76 years ago, Gandhi told India and Pakistan how Diwali should be celebrated

Exactly 76 years ago, on November 12, 1947, Independent India observed its first Diwali.
Here's what Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, told India and Pakistan on the occasion of Diwali in 1947.

-Rishabh Sharma

Gandhi at prayer meeting

This year, Diwali is on November 12. Exactly 76 years ago, on November 12, 1947, Independent India observed its first Diwali. However, there were largely no celebrations of the festival of lights as the country, especially the northern and eastern belt, was still recovering from the pains of India's Partition.

The communal riots and bloodshed that followed the Partition had sown seeds of deep hatred between communities along religious lines. The wounds were raw, the trauma fresh. The country was divided on communal lines and there was deep distrust.

At this time, Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, delivered his Diwali message, in a bid to spiritually bind the wounded conscience of the nation.

Gandhi, an ardent follower of Lord Rama, drew parallels from the epic Ramayana and urged the people to find Rama, or goodness, within themselves to celebrate the festival of Diwali.

Gandhi also preached to India and Pakistan to call back the members of minority communities who fled due to fear after the Partition. Otherwise, the essence of Diwali cannot be celebrated, he said.

Following is the English translation of the Hindi speech delivered at a prayer meeting by Mahatma Gandhi on November 12, 1947.

Today is Diwali and I congratulate all of you on the occasion. It is a great day in the Hindu calendar. According to the Vikram Samvat, New Year begins tomorrow, on Thursday. You must understand why Diwali is celebrated every year with illuminations. In the great battle between Rama and Ravana, Rama symbolized the forces of good and Ravana the forces of evil. Rama conquered Ravana and this victory established Ramarajya in India.
But alas! Today there is no Ramarajya in India. So how can we celebrate Diwali? Only those who have Rama within can celebrate this victory. For, God alone can illumine our souls and only that light is real light. The bhajan that was sung today emphasizes the poet’s desire to see God. Crowds of people go to see artificial illumination but what we need today is the light of love in our hearts. We must kindle the light of love within. Then only would we deserve congratulations. Today, thousands are in acute distress. Can you, everyone of you, lay your hand on your heart and say that every sufferer, whether Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, is your own brother or sister? This is the test for you. Rama and Ravana are symbols of the unending struggle between the forces of good and evil. True light comes from within.
With what a sad heart has Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru returned after seeing a wounded Kashmir! He was unable to attend the Working Committee meeting yesterday and also this afternoon. He has brought some flowers from Baramulla for me. I always cherish such gifts of nature. But today, loot, arson and bloodshed have spoiled the beauty of that lovely land. Jawaharlal had been to Jammu also. There, too, all is not well.
Sardar Patel had to go to Junagadh, at the request of Shri Shamaldas Gandhi and Dhebarbhai who had sought his advice. Both Jinnah and Bhutto are angry because they feel that the Indian Government has deceived them and is pressing Junagadh to accede to the Union.
It is the duty of everyone to banish hatred and suspicion from his heart in order to establish peace and goodwill in the country. If you do not feel the presence of God within you and do not forget your petty internal quarrels, success in Kashmir or Junagadh would prove futile. Diwali cannot be celebrated till you bring back all the Muslims who have fled in fear. Pakistan also would not survive if it does not do likewise with the Hindus and Sikhs who have run away from there.
Tomorrow I shall tell you what I can about the Congress Working Committee. May you and all of India be happy in the new year which begins on Thursday. May God illumine your hearts so that you can serve not only each other or India but the whole world.

As we celebrate Diwali, incidentally, on November 12, when Independent India celebrated its first festival of lights, we are reminded of Mahatma Gandhi. He may not be alive today, but his message of communal harmony and the treatment of minorities still holds relevance.

Courtesy: India Today, dt. 10.11.2023