Of Light, Shadow and the Landscape

by | Nov 15, 2020

This blog coincides with Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. Diwali symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. It is celebrated on the “darkest night” that ends the lunar month of Ashwin and starts the month of Kartik, coinciding with the second half of October or early November in the modern calendar. The festivities begin two days before, on Dhanteras, and extend two days after, concluding with Bhai Dooj.

Motivations for celebration vary. People of North India celebrate Diwali to mark the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after his fourteen-year exile. People in the South celebrate it as the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon, Narakasura. In Western India, Diwali is celebrated as the rescue of Goddess Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali by Lord Vishnu in his Vamana incarnation. Jains celebrate Diwali as it was on this day that Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana. Sikhs celebrate Diwali to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone for the Golden Temple in 1577. 

The celebration of light is indeed universal. People in different parts of the world celebrate their own festivals of light. The Chinese celebrate it on the fifteenth day of their new lunar year, which falls anywhere between late February and March. From August 2 to August 7 each year, in the Aomori city of Japan, people float gigantic boats with lights. Jews all over the world celebrate it as Hanukkah, for a period of eight nights and days anywhere between the end of November and December. 

In the Netherlands, it is St. Martin’s Day on November 11 each year. In France, it takes place on December 8 every year, to express gratitude toward Mary, the mother of Jesus. In Lewes, England, people have bonfires on November 4/5.  On the 12th day of the Thai Lunar calendar, usually in November, the Thai people float beautifully decorated baskets with lamps in water bodies. In the Keene Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire, USA, people light jack-o’-lanterns each year before Halloween. 

Light is one of the most universal and fundamental symbols of the spiritual and the divine – तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय Lead me from darkness to light – mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.3.28).  The appearance of God is linked to brightness, and light is seen as the source of goodness and the ultimate reality. In Paradiso, Italian for Paradise, poet Dante Alighieri ascends to a region beyond physical existence, which is the abode of God, and becomes enveloped in light. In the Bible, when the Lord created, He began with “Let there be light.”

When Prophet Moses went up to Mount Sinai, he got to see “a light much greater in brightness than the sun.” When he came down with the two tablets engraved with the ten commandments in his hand, the brightness of God’s appearance was reflected in Moses himself. Christ is called, “the radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1). In the Sufi tradition, the soul illuminates the mind-space as kashf, the personal experience and direct vision of God. Any worship starts with the lighting of a lamp.

This Diwali has assumed more significance as the world is living under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic hardships that it brought along. In the course of just few months, the virus spread out from Wuhan in China to across the whole world. Frightened with uncertainty, governments declared “lockdowns,” which had pervasive impacts on economic activity across the globe and millions of people lost their livelihoods.

But the “lockdown” also brought back clear skies over traffic-choked cities, improvements in local water quality, people working from home, and reductions in noise and air pollution. Glimpses of a transformed society with integrated families, reduced pollution and lowered environmental impacts were visible. 

However, the early signs of improvements in environmental quality have already succumbed to the rush to achieve the lost economic growth levels. Cities like New Delhi are once again choked with smog. Migrants are back in city slums more quickly than they had left, without any change in their living and working conditions. But thinking that the pandemic was a bad dream that is done and over with would be like brushing the real problems under the carpet. Unless the lessons are learnt, nature is not going to spare us. There is no promotion to the next class here without passing the exam. 

What are the three exams that we must take to advance into a higher level of  living? 

(1) The rebirth of medium and small-scale industries to feed local consumption, and a firm “no” to cheap imports from China and other countries; (2) No going back on new laws, making agriculture a profitable enterprise for the farmers, and investment in silos and supply chains to mitigate any distress sale and spoilage of agro produce; and (3) An Internet-driven education system ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by bringing every single family online and giving them free connectivity. Adoption of technology to prevent the misuse of bandwidth is also important. 

As goes the famous line of American poet, Robert Frost – Two roads diverged in a wood – mankind is standing on an evolutionary crossroad in 2020. Rising to the occasion with grit and determination will usher in a new era of sustained living and social harmony; succumbing to fear and insecurity would throw us back into the past of conflict and chaos.  

