Deepavali, the Holy Festival of Lamps and Bollywood
Festivals have special significance in Indian culture; it would not be an exaggeration if we call India, the thriving nation of Mahakumbh of the wonderful festivals. Deepawali, the festival of lights is the most popular and grandest festival of India, which is celebrated with great pump and show. Diwali symbolizes the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. Diwali's essence lays in the sloka, “Tamaso mā Jyotirgamaya”, which means “Lead me from darkness to light.” On the dark new moon light of Diwali, the blinding darkness of ignorance, greed, jealousy, lust, anger, ego, and laziness would be dispelled and the radiance of knowledge, wisdom and friendship would prevail. Deepawali has all the glamour, grandeur and splendour that fill life with positive energy. It is a festival when the whole of India transcends into a land of myriad lamps. If there is one festival which boasts of loads and loads of sweets, then it is undoubtedly Deepavali. Mythologies that function at various levels, along with a history forged by sacrifices, have made the festival cherished in the memories and lives of the billion-strong Indian communities.
There are many mythological beliefs about celebrating the festival of Diwali mentioned in Bhavishya, Skanda and Padma Puranas. It is associated with a diversity of deities, traditions, and symbolism. The festival of lights that stretches back more than 2,500 years, is widely associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth & prosperity. Deepavali is the day, Lakshmi emerged from the celestial ocean churned by both the divine and demonic beings. Lakshmi symbolises the holistic and dynamic wealth. Lakshmi accepted Lord Vishnu as her husband and they returned to Vaikuntha on this day. According to the Brahmapuran, at the struck of midnight of Kartik Amavasya, Mahalakshmi herself comes to the land and visits each Sadgriha. Lord Vishnu came as the dwarf mendicant Vamana to punish King Bali. Vishnu pushed him into the nether world with his foot and Lord Indra celebrated Diwali.
In Treta Yuga, Mangalotsav was celebrated by Deepamalikas to welcome Lord Shree Rama on his return to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile. It might have been the first Diwali celebrated in India. Another legend goes that Lord Shri Krishna killed the tyrannical Narakasura, the evil king of Pragjyotishapura on Chaturdashi and released 16000 Gopikas held in captive. On the next day, Gokula residents celebrated the occasion by lighting lamps. Another legend has it that the festival is associated with the story of Yama and Nachiketa on Kartika Amavasya. It was Kartik Amavasya when the Pancha Pandavas returned from their 12 years of exile. The people celebrated the day by lighting thousands of earthen lamps.
The festival of Diwali highlights three events in Sikh history: the laying of the foundation stone for Golden Temple in Amritsar on this day in 1577; release of the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Singh from the prison of Jahangir on Diwali in 1618 and Bhai Mani Singh's martyrdom in 1738. He was cut limb by limb and tortured for his “offense” to celebrate Diwali in the Golden Temple.
Diwali is also of great significance to Jains as Lord Mahaveera attained eternal bliss at Pavapuri on 15 October 527 BC, it was on a Deepavali dawn. When Gautam Buddha alongwith followers returned to his hometown Kapilavastu after 17 years, Diwali was celebrated by lighting lakhs of earthern lamps in his welcome. The founder of Arya Samaj, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati, who was poisoned for his convictions attained Nirvana on Diwali day. The great Hindu king and founder of 'Vikrami Samvat', Chandragupta Vikramaditya’s coronation was held on this auspicious day. The lesser known is the sacrifices made by indentured laborers of Indian origin in Africa for their right to celebrate Deepavali. In 1907, they won their right to celebrate the festival.
