Aa mita dein dilon pe jo siyahi aa gayee hai,/ Meri Eid tu mana le teri Diwali mein manaun! (Let’s erase the darkness dwelling unto our hearts,/ You celebrate my Eid, I’ll celebrate your Diwali!)
Deepavali is celebrated by people of all communities across India including the Indian Muslim community.
Here is a treat for all those who spewed the venom of Hindu-Muslim hatred, for the growing intolerance and for all history lovers.
Indian Muslims has always welcomed the bright festival of lights, since the time of the Mughals who participated in the festivities of all religions.
It means that the Mughal emperors too celebrated it enthusiastically and also named it as Jashn-e-Chiraghan (festival of lights).
Over 400 years ago, Mughal emperor Akbar started the tradition of celebrating Diwali in his court.
Jalal-ud-din Akbar arranged a big bhoj on Diwali and all Agra would be dazzled. The diyas (lamps) luster the whole Mahal. His only aim was to come closer to the people of his kingdom.
The Mughal connections with Deepavali began at the Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort– where the palaces of Jodha Bai and Birbal were also situated – to mark the equality of all religions. This custom bears a direct relation to the Rajput wives of Akbar, who was allowed to practice their religion, their own rituals. The first and the chief among them being, Harka Bai, also called Mariam-uz-Zamani, the princess of Amer.
“He wanted to understand the religion so he could rule better. And festivals were a joyous way to know that,” wrote Abul Fazl, Akbar’s courtier, in the Ain-e-Akbari.
The Jashn-e-Chiraghan (festival of lights) not ends with Emperor Akbar but passed over generations.
Jahangir and Shah Jahan also encouraged Deepavali celebrations in their court. Shah Jahan made Diwali truly resplendent.
However, Aurangazeb was content with receiving gifts from his Rajput generals such as Raja Jai Sing I of Jaipur and Raja Jaswanth Singh of Jodhpur. Aurangazeb’s grandson, Jahangir Shah, who ruled for just about a year also celebrated the ‘festival of light’ at Lahore with his wife Lal Kunvar.
The tradition of giving sweets as Diwali greetings was also initiated by Akbar.
Chefs (Khansamas) from across kingdoms were invited to prepare delicacies in the Mughal court for the occasion.
Ingredients were imported from Persia and were soaked in milk with honey, saffron and rose to make sweets.
The ‘Chappan Thal’ – decorated plates of sweets (like petha, ghevar, kheer, peda, jalebi, shahi tukda and phirni) from 56 different kingdoms – became part of the celebratory thali that welcomed guests to the Mahal.
Fireworks during Diwali were also a gift of the royal court.
The practice of burning earthenware diyas in mustard oil 450 yrs ago is followed even to this day.
Shah Jahan apparently began the Akash Diya tradition as an ode to religious harmony when he set up the city of Shahjahanabad.
Diyas, jhaads (hanging chandeliers), chiraghdaans (lamp stands), and faanooses (pedestal chandeliers, atop a stand) were used to specially illuminate the palace.
Many Muslim poets have written verses in praise of Diwali, including Nazir Akbarabadi, Basheer Badr, Hamidullah Afsar Merathi, Ghulam Rabbani Taban, Majid Deobandi, Gauhar Raza, Wajid Sehri.
May the spirit of cheer and joy prevail this Diwali with the words of Nazir Akbarabadi!
Har makan mein phir jala diya Diwali ka/ Har ek taraf ko ujala hua Diwali ka. (Let a lamp be lit in every house/ let all be bright with Diwali.