Diwali was probably an important harvest festival in ancient India. However a popular legend associates Diwali with the celebration of the people of Ayodhya in lighting earthen lamps and bursting crackers on the return of king Rama, Sita and Lakshman from the fourteen year long exile. Jains associate Diwali with the attainment of nirvana by Lord Mahavira. Sikhs call the day as bandhi chhor divas – the day of securing freedom for captives – celebrating the return of Guru Hargobind to Amritsar after securing freedom for fifty two princes held prisoners by the Mughal rulers of the day.
In each legend, myth and story of Diwali gives a message of the victory of good over evil; and transition from darkness to light that brings us closer to divinity. Diwali is celebrated on the night of no moon in the month of kartik. It is the time of the year when the days shorten and the winter winds can make the nights pretty cold in the northern plains of India. After a long and hot summer it is the time when the urge to celebrate impulsively swells up in almost all giving expression to a shared feeling of joy and thankfulness for the God-given bounties – making it the most popularly celebrated festive occasion. In the Diaspora, the festivities also seem to acquire the character of a celebration of shared Indian heritage. On Divali night the sky is resplendent with all varieties of stars as lamps are lighted. Picking chosen flowers from gardens, the pilgrims are seen going to holy sites. Such appealing sights are ephemeral – they come and go. Helped by sabad, the guru oriented taste the [abiding] gift of the fruit of peace – Deevaalee Dee Raati Deevay Baaleeani. Taaray Jaati Sanaati Anbari Bhaaleeani. Phulaan Dee Baagaati Chouni Chouni Chaaleeani. Teerathi Jaatee Jaati Nain Nihaaleeani. Hari Chandauree Jhaati Vasaai Ouchaaleeani. Guramoukhi Soukh Phal Daati Sabadi Samhaaleeani – Bhai Gurdas, Var 19, Pauri 6.