Saturday, October 21, 2006
Diwali means festival of lights (from Sanskrit dipamala or dipavall meaning row of lamps or nocturnal illumination), is observed all over India on amavasyia, the last day of the dark half of the lunar month of Kartika (October-November). Like other seasonal festivals, Diwali has been celebrated since time immemorial.

The festival is usually linked with the return to Ayodhya of Lord Rama at the end of his fourteen-year exile. For the Hindus it is also an occasion for the worship of Laksmi, the goddess of good fortune, beauty and wealth. Among the Sikhs, Diwali came to have special significance from the day the town of Amritsar was illuminated on the return to it of Guru Hargobind (1595-1644), who had been held captive in the Fort at Gwalior under the orders of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir (1570-1627) .

Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, was freed from imprisonment in the famous fort of Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir in October, 1619. The reason for the young Guru’s imprisonment was no more than religious bigotry. The Guru’s father, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, had been martyred for the same reason. According to Sikh tradition, the Guru agreed to be freed only if the other Indian chiefs (rajahs) imprisoned with him were freed. Jahangir was under pressure from moderate but influential Muslim religious leaders like Hazrat Mian Mir, a friend of the Guru. So he relented grudgingly and ordained, "Let those rajahs be freed who can hold on to the Guru’s coat tails and walk out of prison". He had in mind no more than four or five being freed with the Guru. However, the Guru was not to be outmanoeuvred in this way. He asked for a special coat to be made with 52 coat tails - same number as the rajahs in prison with him! And so the rajahs were freed and the Guru became known popularly as the "Bandi Chhor" (Deliverer from prison). He arrived at Amritsar on the Diwali day and the Har Mandar (now known as the "Golden Temple") was lit with hundreds of lamps i.e. he was received in the same way as the Lord Rama and the day came to be known as the "Bandi Chhor Divas" (the day of freedom).

Bhai Gurdas in his Varan, XIX. 6, has drawn an image of lamps lighted on the night of Diwali like the stars, big and small, twinkling in the firmament going out one by one bringing home to the gurmukh, one who’s face is enlightened by the Guru’s grace, turned towards the Guru, i.e. he who is attached to the Guru, how transitory the world is."

This Shabad is by Bhai Gurdaas Ji in Vaars Bhai Gurdaas on Pannaa 19

dheevaalee dhee raath dheevae baaleeani thaarae jaath sanaath a(n)bar bhaaleeani fulaa(n) dhee baagaath chun chun chaaleeani theerathh jaathee jaath nain nihaaleeani har cha(n)dhuree jhaath vasaae ouchaaleeani guramukh sukhafal dhaath shabadh samhaaleean

Lamps are lighted in the night of divali festival; Stars of different variety appear in the sky; In the gardens the flowers are there which are selectively plucked; The pilgrims going to pilgrimage centres are also seen. The imaginary habitats have been seen coming into being and vanishing. All these are momentary, but the gurmukhs with the help of the Word nourish the gift of the pleasure fruit.

What do we learn from Bandi-Chhor Diwas?

52 Hindu Kings were freed with Guru Sahib. Guru Sahib could have left the Fort when he was offered the chance. However, Guru Ji thought of others before himself. Others freedom and rights were more important than his own. Guru Ji is always thinking not of his emancipation but everyone's emancipation. This is the attitude and virtue which Guru Ji filled within his Sikhs, by putting into reality this positive message.

The Sikhs on this day, hold a one-day celebration in the Gurdwaras. So in the evening, illuminations are done with Deewé (earthen oil lamps) or candles and fireworks. The celebrations are held both in the Gurdwaras and in homes.

Posted by Puneet Kaur at 12:22 PM | Permalink | 6 comments
Thank God for this day!!!

Over the years I’ve come to see that the excitement & fervor that use to accompany festivals like Diwali has died down.Some people simply want to party, spend lavishly without actually giving a thought to the significance of the day; while others want to lead a simple life with their loved ones, thanking God while lighting candles..

I came across an article in the newspaper this morning that actually shook me but also made me happy at the thought, how much faith and love people showed for God even in times of difficulty…

Here is the article..
‘A special Diwali for blast survivors’

“Where is the money to celebrate Diwali”, Shivkumar Sharma snapped at his wife. Prabha didn’t shout back. She waited for us to ask our next question and then yell it for Sharma to hear. The Mumbai train blasts of July 11th had left the Malad resident almost deaf, besides injuring his right arm and head.

Prabha knew her husband’s frustration was only natural. He has a family of six to look after but has not gone back to the welding factory in Girgaum since the blasts. “We have been living off my meagre savings”, Sharma, 48, said. But Sharma mellowed down soon enough. He knew how much his boys wanted crackers for Diwali.

For the Sharmas, Diwali meant Laxmi puja, new clothes, lots of crackers and new jewellery. “We used to buy crackers in bulk. But this year, we will only pray. We have to thank God for saving my husband", Prabha said.

While Sharma hopes to work after Diwali, he dreads having to go on the train. “Even the Diwali crackers upset me. I know the boys will be upset this Diwali, “ said Sharma.

Ask the boys. “This will be our biggest Diwali. We will celebrate it like never before since father is with me and my family", said Girish, Sharma’s 19 year old son.

The neighbours, the Chavans will agree. Their 21 year old son was paralysed in the blasts but the family is looking forward to celebrate Diwali. There won’t be crackers but heart-felt prayers. “I will do the Diwali puja with all my heart and thank God that I am alive“, said Chavan, strapped to a wheelchair.
“My mother has always encouraged me to look ahead. She constantly reminds me that this is just a passing phase and things will be fine again. Laxmi puja this year will be like every other year”, he said.

I guess it’s the way we handle things… we can live life, walk the difficult paths with a smile or with a frown.. frowning or thinking over things wont make things easier for us…as Guru Nanak Dev Ji so beautifully says in Japji Sahib “Sochey Soch Naa Hovayee Je Sochi Lakh Vaar…”

There is so much to thank Guru Maharaj for... a wonderful & loving family, friends...without whom life would be difficult to imagine... for happiness & blessed times...and for being loved and much much more...

Posted by Puneet Kaur at 11:56 AM | Permalink | 2 comments
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