Diwali, aka ‘the festival of lights’, is notoriously celebrated by Hindus all over the world.
But why exactly do they celebrate it?
To put it plainly and simply they mark this special day in honour of Rama and Sita and their long-awaited return to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile and the defeat of the evil demon king, Ravana. Lamps are also lit to help the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, find her way into people’s homes.
But unbeknownst by many, Diwali is not just exclusive to Hinduism. In fact Jains celebrate it too, in recognition of Lord Mahavir’s attainment of freedom from reincarnation. Buddhists remember Emperor Ashoka and how he converted to Buddhism on this day. And Sikhs also celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas, to commemorate Guru Hargobind’s (the 6th Guru’s) release of 52 princes from imprisonment by the tyrannical Emperor Jahangir.
So how is Diwali typically celebrated?
Whenever October/November time rolls around, you’ll find that Diwali is marked by a succession of grand fireworks displays, the lighting of candles, people dressing up to the nines in beautiful Indian attire, getting together with family and then filling their stomachs with the most delicious sweet and savoury dishes.
This year however, things will be a little different, well for Sikhs any way.
Today Sikhs all over the world will be observing a ‘Black Diwali’, meaning that there will be no candles or fireworks displays in their celebrations owing to recent incidents of sacrilege in Punjab. By this I’m referring to the multiple cases that have come to light in the last month or so in which copies of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj (their Holy Book) were found ripped apart in various Gurdwaras (temples) across Punjab. Upon discovering this, a number of Sikh locals began protesting in defiance of the disrespect and lack of counter-action taken by Punjab’s Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal. Local police officers made the decision to halt protesters by haphazardly opening fire, killing two men and injuring many more in the process, which as you can imagine has done nothing but to fuel the already tempestuous flames of hostility in the North-Indian state. And now protesters are demanding that those guilty of desecrating the 11th Guru are arrested and also that compensation be paid to the families of the two men who lost their lives at the hands of the police.
As a result, out of respect, the entire Sikh congregation worldwide has united and agreed to refrain from the usual celebrations and will instead reflect upon the gravity of what has been occurring in Punjab. After the ‘Black Diwali’ of 1984, this will be the third time that there will be no celebrations of Diwali at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.