If only we could learn that very little is needed to live, as we have lived through the lockdown, and that the rest is indulgence and wastage! Quality of work is more important than keeping busy. Spurious travel is best avoided and no more business trips for fun in disguise! The incessant availability of food, electricity, water, law and order, communication, medicines, television and the internet even during lockdown proved that we are not only a robust, but also a resilient social system, better than many Western countries, including the hyped United States. 

Darkness has no real existence; it is merely the absence of light, but shadow and light are forever coupled and they fall on the same landscape. In a year from now, COVID-19 would be fully understood.  It is the learning or ignoring the lessons of the pandemic that would decide whether Diwali 2021 would be brighter and I have no doubt that it definitely will be if shadows are handled well by leading lives differently. 

MORE FROM THE BLOG

Look far ahead

Look far ahead

Since last month, I have been reading a rather scholarly book, The Book of Why, written by Israeli-American computer scientist Judea Pearl with Dana Mackenzie. The book deals with the often elusive relationship between cause and effect…

The Mystical Language of Numbers

The Mystical Language of Numbers

Is there an occult, divine or mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events? In ancient Greece, Pythagoras propagated the idea that reality at the deepest level is essentially mathematical. He and many after him believed that a system of principles existed behind numbers…

A Moment of Civilisational Pride

A Moment of Civilisational Pride

I was born in 1955 in independent India. When I look back today, without hesitation, the best moment in public life I witnessed is the construction of a grand temple and the consecration of the idol of Shri Rama Lalla in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024…

31 Comments

  1. Sir, Congratulations on your long streak of cognitively enriching your fans! Even as 2020 unfolded into one of the worst years, your writings anchored to the silver lining.

    A review of the blog since May 2019 makes a compelling narrative while also providing short contextual quotes that one would like to write or paste on the study table’s whiteboard.
    Wishing you continue us guiding into the higher levels of living.

  2. Dear Sir, Nice article on the festival of lights among different cultures around the world. As described by you, myself being a south Indian, the story of Diwali for me was always about the winning of good over evil and light over darkness. We celebrate every year about the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon Narakasura. Humanity, always, for generations has fought evil in various forms and celebrated when good overcame that evil. In our Vedic and other texts, evil has often been portrayed as demons or rakshasas creating havoc among peace-loving people at that time.

    Even as we are celebrating what happened many centuries or millennia ago, we have to understand that the battle between good and evil continues today and we are all in that fight. The evils that we are fighting are Rakshasas in a very different form. Some of those include racial and religious intolerance, greed and selfishness, consumerism, falling values, family breakdown, alcohol, drugs and many more. Duty falls upon all of us to fight against these evils in the best possible way, so that generations down the line continue to see light winning over darkness and celebrate Diwali and other festivals just like we do now.

  3. Significance of light in different cultures and religions are so beautifully explained. Festivals rekindle our childhood love of festivals, which is why we await them.

    Providing a sense of meaningful connectedness in this shared theater of life, celebrations also enlighten us about the goodness in all scriptures. Without a doubt festivals are
    natural barrier disintegrators. Shall we look forward to experience collective effervescence with friends and family, unite in peace and live with hope.

    Yes, let there be light!

  4. Dear Sir, You have written a very inclusive Blog on the Day of Festival of Lights that is Diwali. Once again you have gone into the depth of all aspects of the most widely celebrated festival in the world. You have described the reasons for celebrating Diwali, the meaning of Diwali and the different methods of celebrating Diwali in the different parts of India.

    I think Diwali is the longest Festival starting from Dhanteras, Chhoti Diwali, Diwali, Govardhan Puja and Bhai Dooj. With this, it also joins the different Yugas which have gone by, on this mother Earth. While Diwali is celebrated since Treta Yug, The Goverdhan Puja is done since Dwaper Yug when Bhagwan Krishan lifted the Govardhan Parwat to give protection to Cows and the people of Mathura Brindawan.

    Diwali is no doubt a spiritual and devine festival. It sends deep message of cleansing ourselves physically and spiritually. It teaches us that righteous will always win over wrong and therefore we are taught to follow the path of Maryada Purushotam Ram who symbolises the Hindu Religion. That is why we also say that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.

    It is indeed a knowledge to know that Diwali is celebrated all over the world in different manners. You have rightly declared the festival of lights as an international festival being celebrated in China, Japan, Thailand, Israel, Netherlands, France, UK and USA. It’s an universal acceptance that there is a light after darkness. Light symbolizes the progress, happiness and enriching life and soul. That is why whole world celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights. All our saints and philosophers have always led us from darkness to light in their mission of leading the mankind on right path. “Let there be light” is therefore the universal truth for our awakening of mind and soul.

