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Monday, August 1, 2011

Why do we light a lamp?

In almost every Indian home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord.  In some houses it
is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day – at dawn and dusk – and in a few it is maintained
continuously - Akhanda Deepa.  All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of the
lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion.  

Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness - ignorance.  The Lord is the "Knowledge Principle"
(Chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge.  Hence
light is worshiped as the Lord himself.  

Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness.  Also knowledge is a lasting
inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished.  Hence we light the lamp
to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.  

Why not light a bulb or tube light?  That too would remove darkness.  But the traditional oil
lamp has a further spiritual significance.  The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas
or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego.  When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas
get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes.  The flame of a lamp always burns
upwards.  Similarly we should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals.  

Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray:

Deepajyothi parabrahma
Deepa sarva tamopahaha
Deepena saadhyate saram
Sandhyaa deepo namostute

I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp; whose light is the Knowledge Principle (the Supreme
Lord), which removes the darkness of ignorance and by which all can be achieved in life

Contributed by Mr. Murlidhar Chaturvedi

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