Diwali

Charnjit Singh Bal

Word Diwali is the Punjabi version of the Sanskrit/Hindi word Deepavali or Deepmala a derivatives of the word Deep that means source of light, i.e. lamp. The Punjabi version of the word Deep is Diwa (pronounced as Deewa) from which the word Diwali originated. Deepavali or Diwali is primarily a religious and socio-cultural festivity day for the Hindus and the Sikhs. The Hindus observe the Diwali by supplicating to the Wealth and prosperity goddess, called Lakhmi, Lashmi or Lakshmi and illuminating lamps or lights, shooting fire works and feasting on sweets.

The Hindu festival of Deepavali dates back to the prehistoric period i.e. circa 5th or 6th millennium BC when the Hindu god-king Rama is said to have returned with his wife Sita, (Seeta) whom he had rescued from Sri Lankaís king Ravanaís captivity. The Hindu populace of Ramís kingdom celebrated the triumphant occasion by lighting rows and rows of earthen oil lamps (Deepavali).

According to Ramayana [the Hindu mythology] legend, Sri Lankaís evil King Ravana cunningly abducted Hindu god-King Ramís beautiful wife Sita. The god-king Rama is said to have had a bridge built, linking Southeastern tip of India with northwestern tip of Sri Lanka and waged war and defeated King Ravana with the help of the Hindu monkey-god Hanuman and his army of monkeys. According to unconfirmed information, debris of a bridge at a purported underwater location in the vicinity has been discovered and its picture published in a magazine recently.

According to another version of the same ancient mythological legend is that Sri Lankaís sagacious king Ravana abducted Sita because Ramís brother Lakshman had cutoff his beautiful sisterís nose, because he [Lakshman] was irked at her persistent proposals to marrying him. And the purported discovery of the bridge debris may just be a canard bandied around by the zealous Hindus.

The Sikhismís link to Diwali is comparatively much more recent. The Sikhs are said have started celebrating Diwali when Guru Har Gobind Sahib was released from Gawaliar fort circa 1612 A.D. According to intertwined history of the tyrannical Mogul dynasty that ruled India for two centuries, and Sikh Gurus, Guru Arjan Sahib was tortured and martyred in 1606 AD at the behest of zealous Mogul King Jahangir. Guruís successor, his juvenile son Hargobind had to choose between options; to let state-sponsored Jihad annihilate blossoming Sikhism along with Hinduism or to champion the cause of universal religious freedom. Against the overwhelming odds Guru chose the latter that entailed preparing Sikhs to thwart the genocidal attacks on universal religious freedom. Jahangir misconstrued Guruís resolve to defend universal religious freedom as a threat to Jihad and/or his tyrannical autocratic rule. He imprisoned the guru in the Gawaliar fort in circa 1610 A.D.

Since, as per Sikhismís salient tenet, Ďevery day is an auspicious dayí the Sikhs consider the festival of Diwali as a socio-cultural occasion with historical significance. However, since the Diwali Day is a holiday in India and it coincides with the Halloween week in the western world, the Sikhs avail the opportunity to congregate at the Gurdwaras [Sikh Temples] for religious services. At homes they celebrate with special feasts, fireworks and lights.

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