    Though Corona has created havoc in our day to day lives but you are able to identify some positives here also. You being a nature lover, environment is very close to your heart. You have rightly observed that Diwali was much more cleaner this year during Corona due to ban on crackers and people not moving out on roads polluting the environment.

    You have brought out very rightly that a person needs very little to live a satisfactory and quality life. And therefore, sharing and giving are the two tools built in Indian culture to lead the world from darkness to light. As a country, Corona is also giving us an opportunity to demonstrate grit and determination to overcome negative thoughts and move towards a self reliant India, a Nation which is confident, ready to take on the world in all spheres including education, sports, Culture, military power, Science and Technology adapting to the New Normal. Jai Hind.

  5. Wish you a very Happy belated festive season Arunji. May God grant you a Good Health going forward and keep you even keener to keep distributing your wisdom and critical analysis of the world around us.

    Very good information on Diwali. Some of it new for me.

    We are living in such an abnormal and uncertain period. Covid has virtually turned the world upside down. We are almost “Out of Oxygen” to certain degree and waiting to breath normally, wish we knew, when ?

    Off course there are certain positives too, as pointed out by you. We learnt a lot in terms of what is a must and what we can live without. Environment also benefitted a lot but for how long ? Governments all over the world had a dilemma to balance between keeping the economy alive and keeping the people alive. Everybody acted in good faith and we can say “So far so good”

    India with the assistance of Government and God has managed it well thus far. There are problems all round and one can really go mad handling all of them.

    The biggest challenge is for the world to choose what are the benefits of lock down that we can stick with “for good” (pun intended) Where people can continue to work from home they should as it not only can increase productivity but can save costs of transport, Office rentals pollution etc. However, there are some social downside to it too. Unnecessary travels can be avoided at all times but then the employment in these sectors will also suffer.

    On internet schooling, from the experience of my grandkids studying from home in the USA, it is not smooth sailing. The burden of schooling has shifted to a great extent on parents (mostly mothers) Another serious problem is the time kids spend on the screen is also not healthy, they are also taken away from their friends and the interaction with real world is also equally important part of the learning various skills. I personally don’t think that all learning at all times should be online. It will be a disaster.

    My feeling is that as soon as vaccine is found or some how people can feel that they can go back to normal, all these would be forgotten, and people will start living in pre covid ways only. May be God intended otherwise and the challenge for mankind is to know what it was that God meant us to change ?

    Hope the Light of Diwali be seen at the end of the tunnel

  6. Very nice article Tiwariji. Even though India is currently getting “used ” to this pandemic, the other parts of the world are still suffering. Yes, you are right in saying that this pandemic has thought us many lessons. In fact, from a healthcare point of view, we are still learning from it everyday. Let’s hope that this settles soon and true light shines upon the world 🙂

  7. Dear Arun ji, your Blog “Of Light Shadow and Landscape” as usual is the right topic chosen at the right time of Diwali festivity in India. The world over celebration of light under various garbs is a very nice bouquet of informative comprehension – a ready beckoner dispersing lovely fragrance. To relish in the joys of inhaling the culture and the positive vibes derived world over as humans celebrate the festivity of light is divine. I the reader of your Blog feel on a pedestal as the aroma of the lovely spread get registered in my mind box.

    The reasons could be any, from return of Lord Rama, rescue of Lakshmi, Lord Mahavira attaining Nirvana, foundation of Golden Temple and similar in India to Chinese, Japanese, Jews all over, Netherlands, Thailand, USA, all have their own reasons to celebrate and rejoice, however the common factor being good celebrated over bad; joy welcomed after sorrow, richness over poor, peace over war – There are plethora of reasons. It is human to celebrate and rejoice – in the Light after darkness, the shadows of self and the landscape where one dwells.

