Diwali at Golden Temple

Diwali at Golden Temple

A Punjabi adage eulogises the Diwali celebrations of Amritsar: Dal roti ghar di, Diwali Amritsar di (home cooked food and Amritsar’s Diwali have no parallels).Gigantic firecrackers are burst by specialists designated as aatishbazi. Golden temple is tasefully decorated with colorful lights. There is no holding back with the celebrations of Diwali at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The festival of lights lives true to its name at the Golden Temple as tens of thousands of devotees gather in and around the temple complex for one of India’s largest celebrations. The entire complex is draped in lights and it is quite a sight to behold when the lights came on.

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Diwali in Sikh History

Gwalior Fort

For Sikhs, the reason for celebration of Diwali is the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib in 1619. The sixth Guru of Sikh's, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was unjustly imprisoned by Jahangir for his beliefs along with 52 kings and princes.

When the emperor realised his folly, he ordered Guru Ji's release. Guru ji refused the leave the prison unless other 52 princes were released as well. The Emperor agreed on condition that whoever could hold onto Guru Ji's cloak would be freed from the prison. Guru Ji had a cloak made with 52 pieces of string and thus each prince was able to hold onto one string and leave prison. Sikhs celebrated the return of Guru Hargobind Sahib by lighting the Golden Temple and this tradition continues to this date as Bandi Chhorh Divas.

Guru Hargobind Sahib

Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji became Guru on 25 May 1606 following in the footsteps of his father Guru Arjan Dev. He was the sixth Guru of the Sikhs. He was eleven at his father's execution. The following are the highlights from Guru Hargobind Sahib's life:
  • Transformed the Sikh fraternity by introducing martial arts and weapons for the defence of the masses following his father's martyrdom.
  • Militarised the Sikh movement – carried two swords of Miri and Piri.
  • Built the Akal Takht in 1608 – which is now one of five Takhts (Seats of Power) of the Sikhs.
  • Founded the city of Kiratpur in District Jalandhar, Punjab.
  • He was imprisoned in the fort of Gwalior for one year and on release insisted that 52 fellow prisoners be freed as well. To mark this occasion the Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas.
  • The first Guru to engage in warfare.
  • Fought four battles against the Mughal rulers.
  • The city Hargobindpur, in Majha region of Punjab, is named after him, which he won over from Mughals after defeating them in a battle.

Other Events Associated with Diwali

Martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh Ji

Bhai Mani Singh Ji

An important event associated with Diwali is the martyrdom of the elderly Sikh scholar and strategist Bhai Mani Singh. Bhai Mani Singh was the Granthi of Harmandir Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple). In 1733 when there was a price on the head of every Sikh, it was Bhai Mani Singh, the custodian of the Harmandir Sahib, a Saint-Soldier who had the courage to invite Sikhs to Amritsar for the celebration of Baisakhi and the celebration of the founding of the Khalsa. When Mughal military maneuvers caused the celebration not to be well attended and Bhai Mani Singh could not pay the fine the dues he had agreed to pay the Mughals (to legally hold the event) Bhai Mani Singh was ordered to convert to Islam. Refusing to give up his beliefs Bhai Mani Singh was dismembered joint by joint. The tale is told that when the executioner started to begin with his wrists, Bhai Mani Singh mockingly reminded the executioner of the sentence, reminding him of the joints in his hands.

Uprising against the Mughal Empire

Sarbhat Khalsa

The festival of Diwali became the second most important day after the Baisakhi when Khalsa was formally established by the Tenth Guru Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. The Sikh struggle against Mughal Empire's atrocities on non-Muslims, especially on Sikhs, which intensified in the 18th century, came to be centred around this day. After the execution of Banda Bahadur in 1716, who had led the agrarian uprising in Punjab, the Sikhs started the tradition of deciding matters concerning the community at the biennial meetings which took place at Amritsar on the first of Baisakh and at Diwali. These assemblies were known as the Sarbat Khalsa and a resolution passed by it became a gurmata (decree of the Guru).