Submitted by alvin on Sat, 2016-10-29 12:03 Deepavali — the festival of lights — is widely celebrated in India. A number of practices and rituals are usually associated with it. What are the spiritual and philosophical meanings of these, and why do people celebrate this occasion with such great festivity? A portrait of Lakshmi The word Lakshmi is derived from the word ‘lakshya’, meaning ‘the goal’. So by semantic implication, Lakshmi represents ‘the final goal’ of life. The symbols associated with her and the rituals and practices followed on the day of Deepavali imply that she stands for the highest stage of perfection and development which a human soul can reach. The Sanskrit word lakshya ‘stands for hundred thousand’ (rupee or property worth this amount). So a person possessing such wealth is called lakshapati, and Lord Narayan, the consort of Lakshmi, is called 'lakshmipati'. Because of phonetic closeness and similarity of meanings, and besides other reasons also, Lakshmi is considered as ‘goddess of worth’. However, wealth is not the only possession of Lakshmi. Symbols associated with Lakshmi The symbols associated with Lakshmi clearly bring out that she represents the goal of human endeavour or perfection of life. Her four arms or hands signify dharma, arth, kama, moksh, i.e. the stage of fruition or beatitude. There is nothing left to be achieved. Health, wealth, virtue and happiness are included in this. Her ‘abhaya mudra’ shows the pose of assurance and safety. The hundred-petal lotus on which she sits is symbolic of hundred percent purity and detachment or her perfectly satwik stage. The hundred-petal lotus, which she holds in her right hand, is symbolic of full development. Then there are the many lotus flowers floating in ‘kshira sagar’ — the ocean of milk. These are symbolic of purity, peace and prosperity. Gold coins continually coming from the left hand signify un-ending material prosperity. An interesting feature of her portraits is that in all pictures of Lakshmi, four elephants are shown pouring water on her. Four elephants in Indian tradition are symbolic of four directions — East, West, North and South. Moreover elephant is an emblem of strength, wisdom and faithfulness to the master. It is sign of majesty. Thus, four elephants constantly pouring water from golden vessels on Lakshmi are sign of the faithfulness of all her subjects living in East, West, North and South and of constant affluence. It means that she has sovereignty on the whole world. Invoking Lakshmi on a pitch-dark night (amavasya) by lighting lamps and candles is symbolic of enlightenment of souls (when complete ignorance of knowledge prevails in the world), so as to attain the stage of perfection or the three fold goal of life —purity, peace and prosperity. Complete cleaning of houses and business-houses is indicative of the observance of complete purity. The use of four elephants, each holding a lamp, is symbolic of keeping in mind the goal of complete victory over the self so as to attain world sovereignty or ‘chakravarti rajya’ in the world of sattwa, i.e. golden age. Keeping the door open all night is to let knowledge, virtue and fulfilment of goal be achieved by keeping the doors of knowledge open. But the pity is that people worship only Mammon on this day, forgetting god and lakshya or the goal of life. They remember Nakad Narayana (cash of money) not Narayana — the goal of life. They keep the doors and windows of the house open (even running the risk of a thief coming instead of Lakshmi) but they have the doors of knowledge shut!