    The celebrations world over, this year have been subdued and have not mitigated into the desired joy and happiness on account of the pandemic. To catch the Carona bull by its horns let loose and rampaging in a china shop has to be our one point agenda. The world has a common enemy, a target which is beyond destruction at present but is being worked upon meticulously, the world is racing towards developing the right ammunition the right vaccine to pin point and bang the enemy. I remain positive and optimistic from the horrendous experience we have gone through, are still going through and know not for how long we have still to perish. We have no choice but to face it. Remembering my school motto – “In all things be men,” we have to accept the problem, we have to catch the rampage, we have to win over the invisible enemy. To destroy and eradicate it from the surface of the earth – sooner than later is priority number one.

    You Arun ji have very explicitly highlighted the good and better things which have tumbled out during the Lockdown period. God almighty intervened to make us realize what all life is about. Roti (Bread) Kapda (Clothing) Makan (Dwelling place) is needed to live contend. One needs to work for all the three to nourish body and live at peace. Beyond this is what can be categorized is living lavishly. Deriving positivity from lockdown, to live within means, to understand the worth of money, your roots, family, community, joy and happiness, care for the environment, pollution, to be independent and like are the life lessons which one has learnt. Accepting the new norms and implementing in near future will make one the proverbial – healthy, wealthy and wise.

    Rightly pointed out, life is always on a move. To learn from the past, the follies and to rise like a phoenix from the ashes is the necessity, the mother of invention. To inculcate your three commandants MSME, Agriculture and Internet driven education and work is absolutely the need of the hour. As per Darwin, It has to be the survival of the fittest, and the fittest would be one who would master and tread on your three bullet points of growth. To add to it I would say being philanthropist by heart for all as per ones capacity should become a habit. As per today’s HT, India is a notoriously tight fisted billionaire class, ranked at a lowly 82 out of 128 countries for generosity. Believe me, the joy of giving is much beyond the joy of receiving. The happiness, the contentment and the fulfillment is enormous. Cut your coat according to the cloth, the balance could be distributed to the needy. India will progress and we in turn will we be satisfied from our life lived on the planet. The transshipment from mortal to immortal would see the soul dancing with joy and happiness.

  8. Dear Sir, thank you very much for bringing out a very well articulated blog. As you rightly brought out this pandemic has taught us many lessons. People have understood what is essential and what is luxury. We also have learnt to live within means. The three exams you have mentioned in your blog are highly relevant and have to be passed.

    The small scale industries should grow and create job opportunities. I feel this definitely will happen as the government is trying to support these industries with revival packages. It is for entrepreneurs to look at the possibilities and make use of the opportunities. I am of the firm opinion that this Government will not go back farmers related reforming laws. If the farmer gets his due and the right prize I am sure some of the educated mass will get back to villages and start working on agriculture (Horticulture, floriculture our any other quick turnaround cultivation). This will also in a way address the unemployment. The third the internet base education, here I feel participation by every one is the need of the hour. If we leave it to Government, Education Department and the teachers it is not going go far.

    The NGOs, big corporates with their CSR,Temples with sufficient and surplus incomes, the village panchayat heads and the individuals who can contribute in cash or kind have to come forward to make the internet based education reaches every village and the poorest of the poor. This education if it reaches every village it will be the real game changer. Because the student in the remotest village has the benefit of getting taught by the best of the teachers of his state. Otherwise some the teachers posted to the village school dont even visit the school even once in a month. I wish that this digital mode of teaching reaches the villages and students get the real benefit. We should make use of the technology and grow.

    Coming to COVID, the number of cases are on decline in majority of the states and I wish we see the end of the pandemic sooner than later. With no of vaccines showing promising results I hope the next DIWALI will be a normal DIWALI and we all will be free to move around. But now the need of the hour is not lower the guard, we need to follow the three golden rules to keep our safe.
    My Doctor friend puts these three golden rules as below. Mask is VACCINE, social distancing is IMMUNITY and hand wash is the MEDICINE. Sir Thank you once again for the thought provoking blog.

  9. Thank you sir for writing such a thoughtful article. In particular to online education, I can see some silver linings at some part of it like you rightly mentioned about ‘equitable quality’ of education. However, this needs to extend to those who are at the bottom most level of our society as well. By promoting better accessibility to infrastructure facilities along with good quality connectivity system in the country.

  10. Thank you for this illuminating piece Prof. Arun. I learnt a new perspective of Diwali and impact of COVID – 19. As you rightly wrote, this COVID-19 pandemic compels us to buy Made in China products and push ourselves to buy our very own Bharat Mata indigenous products.

