Each year when the major festivals come around I learn a bit more about their background and their significance. The five days of Diwali are upon us, beginning with November 11, celebrated in Northern India as Dhanteras.
Dhanteras is a day when we pray to the Lord in the form of Ma Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity. Often this day is celebrated by buying/giving silver and other precious metals/coins.
I understand the necessity of material wealth, artha, as one of the four purusharthas, or goals of life. The others are Dharma (duty), Kama (desire) and Moksha (liberation). Each is a necessary rung on the ladder toward the end, Moksha.
But I have always tried to look upon Ma Lakshmi as an ideal of spiritual wealth, rather than material. In the context of Diwali, I feel like this outlook is essential. Because Diwali is the time when we celebrate the victory of Good over Evil, whether it be Krishna’s defeat of Kamsa, the Pandava victory over the Kurus in the Bharat War, Rama’s defeating Ravana, or even the victory of the Christ over death depending on how liberally you extend your definition of avatardom. And one can never truly taste victory or recognize the victory of light over darkness if they do not feel a sense of spiritual wealth and enlightenment. Without this sense of wealth, one can never feel the unflinching sense of prosperity and strength in its purest form.
And so, though Dhanteras is really celebrated mostly in Northern India, and I am not from India at all, I like to take part in this celebration if only internally, to fortify myself with spiritual wealth that cannot be spent, lost or stolen from me. A perfect lead-in to the day of Victory, Diwali.