To read the reading of the Sikh story of Diwali and to think about how we can apply the principles in the story to our lives. The Sikh New Year occurs in April, but they too observe this popular festival of Diwali in ways very similar to Hindus. In Sikh homes, divas are lit, presents are exchanged and children enjoy fireworks and bonfires.
These festivities are used by Sikhs, however, not to remember the victory of Rama and Sita over evil, as is the case with Hindus: Sikhs use the festival to celebrate an important event in Sikh history, which actually happened at the time when Hindus were celebrating Diwali.
The Festival Story – GURU HARGOBIND
In the days of the fifth Guru Arjan, times were hard for Sikhs living in northern India. The Muslim emperor who ruled over India was called Jehangir; he arrested Arjan, who died while still the emperor’s prisoner. Arjan’s son, Hargobind, took over the leadership of the Sikhs in 1606. He established friendly relations with the emperor for a time since they both happened to be found hunting. It was not long, however before Hargobind was suspected of treachery because he had gathered an army together and constructed a fort in the city of Amritsar which later was to become the famous centre of Sikhism. Hargobind’s enemies told the emperor that the Guru was calling himself a king and was planning revenge for his father’s death. As a result, Guru Hargobind was imprisoned in a fortress at Gwalior.
At this time there were fifty-two Hindu princes being held in the same prison. They were badly treated and given little food because they had conspired against the emperor. Hargobind gladly shared with them whatever food he was given. Sikhs used to come to the prison every day. They were not allowed to see their leader so they simply stood outside the prison walls and prayed. This protest went on day after day and, each day, there seemed to be more and more Sikhs standing silently outside the fortress. Eventually, the emperor was told of this protest at the prison and he decided to investigate personally the charges against Hargobind. Finally he pronounced that the Guru was innocent and ordered his release: officers were sent to tell Hargobind that he could leave as a free man.
When the fifty-two princes heard the news, they were pleased for the Guru but felt rather sorry for themselves for there was no suggestion that they would be released and they would now be denied the extra food, to supplement their poor diet, which Hargobind had passed on to them.