Diipavalii is almost here. It is an important holiday in India. It is a five day celebration which falls on the darkest nights of the year, coming up this weekend. Either Saturday or Sunday, depending on where you are on the planet and which calendar you’re following (Ay! trying to figure that out makes my head hurt, so I’ll go with the Sunday, Oct. 18 date) is the centerpiece of the holiday
When I first heard about this holiday I was like, wait a minute – the darkest night is December 21 – the winter solstice, duh… I mean I know India dances to its own tune and everything, but they’re off by more than 2 months!
No grasshopper, that is the longest night, not the darkest. The darkest night comes on the new moon of the month of Karttika (which I guess is the India equivalent of October).
The festival is accompanied by lots of gift-giving, fire cracker exploding, food eating, deity worshipping, loud music playing and general merrymaking. Nobody knows how to put on a celebration like the Indians. But the central point of the holiday is what is important – this is the darkest night, it won’t get any darker. But the light is coming. With the longest night you can think, oh well, it’s long, but I can handle it, it’s just a matter of time and it’ll be over.
When I was in the hospital in labor with my son I kept thinking, yeah, this hurts, but it can’t last very long. I can do anything for a few hours. Not that the pain was anything to celebrate, but I knew that it was something with a definite time limit.
But darkness is something different. It is psychological. It’s no accident that Carl Jung labeled the hidden, problematic part of ourselves the “shadow.” Or that we use the word “dark” to describe something inherently evil or insidious.
But Diipavalii is a hopeful, joyous occasion because the culture understands the central truth of their favorite yoga text, the Bhagavad Giita: dharma or light, always triumps over darkness. Vidya always triumphs over avidya.
This is perhaps the most important truth we could ever hold to in life – the good guys always win. Maybe not in the short term, but always in the long run. There is no reality in pessimism or cynicism – they are just reflections of avidya. Truth always prevails.
Happy Diipavalii – I hope you do something joyful!