are frequent references to inner glory and divine light in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Budhism and Sikh religion. This kind of light shows us the way towards inter-religious harmony and friendship.

The light that emanates from truth and love, peace and tolerance, goodwill and kindness is always bright in whatever candle it shines. Whether it has been given to us by Lord Rama or Krishna, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed, Budha or Guru Nanak, it takes us out of darkness.

The study of comparative religions reveals that all of us are co-travellers, marching towards the same goal, searching the light of truth and aiming at the same ethical and spiritual standards.

The Vedas ask all people of this universe " to walk together, talk together and think together in order to have peace on this Earth".

Lord Budha declares "Never denounce the religion of others — rather honour whatever is worthy of honour in them".

Christianity, Islam and Sikhism give us similar messages. But then why we become so fanatic when we talk of religion of other people?

We use the word "democracy" very frequently in our daily lives.

If we believe in the principle of "democracy in religion" then people of all races and religious cultures should not interfere in each other's way of worship because every religion has it's own spiritual wealth.

Truth and holiness, sacredness and divinity are not exclusive possession of any one religion.

On this auspicious occasion of Diwali, the words of an Indian mystic are very relevent: "There may be different kinds of oil in different lamps, the wicks may also be of different kinds, but when they burn, we have the same flame and illumination."

Let us therefore light the candles of inter-religious and interracial friendship during Diwali celebrations this year and remember Lord Rama and all the great men of the world who fought against dark forces throughout their lives and they advised us to burn unextinguishable lamps in our lives.

Let me quote my favourite author, George Bernard Shaw in this context:

" Life is no brief candle to me. It's sort of splendid torch which I have got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations".

* Jogindar Singh Kanwal, former Principal of Khalsa College, Ba is author of many Hindi and English books and he writes frequently for The Fiji Times. The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper. Email:

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