“Deepavali,” or “Diwali,” (Markiscarali) is a major Indian festival celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs all over the world. It is also called “The Festival of Lights.” Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom of Ayodhya after defeating (the demon king) Ravana, the ruler of Lanka, in the epic Ramayana. According to Hindu legends, the signi cance of having lights or lamps lit during this time is to signify victory of “good over evil” for every human being.
This is also a season when many Hindus celebrate a time of good harvest. Especially for the farmers living in the rural areas, it is a time when they look forward to selling their crops and gaining wealth and prosperity. These celebrations were first started in India by farmers after they reaped their harvests. They celebrated with joy and offered praises to their god for granting them good crops after months of toil and hard work.
Deepavali is also a time when families have their yearly family reunion. Colorful out ts are adorned by the young and the old during this time, while homes are lit up with magni cent displays of candles, garlands, and many other decorative items.
The Difference Between Deepavali and Christmas
Someone once commented that “Hindus seem to celebrate Deepavali as Christians treat and celebrate Christmas”. Is this true? What is the difference between the two? During both celebrations, gatherings are held, and songs and music can be heard, and meals are shared. We may hear laughter and see warm fellowship and exchange of greetings (and oftentimes gifts) between people. Yet, great differences do occur between the two religions.
Hindus take this time to celebrate, worship and give thanks to their gods. Sometimes, hindu gods are fashioned in the likeness of certain scared animals like elephants, cows, and monkeys. However, this is wrong and sinful in the eyes of God. As God clearly states in Exodus 20, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God…” Worshiping gods other than the one true God is a sin. Making images of God out of our own sinful imagination is a great mockery of the Almighty God. God’s word tells us why this is wrong in Rom 1:22-23. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” When Hindus turn to images of creation instead of the Creator and say, “I have faith in you”, they corrupt the glory of God.
The festival of lights may seem to be a time of much rejoicing, just like during Christmas. But, Hinduism has nothing profitable to offer mankind. Can man-made gods possibly give anything back to man? Can a soul be saved through the worship of idol gods created from man’s hands? Can we receive the forgiveness of our sins and be saved from the depths of hell through the worship of idols? Psalm 115 says, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”
The Hindu’s Beliefs in the Light of God’s Word
The Hindu believes that god is one, but at the same time he confesses that there are many gods. All gods are representations of the one true god, Brahma, who has the power to create. Also, Hindus believe that the goal of life is to be reunited to god. Every religious practice of the Hindu is directed toward the realization of this oneness with god. To know oneself is to know god. The old and oft-repeated Hindu phrase which expresses this is: “God and I are one.” 2 This teaching goes beyond what scriptures teaches about us being the image bearer of God to us being God or part of God Himself. Genesis 3, records for us the lie the devil used to tempt Eve into eating the fruit: “ye shall be as gods”. Man is not God; he does not have the right to decide what is right and wrong, what is true and false, and what is good or evil. This only belongs to God, the Alpha and the Omega. Will all kinds of religious practices save us from the condemnation of hell? The answer is “No”. The “Lights” in Diwali sadly does not give true comfort and salvation from one’s sins. It does not even speak of it. God’s Word tells us that man can never merit anything with the eternal God who created and owns everything. Man must be punished for his sins because God is a just God. No mere man is able to save anyone, or even himself, from eternal hell, nor grant the forgiveness of all our sins. Man, because he is totally depraved and dead in sin cannot atone for the debt he owes to God. Hinduism and “karma” does not and cannot offer salvation from sins. Salvation, God reveals to us, is in the cross alone; the sacri ce of the Son of God for the atonement of the sins of His dear children. Isaiah 53:6-7 speaks of this. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him (Christ) the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” Salvation is in the Lamb of God alone who died a bitter and shameful death on the cross.
Jesus, our True Light
The only light which we ought to look for is the Light of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and He shines in and through our hearts. And, we can look for this beautiful light when we turn to the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. The light which God will shine upon His people, when they look to Him as the true and living God, will outshine all the stars we can see in the skies, never mind the thousands of candles which are lit by mere man during any festive season here on earth. His Word should be the only lamp upon our feet, a light upon our path.
When God sent His only begotten Son to come and die for our sins on the Cross, it was the most important event in the history of mankind. But man refused to believe. We read in John 3:19, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” And perhaps that is why mere man turns to the many light bulbs and candles, to try and artificially light up their lives. All these, instead of repenting and running with all possible speed to the cross. John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Christians may seem to celebrate in a similar fashion as Hindus. But the key difference is, while Hindus celebrate the return of Lord Rama after defeating (the demon king) Ravana, Christians celebrate Christmas to remind ourselves of the miraculous birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Son of God came into the world to crush the serpent’s head and earn salvation for His people. His people who were once condemned because of sin are now innocent because of Christ. Christ’s righteousness is now counted as theirs! Since Christ’s righteousness is perfect, God’s children now have a place in heaven and their names are in the Book of Life. Christ says in John 14 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” So we read in John 9:5,“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. Without this light, we will see nothing, know nothing about Salvation, and only see despair, sorrow and pain.”
Hence, no matter how bright any “Festival of Lights” may appear to us, we must remember that these lights will not last forever, and are of no use to us now and at the Day of Judgment.
Let no other light draw us beloved, but the light which shines forth from the glory of God, so that we may be drawn nigh unto Him each day. May His Word continue to abide in us and may we be His witnesses, in this dark and sinful world. May the people of God, by His grace, shine forth brightly in the world, even amongst those who celebrate Deepavali. Bring them the gospel of grace in love, saying “Repent and believe in Christ who forgives freely!” To live apart from Christ is death and by God’s grace, may they come to know the only true and living God, and His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
May we be reminded of the word which Paul mentioned to the Philippians in chapter 2:15, which reads, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world”.
Information and Quotes from:
1. S.P. Sharma; Seema Gupta (2006). Fairs and Festivals of India. Pustak Mahal. p. 79. ISBN 9788122309515.
2. Rinehart, R (Ed.)(2004), Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice, ABC-Clio, ISBN 1-57607-905-8
Written by: Ishu Mahtani & Josiah Tan | Issue 5