    In the context of education, most of the middle and elite class students are far ahead in using postmodern technology for availing online education. However, it is disheartening to read suicide cases of young people in various cities across India due to lack of smartphones to attend online classes.

    I miss vibrant debates and face-to-face interactions physically with students in the classroom. It’s my wish that the New Year 2021 will bring about good tidings for humanity. I would like to request you to write on National Education Policy 2020 next time if possible. Thank you!

  11. Thank you Sir for sharing this wonderful article. I honestly did not know about the various interpretations of Diwali all over the country. It is heartwarming to see people celebrate the festival of lights all over the world for various reasons. As you said, darkness is the mere absence of light. And it is very important to find light in these trying times.

    This year is not to celebrate our achievements but to celebrate the fight, the resilience of mankind, and the gift of life. You correctly pointed out that the pandemic was introduced to teach the world a few lessons. And until and unless we do not incorporate these lessons in our daily life, all this suffering will be for nothing.

    As charity begins at home, we have started buying products made in India, cut down on our luxurious expenses and are dwelling on what is important and required rather than what is desired. I hope next Diwali will bring true happiness and light in everyone’s life.

  12. There are at least two contrasting ways of looking at the emergence, or non-emergence, of light. Some have said that it is darkest before the dawn. Chairman Mao Zedong said that it is darkest before it goes totally dark. The former interpretation is the optimistic view of life; the latter view is the pessimistic way of looking at things. I choose to be in the optimistic camp.

    We are emerging from a tunnel of darkness now in the United States. With a new president we now have new hope–hope that civil discourse will now prevail, hope that vaccines can stop the death and illness brought on us through the COVID-19 pandemic, and hope that the body politic as well as the medical illnesses can be healed.

    It is a great tragedy indeed that the current occupant of the White House, has been a sore loser and is trying to undermine faith in the electoral process in the United States. But the republic stands firm, the guard rails have held, and we will move into the light so American can again be a symbol of hope for the world, the shining city on the hill.

  13. Dear Arun, I agree with all of what you have to say. The eternal question of needing less to live yet needing more, in reality, does not get its answer easily. At the root of it is our innate ability to solve problems with new products, in itself a good thing. When you do not do this someone else will do it, make money, and dominate you. whether it’s another company or another country. To avoid this you have to innovate.

    Simplifying your life is a good idea from all angles. Needing less money is also good economics at the individual level. But on a larger scheme of things I am not sure it will help. A better question would be where to spend money and not spend less money. And people will spend money on anything if they get something good in return. I thank people like you who raise the consciousness towards what’s good and what’s not.

  14. The reasons for celebrating Deepawali – the festival of lights – vary with regions and communities. But, the underlying philosophy remains the same – the victory of good over evil. The victory is manifested in the form of lights, which glow majestically in the darkest night on the Deepawali day.

    However, in stead of external lights, the activation of inner lights – a symbol of spirituality and divine – is essential for salvation. This will lead us from darkness to lights ensuring victory of knowledge over ignorance.

    When the inner lights are activated, we evolve and grow with nature and the social harmony is restored and promoted. Belated Happy Deepawali to all. May God help you to activate your inner lights.

  15. Dhanyavaad Sri Arun ji for beautiful Deepawali message.. “If only we could learn that very little is needed to live, as we have lived through the lockdown, and that the rest is indulgence and wastage! Quality of work is more important than keeping busy.”

    I found this hard hitting thought as the most precious pearl to takeaway among many in this article. So true that most of the brightest this generation keep running all day, week and month aimlessly just to save the job or show up on higher side of Bell Curve. Valuable time is wasted on earning extra money which will either end up with couple of zeroes more in the bank statement or getting piece of paper calling us owners of some unoccupied plot of land or with children who if are deserving don’t really need parental money and who if undeserving won’t benefit anyways out of it.

    “An Internet-driven education system ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education”

    This as well is an amazing thought. If decent education system can become accessible for people across all classes and strata of society coupled with sense of commitment and responsibility, our nation can do wonders. We have resources (both in sense of human and natural resources) and we have opportunities (Infra development, industries and so on). What is probably missing is right marrying of resources to opportunities and this seems to be a significant gap. If technology can help bridge this, nothing like the same..

