Science behind Deepavali (swaminathan’s Talk delivered today 03/11/2012) Actual Diwali falls on 13-11-2012

Good Evening,Namsthe,Vankkam,Namskaram

Wish You all a Very Happy Deepavali

First of all I want to THANK the organisers for arranging nice Desi Diwali events successfully year after year. Thanks for inviting me to give a talk for ten minutes On Science Behind Deepavali.

What is Deepavali:

‘Deepa’ means light or lamp, ‘aavali’ means a row. Deepavali means a ROW OF LIGHTS. It is Festival of Lights.

Diwali is the spoken form of the word Deepavali.

We celebrate the Victory of Good over Evil. Good is light and Evil is darkness. It is the most famous festivals of the Hindu festivals. In some parts of India, they celebrate it for four days.

A lot of things about Deepavali are available on websites and encyclopaedias. They give the reasons for celebrating Deepavali.

  1. Lord Krishna Killed a demon called Narakasura. So we call that day Naraka Chathurdasi, literally Naraka’s 14th day.
  2. Goddess Lakshmi came out of the Milky ocean when Devas and Asuras churned the ocean for Amrutha, i.e. ambrosia
  3. Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana of Sri Lanka who abducted Rama’s wife Sita.
  4. Pandavas came out of the forest after their 12 year banishment. So to celebrate all these things they decorated the houses and streets with row of lamps. The reason being, it was Amavasya-new moon day where there was no light. Most of other Hindu festivals fall on Full Moon day, so there is natural moon light. We have to remember there was no electric light thousands of years ago.


The above four episodes give us a Big lesson. Victory of Good doesn’t come that easily. Rama suffered for 14 years, Pandavas suffered for 12+1 years. Goddess Lakshmi, that is wealth, doesn’t come easily. You will have to churn the ocean, that isthrough hard work. Krishna had to travel all the way from Dwaraka in Gujarat to Kamaroop in Assam to kill Narakasura. To achieve success in anything, you have to struggle hard, but final victory will be yours.

  1. Jains also celebrate Diwali, because one of the greatest Thirthankaras, Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, attained Niravana- equivalent to Hidnu Yogi’s Samadhi on a Diwali day.
  2. Sikhs also celebrate Diwali because the foundation for Golden Temple in Amritsar was laid on the day. Guru Amardas called all Sikhs to get Gurus’s blessings on that day, like Hindu’s Vyasa Purnima. One of the ten Sikh gurus Hari  Govinda Sing was released from imprisonment by Mughal emperor Jehangir on that day.
  3. Arya Samaj followers consider it a holy day because its founder Dayananda Sarswati attained Samadhi on that day.
  4. There are many more reasons. Greatest of the Hindu Kings Vikramaditya was crowned on a Diwali day.
  5. For Gujaratis and other business men it is a NEW YEAR DAY. They start their Financial year on that day.

Lakshmi Puja and Kubra Puja are conducted during the four day celebrations. Gujaratis heap food and sweets like mountains in a festival called Annakut festival.

But I am going to give you some new information on Diwali


10.A for astronomy:

Why do we celebrate Diwali on different dates every year? Diwali doesn’t  fall on the same day like New Years day or Makara sankaranti (Pongal). Why?

Most of the Hindu festivals are based on Lunar Calendar. That is, they are based on the movements of Moon. Diwali is one of them.

But other festivals are based on solar calendar. That is to say they are based on the movement of Sun. So they will fall on almost same date every year except in leap years.

Thithi & Nakshatra

Some people are very keen to do a festival on a particular Thithi like Amavasya, Paurnami, Ashtami Navami etc. Some Hindus are very keen to do it on Nakshatra, that is the star under which one born or one event happened. So even birthdays like Rama, Krishna, Adi Shankara differ slightly between Hindus.

11. Why do we light lamps?

The philosophical explanation for this is light symbolises all good things in the world. Darkness stands for evil, fear and death. So we always need light. But the scientific explanation for this is in winter months a lot of insects multiply and destroy crops. When you light lamps in millions they come and fall in it. You don’t kill them and so you don’t earn sin/demerits. It is the innate nature of the insects that they are attracted to light and die.

Bonfire nights are celebrated around the world. Even in England coinciding with Diwali comes Guy Fawkes Day on 5th November every year. This story was invented recently. Bonfires are lighted throughout Northern Hemisphere in November even before Guy Fawkes. It is in most of the cultures. We see it even in African and Australian aboriginal cultures.

Other than killing insects, it gives warmth during the cold winter. It gives them an opportunity to gather together, think together and act together. They sing and dance in groups. Music and dance originated around fire in the caves millions of years ago.

Even the oldest religious book Rig Veda begins with Fire/Agni and ends with Fire/Agni.

In South India, one month after Diwali on Karhtikai Pournami day (Full Moon Day), every town and village do the bonfires. Millions of lamps are lighted in Houses and Temples. They are made up of recyclable materials like clay. The oil used for those lamps is special oil called ILUPPA ENNEI with some medicinal properties.

12.Why do we do fireworks?

We, human beings, are pyromaniacs. What is pyromania?

According to Oxford Dictionary Pyromania is AN OBSESSIVE DESIRE TO SET FIRE TO THINGS. This is in our genes. If it is not properly controlled or channelized this becomes a mental disease. Since we all lived in caves millions of years ago, the only help we had from nature is FIRE. The Greek word for fire is Pyro.

In August 2010, Londoners saw big riots. Youths enraged by the police action set fire to buildings, houses and shops. Properties worth millions of pounds were lost. In India, during each Bandh or Hartal day we see such arson attacks. The reason for this, according to social scientists, is we have NOT channelized this pyromania. Youths have tremendous energy to spend. If you ask them to do controlled destruction like setting fire to bonfires or fireworks, they would not do it to buildings. Hinduism is based fully on science. Knowing this pyromania our forefathers allowed you to do controlled destruction and arson. You can burn old things without affecting your neighbourhood on Diwali day, Karthikai Day or Bogi Day. Bogi is celebrated a day before Makara Sankaranti called Pongal in Tamil Nadu.

Parents would have noticed their children messing around with fire or lamps. Smelling smoke, elders would rush to the place and chastise children shouting “ Stop it. You are going to burn down the house”. In fact most of us have done it when we were young!

Nowadays children and youths are not given that opportunity. So they misbehave during riots.

One may wonder why western countries are spending billions of dollars in doing fireworks during Olympics or Independence Days or Bonfire Nights. Laser lights can do the same magic without contributing to pollution at a minimum cost. The reason is as I mentioned earlier we are still pyromaniacs. The habit we had millions of years ago in the caves to protect ourselves from animals, to cook food for us and to get warmth is still in our genes.

This is the reason we encourage our children to do fireworks, bonfires and lighting lamps under the supervision of elders.

There are minor reasons as well. In certain cultures they believe the fireworks such as crackers will scare away evil spirits. In place like Sabarimalai Ayyappan temple, they even use it for scaring away the wild animals. In Tamil Nadu they do use explosives to announce the Gods procession. Hearing that, people from distant streets come to the streets where Gods chariot or procession in is on its way.

Chinese discovered the effect of some chemicals and started making fireworks. In Tamil Nadu the minor crackers are still called Chini Charam/chini vedi meaning China crackers.

Continued in Second Part…….

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: