A Ph.D. fellow based at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi (India), has written an article claiming that Diwali is not a Hindu festival.
According to the article published in The Print, Neo-Buddhists claim that this day “marked the completion of 84,000 stupas by King Ashoka.”
“Deep Daan Utsav is the acknowledgement by Neo-Dalit Buddhists of King Ashoka’s effort to revive Buddhism in India.”
The day, Karthik Amavasya was celebrated by the lighting of deep (lamps) and giving dana (grain) to Buddha Bhikkhus.
The author cites Dr. Vijay Kumar Trisharan who has argued that Deep Daan Utsav, which is now the popular Hindu festival of Diwali, was “actually a festival of the Mulnivasi, who were Buddhists.”
Dr. Trisharan further claims that “Brahminical forces appropriated the festival, thereby diminishing the Buddhist ideology.”
The author points to the celebration of Deep Daan Utsav among Buddhist Bahujan communities in India today as a process of claiming back “something that has been shunned from mainstream historiography, which never acknowledged the contestation between myth and history.”
“The practices include lighting up houses, listening to Buddhist verses, visiting viharas, donating to Bhikkhus, etc. These practices are attempts by the Bahujans to revive and claim historical glorification.
The significance lies in tracing the history of Buddha and Ashoka, which is an anti-caste practice of thinking about a casteless society that Buddhist philosophy discussed.”
In the Indian community, Diwali is considered an important festival in Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.
The name of the festival is derived from the Sanskrit term Deepavali which means “row of lights.”
The lighting of the lamps, decorating temples, fireworks, and distributing sweets to celebrate the light of Mahavira, Buddha, and Guru Hargobind’s holy knowledge.
In North India, Hindus celebrate the homecoming of Bhagwan Rama along with Devi Sita, Prince Lakshmana, and Bhagwan Hanuman to the city of Ayodhya after defeating King Ravana. While in South India the festival marks Bhagwan Krishna’s defeat of the demon Narakasura.
Readers of the Print have questioned the logic and timing of publishing Kalyani’s “nonsense” piece on the day of Diwali. They have asked the Print to “apologize and withdraw this piece” that targets Hindus.