Diwali this year is being celebrated on the 4th November by millions of Sikhs, Hindus and Jains around the world. In essence it is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness and each religion marks different historical events and stories. It is observed through the lighting of diyas (small earthenware lamps filled with oil) which are placed around the home and in temples whilst some may adorn their homes with rangoli, consisting of elaborate designs made of coloured rice, sand or flower petals.
HINDUISM AND THE MEANING OF DIWALI
Hindus celebrate Diwali over 5 days and each day is marked by different events. It celebrates the royal homecoming of Lord Rama (along with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman) to the city of Ayodhya after defeating Lord Ravana, the 10-headed king of the demons after a 14-year exile. It marks the awakening of good over evil, the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Hindus also celebrate the day as when Mother Goddess Durga destroyed a demon called Mahisha. During the 5 days, Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) will be the focus of worship to seek blessings for wealth and prosperity with families exchanging gifts, feasting, wearing new clothes and going to the mandir for prayer.
SIKHISM AND THE MEANING OF DIWALI – BANDI CHHOR DIWAS (Prisoner Release Day)
Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Diwas as this is the occasion of the return of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji, who was freed from imprisonment in 1619. When he was granted release from prison, he refused to leave until 52 Hindu political prisoners were also released by Emperor Jahangir. The Emperor agreed as long as they could hold onto Guruji’s robe. So Guruji had a robe made with 52 tails, allowing all of the political prisoners to leave with him. When Guruji and the released prisoners arrived home to Amritsar it coincided with the Hindu festival of Diwali which has resulted in a similarity of celebrations amongst Sikhs and Hindus. It is a time for Sikhs to celebrate a time when ‘right’ prevailed over ‘wrong’ as many of the political prisoners at the time had been held without trial, jailed by brutal force and held against their wishes. Sikhs will go to the gurdwara and remember Guruji through prayer and meditation. They will also light divas and set off fireworks which is the traditional manner of celebrating the ‘Festival of Lights’.
JAINISM AND DIWALI
For the Jain community, the festival commemorates the enlightenment and final liberation (moksha) of Mahavira, the most recent of the Jain Tirthankaras, from the cycle of life and death (samsara). The lighting of the lamps celebrates the light of Mahavira’s holy knowledge. Diwali marks the start of a New Year for Jains and they will decorate with lights and diyas as they are symbolic of knowledge and removal of ignorance. Some Jains will observe fasting and devotees will chant prayers and mantras to pray to Mahavira.
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4 November 2021