Diwali is also known as Deepavali, Kaumudi Deepam or Dipalika. The mythology of Deepavali has layers and layers of meaning. Deepavali literally means a row of diyas or array of lights. As per the Vedanta, every devout Hindu has to fill his heart with the oil of love, light the wick with the knowledge of Truth and ward off ignorance. Deepavali is the pan-Indian festival; all Indic traditions (Vedic, Jain and Sikh) have contributed in their own way to the celebration of this festival. Diwali is observed on the 15th day of the waning moon or Krishna Paksh in the month of Kartika. The five-day long festival finds a mention in early scriptures. Dhanteras, the day is considered auspicious to make new purchases. The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi, while the third day is main Diwali, the day of Lakshmi Puja. The next day is Govardhan Puja and the last day as Bhai Dooj is dedicated to the bond between sister and brother.
The Hindus across the world transform their homes into beacons of light, exchange gifts, share feasts and perform pooja to deities such as Lakshmi and Ganesha. Some people world try their hand at gambling as it is considered that with Goddess Parvati’s blessing, whoever gambles on this day will be showered with prosperity throughout the coming year. In addition to all the fun, gambling and firecrackers surrounding the celebration of Diwali, it is an inherently philosophical festival.
Lakhs of devotees throng the world's only Sri Lakshmi temple (Srinarayani Peedam) near Vellore (Tamil Nadu) for special prayers. 10008 ghee lamps are lit in the one and a half kilometers of Sriyantra-area in the temple premises. On the eve of Deepawali in 2019, the ghats of Saryu River were decorated with 6.11 lakh lamps.
Diwali was also described by numerous travellers from outside India. King Harsha refers to Deepavali, in the Sanskrit play Nagananda as Dīpapratipadotsava, where lamps were lit and newly engaged brides and grooms received gifts. Rajasekhara referred to Deepavali as Dipamalika in his Kavyamimamsa. The Persian traveller and historian Al Biruni wrote of Deepavali being celebrated by Hindus. The Venetian merchant and traveller Niccolò de' Conti wrote in his memoir about lighting of an innumerable number of oil lamps on the festival. Portuguese traveller Domingo Paes wrote Dipavali was celebrated in October with householders illuminating their homes, and their temples, with lamps. Islamic historians of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire era also mentioned Diwali and other Hindu festivals. Sir William Jones, a philologist remarked that the Lacshmipuja dipanwita, was a "great festival at night, in honor of Lakshmi. Sanskrit inscriptions in stone and copper mentioning Diwali/ Dipotsava/ Dipavali etc. have been discovered at numerous sites across India.
Diwali & Bollywood
The festivities of Diwali have attracted the Indian film makers since the early days of talkies. Jayant Desai produced the film 'Diwali’ (1940) based on the festival of Deepavali. A Diwali song 'Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali, Mere Ghar Mein Andhera...' (Kismat-1942) was probably the first popular Diwali song in Hindi cinema. In 1956, two films namely 'Diwali Ki Raat' and 'Ghar-Ghar Mein Diwali' were released. Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri's film 'Zanjeer' is the only film that starts and ends with the festival of Diwali. In the year 2001, superstar Amitabh Bachchan's company ABCL had planned to make a film "Happy Diwali" with Aamir Khan and Rani Mukerji, but the film could never be made.
The festival of Diwali is a symbol of gaiety and twinkling, but in Hindi films its dark side is generally more highlighted. In the movie ‘Shree 420’ the true romance of Diwali was depicted, when Raj Kapoor takes Nargis around the glimmering lanes of Mumbai on the Diwali night. However, a gloomy Diwali was projected in Chetan Anand's Haqeeqat. The feeling of mutual respect, bonding and trust was visible in the film 'Anurag' (1972). Kamal Haasan's daughter is injured by deewali firecrackers in the film 'Aunty 420' (1998). In 'Mohabbatein (2000)', an attempt was made to connect different characters through the festival spirit of Deepawali. In the film 'Satya', the protagonist chooses a Diwali night for romance. Shahrukh Khan's entry in the title track of the film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was shown as if Shri Ram is returning to Ayodhya on Diwali after 14 years of exile. The title song in the film 'Amdani Athni Kharcha Rupaiya' was a comical portrayal of Diwali celebrations by middle class families.
