“The kingdom was decorated with golden lamps of crystal, looking beautiful as if the king of serpents had arrived to meet the Lord, with a jewel on each of the thousand hoods.” (Gitavali, 309.2)
phaṭika-bhīta-sikharana-para rājati kan̄cana-dīpa-anī |
janu ahinātha milana āyō mani-sōbhita sahasaphanī ||
It is the impossible task. How to match someone who has unlimited potency? How to come close to pleasing the Supreme Lord in the same way that this person does? How to honor the saints of the Vedic tradition, who through parampara have passed on the secrets to living life to the fullest? How to live up to their standard of adequately giving praise to the person most deserving of it, Shri Rama? On the occasion of Diwali, the devotees make an attempt. A long time back in Ayodhya that attempt was so successful that it looked as if the greatest glorifier himself had arrived.
The literal meaning to Diwali is a row of lighted lamps. Not just some random collection. Not merely something cool for others to see. Each lamp has significance. They are placed together to increase the radiance, the light to welcome the person who is the sun of the solar dynasty.
Diwali is in honor of Shri Ramachandra. At least that is the origin of the tradition. He is the special son to King Dasharatha, the ruler in Ayodhya a long time ago, during the second age of creation. Rama is not an ordinary prince. He is the Supreme Lord Himself, kindly descending to this world to give an idea of what the spiritual attributes [saguna] mean for the one person who is always above the dualities of matter and spirit, birth and death, and every pair of conditions in between.
The gunas of God are endless. It is said that Ananta Shesha Naga, who has thousands of hoods, has been glorifying God the person since time immemorial. That is how time operates – it is infinite in both directions, backwards and forwards. Keep going back in time and know that something came before. Travel as far into the future as the mind can conceive and know that there is something beyond that as well.
Since Anantadeva has so many mouths, He can glorify in a great quantity. Aware of this a person might get discouraged, but the Supreme Lord is known to be extremely merciful. The fact that the name itself can bring His complete presence is evidence. The devotees can stay in constant contact through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The first Diwali took place in Ayodhya, when Shri Rama returned home after a long absence. He came back triumphantly, having rid the world of the evil man-eating ogre named Ravana. Rama then became king, which was what the father Dasharatha had wanted and what tradition called for.
As Goswami Tulsidas explains in his Gitavali, when Diwali was subsequently celebrated during Rama’s reign, the city was magnificently decorated. Many golden lamps made of crystal were laid about. It looked as if Ananta Shesha Naga had himself arrived to greet Shri Rama.
In this way the people glorified sufficiently, but in bhakti there is no limit. The simplest offering is satisfactory, provided there is genuineness in the sentiment. On the other side, the greatest offering can be outdone the next time around, bringing reason to be excited for the present and future Diwali celebrations to come.
Today so excited am I,
To glorify Rama to try.
Perhaps in Ayodhya like so,
When brilliant lamps in a row.
As if Anantadeva himself had come,
With shining jewel in each hood one.
By Diwali mercy of Supreme Lord shown,
Treating every devotee like family His own.