The Diwali festival lasts for a number of days, with each day having a significance and a story to tell, however the essence behind all lies the significance of the spiritual victory of good over evil. It is with each deepavali and the illumination of lights that darkness is replaced by goodness and light.
Nootan Varsh is the first year of the New Year, Kartik Sud 1. Jeevanpran Swamibapa has taught us that the true purpose of the Diwali period is to evaluate the extent to which we have overcome such ‘internal enemies’ so that we may be better people in the upcoming year. With this in mind, the Hindu New Year, is a time for looking forward with optimism, and also for people to gather in Mandir’s and rekindle relationships with friends and family as well as God.
For this reason, Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Bolton welcomed our community’s disciples, friends, neighbours and wider community to share the celebrations during the festive period. Magnificent displays of decoration along with dozens of food items that were tirelessly prepared by disciples were meticulously placed before the Lord in an intricate and elegant display to form the Grand Annakut. ‘An’ literally means food (grain) and kut translates as mountain, hence a vast mountain of many varieties of food is placed before the Lord in a beautiful style.
The Mandir remained open all day with an Aarti taking place every hour, allowing all members of the wider community to partake in the New Year’s celebrations. Various guests attended throughout the day to receive the Divine blessings of Lord Shree Swaminarayan on this auspicious occasion and to view the mesmerising display of foods placed before the Lord in the Grand Annakut.
This year, the solar eclipse fell on Tuesday 25th October. During a solar eclipse, in slokh 86 and 87 of the Shikshapatri, Lord Swaminarayan has commanded His disciples to stop all other activities, purify themselves and chant the Swaminarayan mantra. Several hours before the start of an eclipse, one must commence a fast. Everyone is inflicted by sutak (period of ritual impurity) at the sight of Rahu. Therefore, from the start of an eclipse, anything that one touches also becomes impure and must be washed at the end of the eclipse. Any cooked food becomes impure and it should all be discarded before the start of an eclipse. Lord Swaminarayan has endorsed that His disciples must observe these restrictions.
Diwali is a major Hindu festival celebrated worldwide, who’s name originates from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, meaning “rows of lighted lamps”. To Hindus, darkness represents ignorance, and light is a metaphor for knowledge, therefore the lighting of lamps represents the destruction of ignorance, worldly desires and thoughts replaced with light, the divinity of the Lord.
Monday 24th October saw hundreds of disciples come together to celebrate the final day of the Hindu year. As per tradition, beautiful decorations were displayed before Lord Swaminarayan Bapa Swamibapa in an elegant display including divas, signifying the eradication of darkness.
The evening began with Sandhya Aarti being performed to the Lord, Dhyaan and Divine Ashirwad. This was closely followed by the performing of Chopda Poojan. It is a long standing tradition that on Diwali, ledger and account books are blessed by Lord Shree Swaminarayan to signify the honesty and integrity of those accounts at the start of the new financial year in accordance with the Hindu calendar. This ritual is important for the business community, as they traditionally present those 'Chopda' to the Lord, seeking His blessings. During the Poojan, the new books are blessed with the sentiment that their owners will be accurate and honest in their upcoming financial practices.
Kali Chaudas is the final day of the Hindu year and is allotted to the Goddess Kali, the deity of strength and the strength to protect others is referred as Kali. It is the day to abolish laziness and evil to shine light on life. In the 85th verse (slokh) of the Shikshapatri, Lord Shree Swaminarayan instructs His devotees to chant prayers of Hanuman or Narayan Kavach in times of distress from spirits and ghosts. We ask for benediction to attain the devotion and firm fidelity towards our Lord Shree Swaminarayan. The evening of Sunday 23rd October began with devotees receiving blessings with Divine Ashirwad, followed by Kirtan Bhakti and Sandhya Aarti.
The first day of five-day celebrations is Dhan Teras, with Dhan meaning wealth and Teras meaning thirteenth day. As we approach the end of the Hindu calendar, we offer Pooja to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. On this day we must remember that true wealth is that which is earned through hard work and honesty and abiding by the codes of Sanatan Dharma. Dhan Teras fell on Saturday 22nd October and the evening consisted of Sandhya Aarti, Katha Varta and Kirtan Bhakti by ardent devotees to the Lord.
Diwali and Hindu New year’s celebrations have been in full swing at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Bolton since Friday 21st October, the day of Ramaa Ekadashi. This is the last Ekadashi before the end of Chaturmas, so this day is considered to be auspicious and beneficial for all devotees observing fasts. Disciples gathered as Sandhya Aarti was performed to Lord Swaminarayan Bapa Swamibapa with Katha Varta and Kirtan Bhakti thereafter to mark the beginning of the Diwali celebrations in Bolton. The evening was concluded with occhav performed by disciples, young and old to please the Lord.