Sky lanterns or floating lights have today become a part of pop culture though their origin can be traced back to 3rd Century BC. From battlefields to cultural ceremonies and wedding traditions to festive rituals, sky lanterns have been a part of many ceremonies across China, Thailand, Taiwan and the rest of Asia.
During the Three Kingdoms Era, the sky lanterns were used on the battlefield to communicate with one another, and once peace settled the peasants and royalty used them to thank God for all the blessings, cast away fear and wish for a prosperous future. A wedding that is symbolic of newlyweds beginning a journey together often sees the couple light one lantern together and the wedding guests light others with personalized wishes for the couple’s future. In Thailand green lanterns are lit for personal growth and purple ones carry personalized wishes. In China, the final New Year celebrations is the Lantern Festival during which locals release Chinese New Year taboos.
Be it prayers for good health, happy marriage, good harvest season or relief from worries; a sky lantern is believed to make wishes come true.
It is believed that the longer and higher the sky lanterns float, the more likely the deities will receive your requests. The sky lantern ceremony has come to represent the releasing of one’s deepest fears and desires. It is a symbolic cleansing, a letting go of everything that troubles you. It is also the beginning of a new, enlightened you, with the light illuminating the path of knowledge and righteousness.
This Palava Weekend, we will be celebrating the joy of Diwali with a sky lantern show on the 29th of October, 2016. Join in to count your blessings.
Diwali is not only about the lighting of oil lamps and lanterns but also about building mud forts or ‘killas’ and decorating them with little figurines. As a tradition peculiar to the state of Maharashtra, making the forts is a Diwali activity that children especially look forward to.
Noted historian Mandar Lawate traces the origin of the practice to the time when the forts were made of cow dung with ‘durva’ (three-bladed grass) and flowers being placed on it. People then offered the Govardhan puja to the dung forts. “It was also believed that all the good deeds that one performed during the holy month of Kartik would all be in vain if this puja was not performed,” added Lawate.
Reasoning why forts were the chosen subject for this purpose, Lawate said, “Traditionally forts have been the strength of the Marathas and are a symbol of their valour. The people feel a certain pride in the ‘killas’ of the Marathas.”
Hence when the British came to power in 1818 after defeating the Peshwas, the first thing they did was to bring down the forts of the Marathas, said Lawate.
“In his childhood, the Maratha king Shivaji made mud forts, so perhaps that is also another reason why the practice is carried out enthusiastically by children even today. Apparently the tradition of fort-making is present only in western Maharashtra. In places like Marathwada, these killas are not made,” informed Lawate.
Fort making competitions, baked mud forts made by the potters of Kumbharwada, forts made of icing and handcarts full of figurines of warriors to adorn the forts keep this unique Diwali tradition alive.
Picture Courtesy: Jagadamb Mumbai
This article first appeared on the Sakal Times.
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