  16. Dear Arun bhai, I enjoyed the discussion you made in your article. I was wondering how well informed you are. The wisdom you possess is simply amazing? I truly appreciate your thoughtful insights about the light, its meaning, its impact and reasons to celebrate light festival by various cultures and sects of society. The discussion is so rich, that I knew I had stumbled upon an ‘enlightening moment.’ After reading I felt delighted!

    You are right in saying ‘very little is needed to live, as we have lived through the lockdown, and that the rest is indulgence and wastage!’ If one can reduce his/her wants, he/she too can become rich.

    “Darkness has no real existence; it is merely the absence of light.’ Let us illuminate our minds with new ideas; innovative ideas for making our society full of calm and serenity. Wish you good luck.

  17. Happy Diwali Prof. Tiwari! Light is a fascinating phenomenon. Light represents energy, the radiance of which is known to provide many health benefits. The absence of light is the lack of energy and the darkness can cause depression. In a video display, the contrast is the ratio of the luminance of the brightest shade (white) to that of the darkest shade (black). The greater the contrast, the greater an impact the image will provide.

    This year of 2020 will mark the year of highest contrast of feelings for future prospects that I can remember. Pre-COVID, the US was at a stage with record low unemployment across all demographics. Manufacturing jobs were returning to the US. Life was good and the sun was certainly shining bright. With the onset of COVID, unemployment has skyrocketed, rents and mortgages are past due, fear has spread throughout our nation and riots had erupted in many major cities sparked by racial tensions caused by the death of George Floyd.

    Our nation then experienced a nasty presidential election cycle ending with half of the country left with a depressed feeling that voter fraud may have led to the election of Joe Biden as President. Legal battles are underway; regardless of the outcome, the damage is done and many have lost trust in the electoral process. It is indeed the darkest moment for many living in the US, so different from the beginning of the year.

    There may be some light at the end of the tunnel however. Recently, two COVID vaccines should be available in coming months ahead with 90-95% efficacy. The lockdown experiences, albeit an adverse experience for most, has shed light on how we may become more productive by various means. And the combined experiences of COVID and the US Election has given pastors of churches across this country fodder to remind its members of the ultimate importance of God in their lives and the peace that comes knowing the promises He provides.

    We will endure the dark ending of 2020 I’m sure and will look forward to God’s shining light on the world. He does work in mysterious ways.

  18. The article represents a synthesis of deeply thought-out measures for moving towards a better tomorrow. Light symbolizes a new stage of development where we have been able to solve most of our current problems. In particular, the recommendation for emphasis on three vital fields is very timely.

    These three fields are (a) MSME Sector of economy and encouragement for entrepreneurs, (b) proper implementation of recently legislated policies in the agriculture sector. and (c) promotion of internet-driven education and life-long learning. Every crisis presents opportunities for rapid change and progress.

    Let us hope that our leaders will utilize the opportunities presented by the current pandemic for creating a better future. Thank you Arun Ji for this instructive article.

  19. A very apt summary of the current situation, the world is in. Healthcare systems in many developed countries have gradually become more adapted to dealing with non-communicable chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, chronic heart and lung disease, rheumatological conditions, dementia and Parkinson’s disease, etc.), depending mostly on effective vaccination programmes and a good supply of antimicrobials to deal with infectious diseases. Thus, they may be ill-prepared to deal with novel emerging pathogens. Yet, in such situations, as in any other walk of life, where expertise lies elsewhere.

    Control of COVID-19 in India, of course in parts, was not just due to mask-wearing but this was achieved in combination with other factors such as a relatively compliant populations, and the efficient, rapid roll-outs of mass testing, tracking and tracing, with prompt isolation of those infected, or the quarantining of those exposed. Although a consensus amongst experts would be ideal, this is difficult if not impossible with a new emerging pathogen, and in some respects, such as aerosol transmission, many experts already have pre-conceived notions which have been upheld for a long time related to other pathogens.

    Few, if any, aspects (except survival versus death) of infectious diseases are purely black and white. It has often been forgotten that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (no matter how loudly and widely this is proclaimed) – especially with a novel pandemic virus. If one study does not show that something happens in a particular cohort (like asymptomatic or airborne transmission) it does not necessarily mean that it is not happening in other cohorts elsewhere. The landscape is too vast for any light at the moment and we must learn to live in the shadows for a while.

