The lamp has its own special place in Gujarati traditions as it represents leading us from darkness into the light. While the oil lamp is more prevalent than one lit with ghee (Clarified Butter) because it burns longer, because ghee is extracted from the milk of cows, considered sacred, and ghee is the purest form of the butter, it goes to be that ghee embodies the highest qualities, making it very different from oil.
One daily spiritual practice in the Gujarati tradition in most homes is to light diya (lamps) in the mornings and evenings to purify the home and the heart. Dawn and Dusk are the two ‘sandhyas”, or joints of the day between light and dark. The light itself symbolizes knowledge and enlightenment.
These special lamps lit are filled with cotton wick and ghee or peanut or sesame oil. According to the science of spirituality, lamps that burn ghee attract more sattvik (spiritually pure energy) to calm our minds than those lamps which burn oil. Ghee lamps attract it from a wider circumference and continue to attract it longer than lamps, which burn oil. It is said that when the lamp stops burning the predominance of raja particles in the atmosphere is enhanced for a half an hour from an oil lamp and over four hours from a ghee lamp. This is a big difference. Some believe the light from a ghee lamp brings in prosperity too. Most definitely it eliminates darkness, ignorance and evil. Meditating on the ghee lamp flame clears our vision as in Ayurveda it is said that if you meditate on the flame for two to three minutes at a time, it actually strengthens and cleanses the physical eyes.
Some families involve children in this lamp lighting ritual by making it part of their daily chores. Children can take turns lighting the diya. Other families will sit down together in the evening with instruments such as the harmonium, tabla, or manjira (cymbals)…and clap along doing Aarti (daily prayers). Some enhance the ritual by lighting agarbati (incense) alongside the divas to purify the house and bring in more positive energy.
According to some, ghee allows you to communicate with Gods and goddess, oil allows you to communicate with your ancestors but candles allow you to communicate with evil spirits (so people using black magic use candles versus using diya, as is seen in some Bollywood movies)
Personally, I believe any gesture of devotion, appreciation and surrender done with a pure, clean heart, reaches the universe, regardless of the method you use.
If you light a ghee lamp and your heart is filled with bad thoughts and deeds, then how will you talk to God?
Lightness is a symbol of knowledge and it allows us to remove the ignorance of darkness. One of my favorite Gujarati school prayers from childhood embodies this in such a lovely way.
Astyo mahe thi…prabhu param….
Dear God take us to light of knowledge from this darkness of ignorance!
Asatyo mahe this prbhu param satye tu lai ja, Unda andhare thi prabhu param teje tu lai ja.
Maha mrityu mathi amrut samipe naath lai ja. Tuhino hu chu to tujh darshan na daan dai ja…
Prabhu antaryami jeevan jeev na din sharano… pita mata bandhu anupam sakha hit karano.
Prabha kirti kanti, dhan vaibhav saravasva jan na. Namu chu vandu chu vimal mukh swami jagat no.
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