In every Hindu household it is customary to light the deepam ( lamp) twice, both in the morning and evening. This is usually done in the prayer room before the deity. Our daily worship starts with the lighting of the lamp. All auspicious functions, religious as well as social, start with the lighting of the lamp. This custom has deep intellectual and spiritual significance. Primarily deepam signifies knowledge. All our activities should be governed by the light of knowledge, especially the knowledge of dharma. By this knowledge, ignorance or darkness is dispelled. We bow to knowledge which is the greatest wealth in our lives. Knowledge also backs our good as well as bad actions. So, the lamp which is kept lit for all auspicious occasions, is a witness to our thoughts and actions. Chinmayananda says “Where there is light, darkness cannot be; Where knowledge has come, ignorance must quit.” The following shlokas, chanted while lighting a deepam, say it all. 1 - Deepajyotih param brahma deepajyotih janaardhanah Deepo harathu me paapam sandhyaa deepo namo(a)stutae The light of the lamp stands for the Unmanifest Truth as well as for Lord Vishnu in His manifest form. Let that light of lamp remove my sins, results of omissions and commissions. 2 - Shubham karoti kalyaanam aarogyam dhanasampadaha Shatru buddhi vinaas(h)aaya deepajyotih namo(a)stutae I salute the Supreme who is the light in the lamp that brings auspiciousness, prosperity, good health, abundance of wealth and the destruction of Intellect’s enemy. 3 - Suvarna vriddhim kurumae gruhae shri Sudhaanya vriddhim kurumae gruhae shri Kalyaana vriddhim kurumae gruhae shri Vibhoothi vriddhim kurumae gruhae shri I pray to Goddess Lakshmi to shower my house with abundance, grains, auspiciousness and prosperity. 4 - Keetaa pathangaa mas(h)akaashcha vrikshaaha Jalae sthalae ae nivasanthu jeevaaha Dhrishtvaa pradeepam na cha janma bhaajo Bhavanthi nithyam svachaahi vipraaha Learned people say that by seeing the brightly lit deepam, insects, birds, reptiles, trees and plants, all living things residing in water and light can be permanently liberated from bondages due to that particular janma. The flame is fed on the oil of clear devotion and enlivened by the breeze of intense love of contemplation on the Lord. The wick is the intellect strengthened by impressions of strivings to cultivate the right values. This is the spiritual significance of a deepam compared to an electric light which can only remove darkness. Like the flame burning upwards, our knowledge must take us towards higher ideals. With a single deepam, we can light many more lights. But the original lamp does not diminish when helping to light others. This shows that our knowledge does not decrease when we share it with others. The clarity and conviction increase on giving and so the giver and receiver are both benefitted. A better, more beautiful explanation for lighting a deepam, cannot be given ! Let us not overly bother about whether we should light 2 or 5 faces, use oil or ghee – these are all minor things and to one’s liking and convenience. Let me close with a beautiful quote of Swami Chinmayananda: Which else shall beautify a home But the flame of a lovely lamp Which else shall adorn the mind But the light of wisdom deep ? Love & regards, Chithra. The photo of a deepam is posted below.