Though Diwali's glare has been less visible on the silver screen for some time now, but the trend of releasing their films on the occasion of Diwali by Bollywood producers/directors and actors have been continuing since 1930s. The release dates of their dream projects are finalized in months in advance and given to the distributors. If Eid happens to be the occasion for release of Salman Khan movies, then the Diwali is reserved for Shahrukh blasts as most of his movies have been released on the occasion of Diwali during the last two decades. Some of his Diwali releases like Baazigar, Darr, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Dil To Pagal Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Mohabbatein, Veer Zara and Jab Tak Hai Jaan created history at the box office.
After Shah Rukh Khan, only Ajay Devgan's films were reserved for Diwali release, but in 2013, Hrithik Roshan's film 'Krrish 3' proved to be the perfect Diwali bonanza for the box office. Not all films screened during Diwali have been proved box-office hits. Deewana Mastana, Jeena Siri Tere Liye, Pinjar, Jaan-e-Mana, Saawariya, All the Best, Blue, Action Replay, Main and Mrs. Khanna are some of the films that were released in a grand manner on Diwali but these tanked at the box-office.
Continuing the tradition of showcasing films on the occasion of Diwali, ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ starring Amitabh Bachchan was released in the year 2018, which was a big flop. Akshay Kumar's 'Housefull 4', Rajkumar Rao's 'Made in China' and Taapsee-Bhoomi starrer film 'Bull's Eye' were screened on the occasion of 2019-Diwali. Covid-2019 has played havoc with the festivities this year as such no movie will be released theatrically on Diwali-2020.
The strange paradox is that filmmakers, who consider Diwali as auspicious for the film business, have shown less enthusiasm and more compassion on Diwali in their films. In the song 'Laakhon Taare Aasman Mein, Ek Magar Dhundhe Na Mila’ (Haryali Aur Rasta), the cries of anguish emerged. In the movie “Nazrana”, on one Diwali, hero and heroine are jubilant in their love while on another Diwali when they get separated, Deewali becomes black. The grief of the film characters had echoed on Diwali through many songs like 'Is Saal Kaise Manayein Diwali’ (Sabse Bada Rupaiya), Aayi Ab Ke Saal Diwali (Haqeeqat) and 'Jalte Deep Buj Gaye .. (Jalte Deep).
When we talk about Diwali related songs in Hindi films, the first credit goes to the film 'Diwali' (1940) which has two Deewali songs 'Ghar-Ghar Deep Jale...' and 'Jale Deep Diwali Aayi....'. Then super-hit 'Ghar-ghar Mein Diwali Hai' (Kismet-1943), composed by maestro Anil Biswas. The poet Pradeep had written 52 stanzas of different expressions, out which Anil Da successfully used to mould the three types of expressions in the classical colors. In the song 'Aayi Diwali Deepak Sang Naache Patanga' (Ratan-1944), Naushad composed a sad antagonism against the backdrop of the typical gesture of Diwali. Master Ghulam Haider used the Punjabi hilarious tappa in the background of the song 'Diwali Phir Aay Sajni' (Khazanchi-1941). In the film Maharana Pratap (1946), the traditional tune of 'Aayi Diwali Deepon Wali' was heard. The song ‘Aayi Diwali Deep Jala Ja ..’ (Pugri) was a call to prayer. At the same time, the song 'Aayee Hai Diwali Sakhi Aaye Re' (Sheesh Mahal-1950) was traditionally composed by Vasant Desai.
