The use of lights is a significant feature of various religions in various parts of the globe. This is a practice that dates back in time. This is connected to Light’s symbolism as the embodiment of life, knowledge, power, and happiness as against darkness, which stands for destruction, evil, and death. Since the beginning of religions, Light has always occupied a central role. Below is how this is seen in the various faiths from around the globe:
Light is venerated in Hinduism as a form of divine energy, and it is a major feature in the faith. Diwali (meaning ‘series or row of lights’) is one of the biggest and well-known festivals celebrated by Hindus. In this festival, Light stands for the victory of Light over the forces of darkness, triumph of good over evils, and knowledge superseding ignorance.
There is practically no Hindu home that you will enter and not see lamps lit daily or at various times during the day or in front of an altar. The clay lamp (better known as Diya) is used in several Hindu religious ceremonies and celebrations.
Ancient Roman and Greek Religions
The ancient Rome and Greece also featured sacred lights heavily in their religions. A good example is the Cult of Isis, in which the lamps were lighted in the daytime, and other temples had lights in place as special offerings to the deities.
Light in Christianity, right from the very beginning, had always stood for knowledge and the presence of divinity. Jesus Christ is called the true Light and the Light of this world. Several verses of the Bible made very specific references to Light, and the Almighty God is seen as Light and the source of all Light. Sacred candles are used as lights in various religious events.
In Orthodox Christianity, there is also the phenomenon of the Holy Fire (also called the Holy Light) and it is defined as a miracle that happens every year with the location being the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in what is called the Holy Saturday or the Great Saturday which is the day that precedes Orthodox Easter.
The adoption and usage of Light for religious purposes in Sikhism is very similar to Hinduism. Lamps are also lit by Sikhs for the celebration of Diwali, the massive festival of lights. Just like followers of the other Dharmic faiths, Sikhs also lit sacred lamps regularly.
Rituals and spiritual ceremonies by Buddhists involve the use of Light produced mainly by candles or butter lamps. Other items used include flowers and incense, all of which are placed before the images or renditions of Buddha or shrines in Buddhist temples. In Buddhism, Light is seen as the Light emanating from the teachings of Buddha. The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is carried out by Buddhists, and a lot of candles are used.
Jews make use of two Shabbat candles on the Friday evening that precedes the commencement of the celebration of the Sabbath every week. Once it is evening on Saturdays, there is a special and sacred candle with multiple wicks that are then braided. This lighted candle is used during the Havdalah religious ritual, and it marks the finishing of the Sabbath and commencement of a new week.
The followers of Wicca and other similar types of faiths make regular use of the candle on their altars. Light is used to signify the presence of the Ultimate Deity and the Goddess. There are also candles at the four corners of the ritual circle formed. These corners stand for the four classical elements in existence: water, air, earth, and fire.