Informant is a USC student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her family practices Sikhism, one of the major religions of India that is practiced primarily in the Punjab region in the Northwestern part of the continent. This holiday is one of the main reasons that the Sikhs celebrate the larger Indian celebration of Diwali.
What’s the story behind the holiday?
“This is the reason why Sikhs celebrate Diwali. So basically, a long time ago, the Muslims put 52 Hindu princes, into a prison because they would not convert to Islam. So, Guru Har Gobind, 6th of the 10 major Sikh gurus, went to the Muslim emperor and asked him to release the princes from captivity. The emperor agreed on the condition that only those who could hold onto the guru’s clothing as he walked out would be set free. The guru, being very wise, attached 52 threads to his clothing so that each of the princes could hold on and be set free. The holiday was established as part of the Diwali tradition to celebrate the freeing of the princes.”
How is this holiday celebrated?
“It’s a festival of lights just like Diwali. The temples are all lit up and people leave candles all over their houses, as a way to direct the princes back home. People at home will pray and set up shimmering lights, and it’s an important time for prayer and being with family. At larger festivals, people will shoot fireworks and hang lights everywhere.”
I had known before that Diwali was a very large holiday in India, but I did not realize that the different religious groups had different reasons for celebrating the same holiday. This story is interesting because it involves multiple religions of the Indian continent, showing that these religions are aware of the other belief systems around them, and that the associations are political as well as spiritual.