Diwali is not just the Festival of Lights

The holiday has important cultural and historical roots

A photo of many diyas (candle holders) lit, a sea of flames for Diwali festivities.
PHOTO: Udayaditya Barua / Pexels

By: Gurneet Lohcham, SFU Student

While many know Diwali as the Festival of Lights, there is so much more to it than just that. In Hindu and Sikh culture, Diwali celebrates the winning of good over evil. Being a Sikh, I celebrate Diwali based on the historical day called Bandi Chhor Divas. On this day in 1619, our sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, was freed from being held captive, along with many Hindu political prisoners. Every year on Diwali, which falls in November, we go to the temple, pay our respects, and express gratitude to God for the release of our Guru. The lighting of Diyas (light holders) and firework shows are a celebration of how good prevails amid darkness.

For me, Diwali consists of lots of sweets, good food, prayers, and time spent with family and friends. I love to spend time cooking special foods with my mom in the kitchen, and serving them for our visiting extended family members.

As a child, Diwali was a big event, and sometimes we would have parties and lots of guests to celebrate with. However, as we’ve gotten older, Diwali has become a more intimate family time about rejoicing in community. The community comes together as one to pray and light up the temples all around the world to celebrate together. During this time, we often donate food and supplies to our local temple for Langar, which is a communal, free meal prepared and offered at Gurudwaras (Sikh Temples). This has been a huge part of the Sikh community and religion since it was first introduced. 

Diwali is also celebrated in the Hindu religion, symbolizing the return of Rama, Laxman, and Sita after 14 years in exile. The story states that the people from their home lit their path with Diyas so they could find their home in the darkness. I love to think about how in both religions, Diwali is celebrated for different reasons, but the story always concludes with the winning of good over evil. Being brought up in Canada, Diwali has always been a very important festival for me because it allows me to think about the history of my religion and celebrate the successes we’ve had. It also gave me a chance to connect with my culture and have a good time with my family and friends. 

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