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What do Diwali religious motifs signify?
In the ancient times, commonly, eight religious Diwali motifs were drawn or used as sacred objects for worship during the festival. They were Om, eight-petal lotus, Swastika, trident, conch, foot-steps, earthen lamp, and Shri. They signified deep spirititual and religious concepts and divine attributes of various deities.

However, the tradition has disappeared and Diwali has been converted into festival of merry making, exchange of gifts, letting off crackers and show off through commercial decoration.

There is a need to revisit the sacred Diwali mofits and understanding their meanings and significance. Om is the sacred sound symbol that represents the ultimate reality or Brahman. It is often prefixed to all Vedic mantras and prayers as the Divine primordial vibration. It is believed that pronunciation of Aum moves through all possible human linguistic vowel sounds.

Swastika is a symbol for auspiciousness, benevolence, good wishes, noble actions, wholeness, progress and stability. It also represents respect for diversity but primarily describes the four directions, the four Vedas and their harmonious whole. It is a Sanskrit word originating from svasti, meaning good fortune and well-being.

The eight-petal lotus is associated with detached life, purity of mind and the creation theology as well as the gods Vishnu, Brahma, Saravati and Lakshmi. As Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, "One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water." Thus the spiritual significance of lotus is that we should live in the world in order to gain release from rebirth by following a life without attachment to the sense objects of the world.

The conch shell is a major Hindu article of prayer and stands for knowledge. It is blown during worship with bells to spread the message of self-knowlege.

The trishula or trident is the emblem of the god Shiva to treat death as natural and hence divine. It symbolizes irresistible force of transcendental reality with its three prongs as creation, life and destruction. It is also associated with three human potentials called will, action and wisdom to be developed through conscious self-effort.

Shri symbol stands for abundance, affluence, grace and accomplishment. It has been used since Vedic times. Holiness is attached to the word when written or spoken. It is also the sacred symbol of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

The lighted earthen lamp while worshiping symbolizes the dispelling of ignorance and awakening of the inner self. The oil and the wick keep its glow soft to make the ambiance serene.

Drawing the Shripada or footprints of Lakshmi on Diwali symbolises Goddess Lakshmi entering the house. On the day of Lakshmi Puja, it is believed that if these auspicious footprints are drawn  then Goddess Lakshmi blesses the household with wealth and wisdom.

If you are celebrating Diwali as sobre religious and spiritual event, draw the eight symbols and light an earthen lamp at the centre. Sit quietly and dwell on the values, noble attributes and meanings they stand for.

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