The song ‘Diwali Ki Raat Piya Ghar’ (Kanchan-1955) was oriented towards the symbolic union on Diwali. Composer Ram Ganguly made the song 'Deep Jalange Deep Diwali Aayi' (Paisa-1957) very intimate with a touch of melody and Bengali sweetness. In 'Jahan Mein Aayi Diwali Bade Charag' (Taj-1956), the unmatched use of sitar made it a unique composition. 'Kaisi Diwali Manayein Hum Lala' was not a traditional Diwali song but Johnny Walker filled with the beautiful colors of comedy to highlight the state of the common man struggling in shortage of money. The song 'Laakhon Taare Aasman Mein (Hariyali Aur Rasta-1962) has a contrasting mood of Manoj Kumar and Mala Sinha with a backdrop of fireworks on Diwali. Similarly, with the unmatched use of shehnai and flute, the famous dance song of the film 'Leader' (1964) 'Daiya Re Daiya Laj Mohe Lage' also begins with words like 'Diwali Aaayi Ghar Ghar Deep Jale'. Dharmendra starrer Jugnu (1973) also had a popular Diwali song 'Chhote Nanhe-Munne Pyare-Pyare Re ... Deep Diwali Ke Jhoothe ....'.
All the big and small stars of Bollywood celebrate the festival of Deepawali with great enthusiasm. Amitabh Bachchan's three bungalows Pratiksha, Jalsa and Janak are decorated with colourful electric lights like a bride get-up. Amitabh worships Diwali with his family first in Jalsa, then in Janak and finally in Pratiksha. On this auspicious occasion he also throws a Diwali party, in which Bollywood and Sports celebrities participate in their traditional outfits. On the night of Diwali, Shah Rukh Khan's bungalow 'Mannat' is beautifully decorated and it is a great pleasure to watch it. Deepika Padukone is afraid of bursting firecrackers. While Priyanka Chopra and Bipasha Basu believe in celebrating ‘Deep Parv’ in the traditional way. Kangana Ranaut loves celebrating Diwali with her family and on this occasion, she plays cards as a tradition. Diwali is Madhuri Dixit's favorite festival and she always remembers her childhood Diwali when her hair got burnt while bursting crackers with her friends. She had to go bald for some time.
Most of the film stars love to eat sweets on Diwali. Parineeti Chopra cannot resist the temptation to eat sweets, especially when there are Besan or Motichoor ladoos. Bipasa Basu loves Bengali Rassogullas, while Karan Johar relishes the sweetness of chocolate fuzz. How much Ranbir Kapoor likes the sweets can be gauged from the fact that the name of one of his films was 'Burfi'. By the way, his most favourite sweet is Mishti Doi.
In the modern day world, Diwali is celebrated by Indians across the globe with the same festive spirit. It helps in fostering a sense of brotherhood. Singaporean government organises many cultural events during Diwali every year. Since 2009, Diwali has been celebrated at 10 Downing Street, the residence of the British Prime Minister. Diwali was first celebrated in the White House by George W. Bush in 2003 and was given official status by the United States Congress in 2007. Diwali celebrations have been relatively rare in contemporary Pakistan, but observed across religious lines, including by Muslims in cities such as Peshawar. In South Africa Deepavali became a symbolic clarion call for freedom and end to discrimination.
This Diwali lets us pray to the God for guidance and patience during the Covid-19 pandemic. Have a happy and safe Diwali.
List of films released in the last two decades on the auspicious occasion of Diwali:
1995: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Yarana.
1996: King Hindustani.
1997: Dil To Pagal Hai, Deewana Mastana.
1998: Something happens, big mian small mian.
1999: We are together.
2000: Mohabbatein, Mission Kashmir.
2001: No special film was released.
2002: Live only for you.
2004: Veer-Zara, Airaj.
2005: Hot issue, because.
2006: Don, Jan-e-Mana.
2007: Om Shanti Om, Saawariya.
2008: Golmaal Returns, Fashion
2009: All the best, blue, me and Mrs Khanna.
2010: Golmaal 3, Action Replay ..
2011: Ra: One.
2012: Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Son of Sardar.
2013: Krish 3
2014: Happy New Year
2015: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo
2017: Son of Sardar-2, Golmaal Again
2018: Thugs of Hindostan
2019: Housefull 4
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