The ‘Festival of Lights’, referred to as Diwali in Hindi, is celebrated with gusto by the Sikh, Hindu and Jain communities.  Unfortunately, our hectic schedule and wish to ‘do it right’ only allowed us to record one celebration this year, the one held at the Jain Temple in Farmington Hills on Sunday, October 26.

The centerpiece temple of the Jain Society of Greater Detroit, a group founded in 1975, members remain dedicated to providing a forum for Jains to observe and perform various activities related to Jainism, to preserve Jain culture for future generations and to promote fellowship among all Jains.  It is not the first time we’ve filmed within these sacred walls, yet as always, it was an educational and spiritually uplifting experience.

Celebrated on the new moon day, or approximately the fifteenth day of the month Kartika in the Hindu calendar, Diwali marks the victory of good over evil; the uplifting of spiritual darkness. Symbolically, it marks the homecoming of good will and faith after an absence.  As a result, a tradition of wearing new clothes and sharing sweets is a common practise throughout the Hindu community.  Many Jain busisnesses start their financial year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day; the Jain year starts with Pratipada following Diwali.

In Jainism in particular, Diwali has a special significance, as important as Christmas to Christians. ‘Deepavali’, an origin word for Diwali, was first mentioned in Jain books as the date of the nirvana of Lord Mahavira. In fact, the oldest reference to Diwali is a related word, dipalikaya or deepalikaya, which occurs in Harivamsha-Purana, written by Acharya Jinasena and composed in the Shaka Samvat era in the year 705.

Our Jain community turned out in great numbers to pray and celebrate, and the meal that followed was lovingly prepared by members of the Jain Society, and was fully vegetarian:  a central tenet of Jainism is a respect for all living beings, not only humans.  That, of course, precludes jains from eating meat, wearing leather, or, in the midst of worshipping, from leaving their mouths uncovered to protect the statuary. 

As a further level of piety toward living things, many Jains will not eat root vegetables, as they believe such vegetables have infinite individual souls, invisible to our eyes.  Likewise, roots cannot be ‘harvested’ without killing the plant, and this would signify a food obtained with unnecessary cruelty.  Many Jains are vegan, due to the violence of modern dairy farms.

Observant Jains do not eat, drink, or travel after sunset, and always rise before sunrise.






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