  20. Wishing you a very Happy Diwali uncle.

    Indeed this Diwali was muted and the celebrations were not grand and exquisite in the wake of the Corona virus pandemic. The usual meetings with friends and relatives, exchange of gifts etc., did not happen this year. This ofcourse lead to increase in the businesses of online merchants like Amazon, Flipkart as people were sending gifts through these sites. The positive side that we witnessed this time was that people were more inclined towards purchasing of diyas and earthen pots as there wasn’t much to do this Diwali except this to cheer them up.

    I think even after pandemic ends why not continue celebrating Diwali, Holi or any festival for that sake in this way only. As you rightly said, we could very well learn that very little is needed to live. Diwali 2021 will definitely be brighter because I am sure people by then will learn to handle the shadows well.

  21. It’s gratifying to know that “celebration of lights” is embraced all around the world.

    Sir, you are absolutely right about saying that “this pandemic is not a bad dream”, which we could just forget it happened and move on or resume the life like it has once been. But it shouldn’t be the case. If we, as humans, failed to show any difference in the context of a pandemic, we failed to evolve and failed in this test of pandemic. Even after witnessing the loss of loved ones doesn’t bring a change in us, I guess nothing will. It’s prime time we question ourselves on being ethical and doing our fair share being tenants of this planet, without taking this world for granted.

    The real shift will happen when we try to conserve our natural resources to our future generations by being eco-friendly, No matter how much we spend, we cannot buy the air we breathe. It is not wrong to celebrate, but, we should know our limitations, consider the circumstances that we are dealing with, and celebrate it just by being modest.

  22. Dear Arun Ji, Happy Deepawali. As you rightly said, light is nothing from removing darkness. Now that we all felt the fear of darkness by covid, hopefully, we all become more responsible passport holders of this planet. Otherwise, the planet will throw us into darkness mercilessly.

  23. Wonderful articulation of Deepawali and how different parts of India and the world celebrate the festival for different reasons. I am of the firm belief that countries need to be more sustainable for which we need to change our lifestyle asap. This is just a show of strength of the mother nature and an alarm that we should cha ge our course of action before it’s too late. Loved your thought provoking blog as always.

  24. The festival of lights Deepawali is beautifully illustrated and also how this is celebrated across the globe and across the religions. From spirituality to economy has been truly depicted. Corona of course has impacted the globe but thank to our agrarian economy which has given immunity to our rural folks due which we have very little impact in Bharat (rural India). More so we don’t have any issue related to food inspite of huge distribution. Prof. Tiwari’s coverage of topic on festive day is worth appreciating and I hope people having interest in the field will be benefited as ever.

  25. Let there be light and there was light. It is very true Prof Tiwari Ji, you touched the national nerve. We should have processing units throught the country inclusively; villages should be integral part of the network. Conscious efforts and systems should be established to deliver products to the market.

    Science and technology should ensure quality of the product that we should be proud of. I remeber the feelings of Rashtrapita Mahatma Gandhiji, who said we should begin action locally, not chase the world to change it; begin with actions that initially may appear small and silly. We rember, Khadi is a trend now.

  26. First let me wish you all a very happy Diwali. The next phase of the moon is the Sukla paksh or growing phase and would increase in brightness in the night. Therefore, let us pray for a better tomorrow.

    As brought out by you, we have got used to a relaxed life, arrogance is rampant in people (as seen yesterday night – inspite of the ban, people have bursted crackers thereby polluting the already polluted air).

    It is for us to put into action, the initiatives taken by the Government – let us be self reliant, let us accept the changes in the system and cooperate. This is not a time to be complacent but to behave a responsible citizens and follow the necessary norms. Let us all rise at this moment and strive for the betterment of not only ourselves – but also the future generations.

  27. Hari OM Sir. A very nice article relating so many references from myriads of traditions from across the world. As rightly pointed out, we will have to pass through all of these exams if we want a harmonious and blissful co-exitence of mankind. Sri Aurobindo looks at Man as an evolving God and the next stage of human evolution is only towards light. The divine light must be sought, received and spread.

