Why do We Light a Lamp ?

In almost every hindu home a lamp is lit daily before prayer.Hindu Dharma gives a lot of importance to a lamp. We would have come across many occasions where a ceremonious lamp has been lit. Even an average individual can feel divine presence after lightening a lamp.In sanskrit,a Lamp is known as Deepa or Deepam. The basic form of the word is √Deep which means to shine.A lamp has its own special place in Sanatan Vaidik Hindu Dharma. It is a form and a symbol of Tej (Absolute fire principle). It burns to give a message of peace and light to mankind. It is said that Goddess Rajarajeshwari resides in a lamp – she represents the combined form of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

A Deepam is said to remove darkness from the mind and heart of a person. A oil deepam signifies the light of knowledge, which dispels the darkness of ignorance. It shines itself and causes the objects around it, to shine due to its reflection. Fire is at the middle of the five elementsEarth,Water,Fire,Air,Space-and gives them power as well.According to the hindu mythology, There are four Sandhyas or juncture-deepam

  • One at Dawn
  • Another in the Midday
  • One at dusk
  • One at Midnight

Since the sun shines brilliantly in the midday, no additional lamp is required at that time. But, at the other two sandhyas, an additional lamp is required.Oil lamps were a part of various traditions and cultures of the world, until electric lights became popular. The earliest known oil lamp can be dated back to the Chalcolithic Age, about 4500 to 3300 BC. Today, their use is limited to only a few homes, more often only for visual appeal.Today you have electric lights so you may wonder why a lamp. But imagine just a few hundred years ago, there was no possibility of doing anything indoors without a lamp. Historically, a lamp was an essential part of our homes because of two reasons.

  • There were no electric lights.
  • Homes were built from organic materials so people couldn’t afford to open up huge windows.Generally, the houses in ancient times were dark inside.

Implied Meaning of Lighting a Ceremonious Lamp

  • Lighting a lamp amounts to awakening the atmajyoti (Glow of the soul) withinoneself.
  • The serene aura around the lamp represents the atmaprakash (Light of the soul).
  • The Raja-predominant light of the lamp represents the atmatej (Radiance of the soul).
  • Atmatej is symbolic of the activated sagun (Materialised)-shakti (Energy) of God.
  • Atmaprakash symbolizes the functional Sankalp-shakti (Energy of resolve) of God behind the Tej (Absolute Fire Principle).

All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of a lamp, which is often maintained throughout the occasion.Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness. Lord is the “Knowledge Principle” (Chaitanya) who is a source, the enliven-er and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself.

Activation of the Sankalp-Shakti of God

When any function is commenced by lighting of a lamp, with the help of atmajyoti, the required Deity Principle is invoked from Universe and a prayer is offered to the waves of the Deity. This activates God’s Sankalp-shakti and the task is successfully accomplished.


Creation of a protective sheath around the venue

Due to the movement of the Raja particles emitted by the flame of a lamp, the nirgun (Non-materialised) kriya-lahari (Waves of action) of God from the Universe get converted into Sagun Raja-predominant kriya-lahari and the strength of Kriya-shakti of God helps in the formation of a protective sheath of these kriya-lahari in the environment around us.

Thus, by lighting a lamp, in a way we purify the premises. Due to the circular radiant waves emanating from this protective sheath and circular motion of the flame,negative energies cannot enter the venue. Thus, the desired task is accomplished with Divine blessings and without any obstruction.
Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Knowledge is a lasting
inner wealth by which all outer achievements can be accomplished. Hence we light a lamp
to bow down to knowledge and accept the fact that knowledge is the greatest of all forms of wealth.

Why not Light a Bulb or Tube Light ? Why Light a Deepam?

A bulb or tube light too would remove darkness. But the traditional oil lamp has a spiritual significance. Our relationship with light is as old as our beginnings. We’ve always been drawn towards light. It stands for auspiciousness, prosperity and abundance. Light brings brightness.In doing so, it dispels darkness and we begin to see things clearly.The oil or ghee in a lamp symbolizes our vaasanas or negative tendencies and the wick, symbolizes ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas get exhausted and the ego too perishes into nothing.

A priest strikes a matchstick with a flourish and lights a lamp filled with ghee or oil, all the while reciting the following shloka:

Shubham karoti kalyaanam aarogyam dhanasampadaha
Shatru buddhi Vinashaya, deepajyotih namostute 

Meaning: “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.”

Then he waves his hand, signalling that the ceremony can now begin. The occasion at hand could be a wedding, the naming of a newborn, a housewarming ritual or a thanksgiving ritual.

Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray:

Deepajyothi Parabrahma
Deepa Sarva Tamopahaha
Deepena Saadhyate Saram
Sandhyaa Deepo Namostute

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

The following shlokas,are often chanted while lighting a deepam:

Deepajyotih param brahma deepajyotih janaardhanah
Deepo harathu me paapam sandhyaa deepo namo(a)stutae

Meaning: The light of the lamp stands for the Unmanifested Truth as well as for Lord Vishnu in His manifested form. Let that light of lamp remove my sins.

Suvarna vriddhim kurumae gruhae shri
Sudhaanya vriddhim kurumae gruhae shri
Kalyaana vriddhim kurumae gruhae shri
Vibhoothi vriddhim kurumae gruhae shri

Meaning: I pray to Goddess Lakshmi to shower my house with abundance, grains, auspiciousness and prosperity.

Keetaa pathangaa mas(h)akaashcha vrikshaaha
Jalae sthalae ae nivasanthu jeevaaha
Dhrishtvaa pradeepam na cha janma bhaajo
Bhavanthi nithyam svachaahi vipraaha

Meaning: 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.

A lamp’s flame is fed on the oil of clear devotion and enlivened by the breeze of intense love and contemplation on the Lord. 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 lighting other lamps. This shows that our knowledge does not decrease when we share it with others. The clarity and conviction increases on giving it and thus the giver and receiver are both benefitted. A better, more beautiful explanation for lighting a deepam, cannot be given !

In Buddhist monasteries and during Buddhist festivals, small brass lamps filled with yak butter are lit to help the seeker meditate. Light from the lamps removes darkness and is a metaphor for the transformation involved in the quest for enlightenment

In Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism, lighting candles and lamps signify the presence of Divine. In the Quran, there is a chapter devoted to the importance of the inner spiritual light that connects the pious and the faithful to Allah, the Most Merciful.

In Kalika Purana the importance of lamp is narrated by Shiva to Parvati as,

दीपेन लोकान् जयति दीपस्तेजोमयः स्मृतः । चतुर्वर्गप्रदो दीपस्तस्माद्दीपं यजेत् प्रिये ॥
Deepena lokan jayati dipastejomaya smrutah chaturvargaprado deepastasmaddeepam yajet priye

Meaning: Due to a lamp we can obtain victory over people. Lamp is lustrous. It is the giver of Darma, artha, kama and moksha. Hence O dear, lamp should be lighted.

It is symbolism.It is a way of invoking your own inner nature.

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