By Ninder Kaur
Diwali, the five day Hindu festival of lights, represents the start of the Hindu New Year. It is a time for reflecting, cleansing and celebrating the victory of light over darkness-making it a very sacred event in the Hindu calendar.
This year, the festival falls today on Thursday 23rd October and will be celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs across the district.
What is Diwali?
The word Diwali translates to ‘a row of lights’. The festival honours the victory of good over evil and also marks the start of winter. It also marks the happy return of lord Rama to Ayodhya after fourteen year’s exile. Traditions can be traced back as far as 500-100 AD. As a whole, the festival is a joyous, colourful occasion full of excitement.
How is Diwali celebrated?
Traditionally, families would light candles, leaving them outsides their houses overnight so that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, can find her way safely into their home. The tradition implies that the more candles a family would light, the easier it would be for Lakshmi to find her way into their homes.
More so now, the festivities include decorating public spaces and homes with lights and fireworks displays. Also, cultural activities such as spring cleaning and decorating homes with rangoli (Hindu folk art) occur. The sharing of food and exchanging of gifts amongst family and friends also takes place.
What is eaten at Diwali?
As with many festivals and celebrations, food plays a major part and Diwali is no different. Families prepare and plan important Diwali delicacies and sweets days before the festivities take place. Desserts are a highlight of every Indian festival and with mithai being a popular favourite it is eaten throughout the five day celebration of Diwali.
The Sikhism celebrations of Diwali
Sikhs celebrate Diwali after celebration of Bandi Chorh Divas(Prisoners’ Release Day) . For Sikhs, the day marks the return of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, who was freed from imprisonment in 1619. The guru, along with 52 innocent Princes had been held captive in the Fort at Gwalior under the orders of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir for political reasons. In the Sikh struggle for freedom from the oppressive Mughal regime, the festival of Bandi Chorh Divas has become the second most important day after the Vaisakhi festival. Ever since then, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chorh Divas, with the annual lighting up of the Golden Temple, fireworks and other festivities.
Sikhs celebrate the day by going to the Gurdwara to worship where a Nagar Kitan (a street procession) and an Akhand paath (a continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib) would take place. They also set off fireworks, light candles and decorate their homes and buildings with lights whilst exchanging gifts and sweets.
Happy Diwali to all! We hope you have a safe and wonderful day!