Today is Diwali, popularly known as the “Festival of Lights”.
It is celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus (often jointly), although the historical origins of the festivals in their respective religions are different. In Sikhism, the festival commemorates the return of the 6th Sikh Guru Hargobind to the city of Amritsar after his imprisonment in Gwalior Fort by the Mughal emperor Jahangir, as the Golden Temple along with the whole city had been decorated with lamps to celebrate the Guru’s return. Sikhs also refer to Diwali as Bandi Chhor Diwas, meaning “Day of the Release of Prisoners”, as the Guru had arranged for 52 royal political prisoners to be simultaneously freed from the fort. A photograph of Diwali celebrations at the Golden Temple complex a couple of years ago is displayed at the top of this article.
North Indian Hindus in general celebrate Diwali primarily to mark the return of the Hindu deity Rama to the city of Ayodhya after his victory over Ravan, as described in the Ramayana. Many Hindus also celebrate the festival for a range of other reasons, including offering prayers to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi so that she blesses their families with prosperity during the following year. Public decorations of lights to mark the occasion are common worldwide wherever there are sizeable Hindu populations. Incidentally, last year Barack Obama was the first US president to personally celebrate Diwali in the White House.
Some suitable music:
A prayer by the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, as sung by Jagjit Singh. The video includes numerous scenes from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
An instrumental version of Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, performed by the late Indian Muslim classical musician Bismillah Khan. This was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite Hindu hymns, which is dedicated to Rama.
From the Akal Ustat, written by Guru Gobind Singh:
“Someone calls himself a Hindu, another a Turk, someone a Shia, another a Sunni. Recognise the whole of humanity as one race…..
He the One is the only God of us all: it is His Form, His Light that is diffused in all…..
The temple and the mosque are the same, the Hindu worship and the Muslim prayer are the same; all humans are the same, it is through error they appear different…..it is the one God who created all.
The Hindu God and the Muslim God are the same; let no man even by mistake suppose there is a difference.”
An ancient Hindu prayer:
“God, lead us from falsehood to truth;
From darkness to light;
From death to immortality;
God, let there be peace, peace, peace.”
Happy Diwali, everyone – and “Saal Mubarak” to Hindu readers who celebrate tomorrow as the New Year.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
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Filed in: Hindu,Religion,Sikh