    The Isha Upanishad talks, just as the Gita, on how the Divine is an active and detached participant in the scheme of the universe and its seems He is moving towards His own light. Just like the same matter that was part of the supernova and emitting light before the Big Bang is now part of a solar system that is receiving the light from the sun

    Beyond body, evil and flaws into light he has yonder extended
    From the prophet, the realized thinker, to the omniscient and the
    Self’s manifestation
    In stages organized aeons ago by the Eternal since nature’s inception.|8|

    As per the Upanishadic verse, This transcendence and progressive evolution of the jeevatma– the Divine life-soul from darkness to light was possible by the shedding of all the material and bodily flaws and the four stages conform to a pre-ordained intelligent design that was put in place at the time of the inception of Nature.

    We as citizens of ONE great Nation will have to shed our flaws and ignorance, adjust to the crisis and evolve our own response to tackle it for that is the only way we can work towards the collective development and uplifting of the peoples of our nation.

    The Crisis has taught us one lesson- we are all connected to each other and cannot live in individual bubbles forever.

  28. Sir, this COVID-friendly Diwali added a new dimension to what the celebration could mean. It is indeed easy to get caught up in the food and fireworks and forget what Diwali is actually about. But this year has taught us to take the small wins. There’s no way I would’ve spent time teaching and connecting deeper with Diwali in normal times.

    A big positive was the online interaction with seniors and relatives living in villages. Usually we want blessings from our elders and travel to native places. But that was no reason to not have an enjoyable Diwali. It was indeed a mega “family social” Zoom with 40 people.

    I fully endorse the concluding message: “In a year from now, COVID-19 would be fully understood. It is the learning or ignoring the lessons of the pandemic that would decide whether Diwali 2021 would be brighter, and I have no doubt that it definitely will be if shadows are handled well by leading lives differently.”

  29. Diwali, expected to have taken a more somber tone this year, was indeed good. The double specters of the pandemic and pollution failed to cast a shadow over festivities. Diwali is the most important celebration of the year in Gujarat and though there were no raucous parties and grand fireworks displays, people celebrated fearlessly and with gaiety. Online shopping took care of most of the shopping for Diwali this year.

    There were WhatsApp messages doing rounds encouraging people to stay at home and light lamps for the “Covid warriors who have left us”, and to “offer support and spread “cheer to those who have lost their people and who have suffered losses in jobs and business”. PM Modi also called for lighting a lamp for soldiers who lost lives defending our borders. It was most willingly done by the people.

    I agree with your three predictions: “(1) The rebirth of medium and small-scale industries to feed local consumption, and a firm “no” to cheap imports from China and other countries; (2) No going back on new laws, making agriculture a profitable enterprise for the farmers, and investment in silos and supply chains to mitigate any distress sale and spoilage of agro produce; and (3) An Internet-driven education system ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by bringing every single family online.” Maybe we can start a campaign to give a smartphone to people who can’t afford it as a gift by starting in our own surroundings and personal circles.

  30. Sir, a very interesting description of Diwali! Delhi was subdued yesterday. People were wearing the finest of clothes, but they were not personally delivering Diwali greetings to relatives and friends. So, there were no traffic jams as has been a common Diwali feeling for the past many years. Use of firecrackers owing to the increasing levels of air pollution, was banned but then relaxed and people went ahead with bursting crackers. The fear that the combined effect of COVID and air pollution can spell havoc for public health was largely ignored.

    You are very right in saying that light and shadow are part of life. Every light creates a shadow somewhere. It is the landscape that matters. If it is smooth and safe, even in dark, there would be no problems. But if landscape is bad, even in light, only ugliness will be seen. Till we learn moderation and living with less money that was experienced during COVID-lockdowns, nothing is going to improve. COVID vaccination, even when it will come, will have money and power plays before everyone gets it. So far people are getting different results when tested for COVID. And who knows if the vaccine will be fully effective?

  31. It is heartening to know that the festival of lights is celebrated all over the world. In fact I see festivals as mankind’s way to cope with the uncertainties of life. We used to consider the ancient world as full of uncertainties, but coronavirus has proved to our great discomfort that life is inherently uncertain. There have been pandemics in the past, but COVID-19 unleashed an economic upheaval, the effects of which though widely felt but are yet to be fully comprehended. Even scientists are making guesses.

    I was dismayed when technology entrepreneur Elon Musk took four Covid-19 tests — called rapid antigen tests — and received two negative and two positive results. He tweeted, “Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for COVID four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD [the global medical company, Becton, Dickson and Company.]”

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This