n the day of Diwali, we see candles being lit outside the Gurdwara (Guru’s door, Sikh temple). While there is nothing wrong with it, we should know why we, as Sikhs, are doing this. If we don’t know the Itihaas (history) behind this event, then it will simply be a ritual.
Sikhs Celebrate Deep Maala
Sikhs don’t celebrate Diwali, we celebrate Deep Maala (which quite literally means a row of lamps). After the Shaheedi (martyrdom) of Guru Arjan Dev Ji (the fifth Sikh Guru), Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji became Guru at the age of eleven years. As they grew up, the truth came out that a person named Chandu Shah, an official in the court of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, was mainly responsible for Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s Shaheedi. This was due to political interests and was not against the Sikhs on a religious level. Jahangir had ordered this to happen, but he hadn't understood how Chandu Shah was making it happen. As Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji grew up, they set up the Akaal Takht (political throne of Sikhs) and Akaal Fauj (army of the timeless being). They started to live a Shastardhari (fully armed) lifestyle.
Guru Ji in Gwalior
Jahangir met Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and spoke to them. He realized that Guru Ji was not a threat to him, Islam or the Mughal kingdom. They were only setting up their own area. So, Jahangir decided to make peace with them. He started to get along with Guru Ji on a superficial level. Once, Jahangir fell ill. Chandu Shah, quite cleverly, told Jahangir that if he wants to get better again, he would have to put a holy man in prison who could do Tapasya (penance) for him. He suggested putting Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji into prison. Guru Ji was asked to come to Gwalior. They went, and were imprisoned for two years. The Sikhs would get together every month and do a Chownki (singing praises of God) from Amritsar to Gwalior. Sikhs would do Parkarma (circumambulation) of the whole prison and come back. Gwalior prison was famous for people never coming out alive. There was a burial ground and a cremation ground inside the prison. However, when Jahangir got better, Sain Mian Mir (a Sufi saint) said to Jahangir to let Guru Ji out. Another fact was that Jahangir and Guru Ji used to go hunting together. Guru Ji had even saved Jahangir's life once. A tiger had attacked him and Guru Ji had killed the tiger and saved Jahangir.
Deepmala on Guru Ji’s Return
Jahangir agreed to let Guru Ji out. Guru Ji said that they would only leave if Jahangir releases all the other 52 kings who were illegally detailed political prisoners. Jahangir said to Guru Ji that they can take as many as that can hold onto Guru Ji’s coat tails. Then Guru Ji got a special Chola (robe) made for them which had fifty-two coat tails. This was a religious leader taking part in the political emancipation of people that shouldn't be in prison. Guru Ji came back to Amritsar and the Sikhs welcomed Guru Ji with Deepmala. They put lights all over Amritsar as our Guru has come back because the Guru is the Light for all of us. So, every Sikh is lighting a candle saying, “Guru Ji, I will burn with your light.” So, if we light a candle, we should remember to burn that light inside our heart as well. We're saying that we take Guru Ji’s Sikhiya (teachings), we are going to burn with your light, and not burn with Kaljug (age of ignorance), Kaam (Lust), Krodh (Anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Attachment), and Ahankaar (Pride). So, the world can hopefully look at our actions and praise our Guru. People should not be praising us for our actions. They should be praising our Guru because it wasn't any Sikh's thinking to start Sikhi. All Sikhs followed their Guru.
Difference Between Two Celebrations
Hindus celebrate Diwali for Raam Ji coming back to Ayodhya after his exile in the forest. Sikhs celebrate Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji politically freeing 52 kings and coming back to Amritsar. So, Sikhs don’t celebrate Diwali. Sikh word is not Diwali, it's Deepmala because otherwise, people never ask what's the difference. If we use the same word, people are going to assume it's the same thing. If we say we're celebrating Diwali, they're going to think Raam Ji’s come back to Ayodhya but we are not celebrating that. We are celebrating Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. So, therefore, let's use the word, “Deepmala”.