Until very recently, the late 20th century to be exact, Divali was celebrated by Sikhs in the same manner as Hindus. Divali, in fact, is a very old tradition that pre-dates the Vedas – recalling a time where Arya, coming from India, had dominion over the planet and indeed the solar system.
So it was deeply saddening to see ardent Sikhs desperate to make the Hindu (Indian) government see sense, and stop them labeling everyone a Hindu…a term which is now publicly acknowledged by Hindu academics to be a far worse pejorative than the ‘N’ word of north America, as it was used by Arabs and Persians to denote dwellers of old India prior to and after its conquest.
That the federal states of the Arya landmass stretched from Iceland to Moscow and from the top of Scandinavia to the north of Africa, and incorporated countless countries, languages, cultures, and independent histories that at times have been interwoven, does not mean that Hindus can now claim all dwellers within the artificial federal collective are Hindu…as if retrospectively adding Sikhs into the Hindu mix could repair the latter’s utter lack of self-worth and add a glamorous component.
It is the Hindu lack of self-worth that has led the Hindu Government to insist that Sikh marriage is a Hindu ceremony, and that Sikh culture, linguistics, rites, rituals, spirituality and divinity are Hindu too. It is insulting, abusive, and hurtful, and irrational to claim that my unique separate identity makes me a Hindu.
Therefore, speaking from a platform of free education and unfettered by Sikh material research, I can fully understand the Sikh demand for separation from the Hindu Government. Just to avoid the pain of being labelled Hindu, Sikhs have developed an entirely new – incorrect – calendar, attached to a solar cycle that utterly goes against the writing of their Guru Granthsahibji.
In their bid to escape the stigma of false identification as Hindu, Sikhs have also evolved a separate Divali festival. Divali for Sikhs now stands for freedom from oppression and incarceration. It has become rooted in the story of an illegally incarcerated person’s selfless demand to accept amnesty only if the same were extended to his fellow political prisoners. His jailor agreed that anybody who could hold on to his clothing would be freed along with him.
The innovative Sikh prisoner requested fresh clothes to wear ahead of his release from his lengthy prison sentence. His fellow Sikhs arrived with a newly sewn coat, which as his fellow prisoners gathered to bid him farewell they were encouraged to hold onto. Fifty-two prisoners were thus granted freedom.
How was this possible?
The Sikh prisoner requested that fifty-two very long tails be sewn into the coat’s natural design.
This Sikh is non other than the sixth Sikh Guruji, Guru Hargobindji; and his jailor Emperor Jahangir. The fifty-two prisoners released with him were royal heads of states. Some of their descendants went on to play a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in India’s independence.
The prison where Guruji was held was located in a garrison town called Gwalior, about 800km south of Amritsar. His journey back to Amritsar would have taken him anywhere from 80 to 100 days, whether on horseback or on foot. He would have traversed a mostly jungle- but also hilly terrain, marked by dirt roads in the best case scenario; and his entourage would have swelled and dwindled along the way, as it passed through various villages and towns.
Guruji’s estimated arrival in Amritsar would have been mid to late January. The event itself would have been marked with a comprehensive diva-lit welcome as was, and remains, the tradition of India.
Thus, for Sikhs, Divali is a longer event than just a one day festival. It begins at Divali as we generally know it, and culminates on the night of Guruji’s arrival at Darbarsahibji, Amritsar – a date which the panth through its research must eventually decide upon, and which will in future years herald the end of the Sikh celebrations of Divali.