On 4 November, different faith communities across the world including Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains will be celebrating ‘Diwali’. Described as ‘the festival of lights’, it is a time for prayer at home and in temples, exchanging gifts and sweets with family and friends, celebrating with elaborate feasts (there’s always food!) and decorating homes by lighting lamps and candles (divas). The main theme of Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. However, the different faiths have their own reasons for celebrating.
As a Sikh, I celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas which means ‘the day of liberation’ and reminds Sikhs of human rights and freedom. Guru Hargobind Ji (our sixth Guru) was released from prison, along with 52 Hindu princes, and reached Amritsar - the Sikh’s holy city - on this day.
Although there are still some restrictions in place due to coronavirus, celebrations are back to some extent this year. I’ll be dressing up in new clothes and, along with my family and friends, will go to the Glasgow Gurdwara which will be decorated with hundreds of lights. Once there, we will pray, give thanks, celebrate and take part in ‘seva’ which is a really important part of a Sikh’s life. ‘Seva’ means ‘selfless service’ and Sikhs will volunteer and help in whatever way they can in the Gurdwara whether it is helping to clean, direct visitors, decorate or cook and serve langar. ‘Langar’ is the food served at every single Gurdwara in the world – it is always free and vegetarian and anyone, no matter who, can enjoy it. In previous years, the evening has usually finished with a fireworks’ display but this year, for many reasons, not least COVID restrictions and COP26, this is unlikely to take place. There might be some sparklers for the kids, though, and everyone can light a candle as they enter the Gurdwara – it is truly a beautiful sight!
So, if you are lucky enough to be anywhere near a Gurdwara, whether it is at the time of a festival such as Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali or not, do pop in! You’ll be given a very warm welcome and some amazing food too! There will also be celebrations at the Hindu temples (mandirs) too as well as some Diwali events involving music and dance throughout November which are open to all.
If you have friends, colleagues or neighbours and would like to gift them something for Diwali, whilst it’s not necessary at all, things such as sweets, dried fruits, cakes, candles or flowers will always be appreciated.
Hopefully the celebrations this year will feel a lot more ‘normal’ than the subdued ones that took place last year – make the most of it and join in this wonderful festival if you can!