Articles: Essays on Sikh
Values: Festival of Lights
Festival of Lights
Diwali is an important seasonal festival of India, it
falls mostly in November, and heralads the onset of winter. This is a festival
of lights and fireworks. It is celebrated with great fanfare. This is an
occasion for festivities, new clothes and for the exchange of sweets. For
many traders in India, this is the start of their accounting-year. Lot
of people gamble on this day as the mark of a good omen.
Sri Ram Chandar, Avtar
This day is the commemoration of the return of Shri Ram
Chandar from his exile from Ayodhya. He was to spend fourteen years in
the forests etc. This was in accordance with the dictates of his step mother
Kakkai so that her real son Bharat could be throned. Thus goes the story
that is about ten thousand years old. This is an important festival for
the Hindus. It is also a seasonal festival indicating onser of the winter.
Diwali in the Sikhs
The Sikhs celebrate Diwali with great enthusiasm. They
consider it a holy day. The Sixth Guru of the Sikhs Guru Hargobind was
released from the Gwalior Fort where he was the royal prisoner, and on
this day he reached Amritsar. On this night, this holy city is decorated
with lights, and an impressive fire work display is made in the Golden
Temple Complex which is one of the holiest Sikh religious seats. Akal Takht
- the Divine Throne, constructed by Guru Hargobind, is located in front
of Harimandir Sahib - Golden Temple. Kirtan - religious singing sessions,
and conferences are held. On this day, Amritsar is turned into a city of
jubiliation and millions pay obeisance in Harimandir.
Diwali and Baisakhi had been very importnt
in the Sikh world. On these days, the Sikhs gathered at Akal Takht as Sarbatt-Khalsa
(all the Sikhs) to take important decisions to direct the the Sikh world.
All the heads of the Sikh Missals (principalities) gathered here forgetting
their mutual animositie, and took unanimous decisions for their strategies
to protect and promote the faith and to unitedly fight opressors and for
the liberty. These decisions were a binding on every Sikh, and were religiously
Bhai Mani Singh decided to celebrate Diwali
at Darbar Sahib (Harimandir Sahib), Amritsar, and agreed to pay rupees
5,000. This was a huge amount in those days. Lakhpat Rai, under the directions
of Zakria Khan, attacked Harimandir Sahib Diwali night. Due to this attack,
Bhai Mani Singh failed to collect and pay the amount. Zakria Khan, Governor
Lahore, ordered to cut him joint by joint. Ahmed Shah Abdali destroyd this
holy place - source of the Sikh inspiration, agin and again.
Also read `Mani Singh,' `Ahmed Shah Abdali,' `Zakria Khan,'
and `Nadar Shah,' in `Betwen the Lines.'
The Sixth Guru Hargobind, who had a cavalry of two thousands,
went out hunting, encouraged war-games, had a Nakkarah (Nagara, kettledrum)
an ensign - the Sikh flag, and held his court. He conducted himself like
a king, and it was an irritant to the rulers.
Chandu, Prithi Chand and his son Meharban, and others
harbored animosity with the Guru. They kept instigating the Mogul Emperor
Jahangir who found that his murdering Guru Arjun father of Guru Hargobind,
had made Sikhs more bold rather than subjugating them.
King Jahangir invited the Guru through Wazir Khan and
Guncha Beg, to meet him at Delhi. The King was impressed to see him, but
the fear of the building up power of the Guru had upper hand, and he put
him under housearrest in the fort at Gwalior. Jahangir pretended that he
desired the Guru to stay at a secluded and calm place to pray for the relief
of his (King's) afflictions.
In the fort, fifty-two Rajas were as the prisoners. The
Guru had special arrangements for his food. He would give all his superior
rations to the Rajas and would himself eat the meals prepared by his ordinary
devotee. There is a memorial in the fort where the Guru used to pray. There,
the Sikhs occasionally, and Muslims pray every Thursday evening. (Macauliffe,
S.Chand & Co, New Delhi, 1963. Vol: IV, page 27).
Chaukian - the Sikh Vigils. The Sikhs were
distressed by the news of arrest of the Guru. Even the God fearing Muslims
had their resentment along with the Sikhs. To express their grief and concern
the Sikhs started Chaukiaan - circumambulation carrying torch lights, the
Sikh flags, and singing the Holy Hymns, around Harmandir Sahib and in the
city of Amritsar,. The Sikhs would go in batches from the Punjab, go around
the fort at Gwalior, bow in the direction of the Guru's residence and come
Release of the Guru - Saint
Mianmir had laid down the foundation stone of The Golden Temple. He was
a Muslim holyman and Jahangir had great faith in him. Jahangir's wife Noor
Jahan, was disciple of this holy man. She had influenced Jahangir not to
be so fanatic. Wazir Khan also revered the Sixth Guru. They both and other
right thinking people prevailed upon the King and got release orders for
the Guru. The Guru came out only when other fifty two Rajas under arrest
there, were allowed to come out with him, holding fifty tips of his long
Cholaa - cloak, and his hands. This Chola was specially prepared for this
pupose to fulfil the King's condition that all those who could hold the
Guru, would be allowed to go out. Since that day, the Guru came to be known
as “Bandi-Chhor” - the Deliverer. It was Diwali-day when he returned to
Amritsar, and it became an occasion of rejoicing for the Sikhs. The Guru
stayed in the fort for about two years.
The lights are the main stay of the festivals of many
religions. The Christmas too, is such a celebration. The light represents
God and so it is held in a very high esteem by everyone. Candles and oil
lamps are used in the worship by many faiths. The Bodhis burn rows of candles
before their deity. Almost the same way, it is in the churches of the Christians.
We celebrate the important religious day with lights and Diwali is one
of them. Of course now, the lights have mostly been replaced with electric