Diwali Festival of Lights inspired by ancient legend

by | Oct 31, 2014 | A&E

Ashley Jagpal
A&E Reporter

Lisa Brunes became a Sikh for a day when Humber Students’ Federation hosted its first ever Diwali event at the Lakeshore campus on Oct. 23.

“When I saw the sign I had to check it out, and I’m so glad I did,” said Brunes, a creative book publishing student at Humber.

Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights, an ancient ritual of several days that signals the triumph of light over darkness. It’s important to Sikhs and Hindus globally.

According to Nasib Singh, a worker at the Sikh Spiritual Centre Toronto (Rexdale Gurdwara Sahib), Diwali’s legend begins when one of many Sikh gods, Guru Hargobind Ji, was captured and imprisoned by the Raja, the ruler of India at the time. People had to follow what he said, or there were consequences.

“However, being a Guru and brought to the world to spread the teachings of Sikhism, Guru Hargobind Ji refused to listen to the Raja, because the only thing he believed in was God and the message he had to deliver,” Singh said.

“To him, he was not supposed to follow along with what other people told him to do. This caused the Raja to become angry and put the Guru in jail where he kept him for 12 years,” she continued.

Singh said the Raja had trouble sleeping at night because he would see the face of the Guru. He was told that if he was not going to let him free, to at least release the other prisoners he put in jail for no reason. The Raja finally relented and agreed to let everyone go if they could all walk out holding the Guru’s hands.

“Since the Guru did not have 52 hands he created a coat with 52 coat tails, (so) each prisoner held on to a coattail and with the Guru walked out of the prison,” said Singh.

They had to walk very far to get to the city of Amritsar, like walking to California from Mississauga, she said, and with no lighting.

But when everyone heard what happened, they set up candles and sources of light in each village along the way so the prisoners and Guru would know they were going the right direction.

There would also be sweets for them to fuel themselves throughout the villages.

When they arrived at Amritsar there was a huge celebration where people lit more candles, passed sweets and food and did an “Aarti,” a hymn-like song that praised god, at exactly 6 p.m.

“Nowadays at the Golden Temple in Amritsar at exactly 6 p.m. they do the exact same thing and it’s always on time,” Singh said.

Presnima Datte, in the Social Service Worker program at Lakeshore campus, said Diwali is an important event in her culture.

“This is my festival. I believe in my culture so much. I love how it allows me to get together with my family and be more open, friendly and show my joy,” said Datte.

“It’s like how people celebrate Christmas,” she added. “It’s great food, lots of dancing and just overall happiness with the people you love.”