Gursharan Kaur: Diwali and Bandhi Chorh divas

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Nov 17, 2023

Gursharan Kaur, Principal Consultant in the NECS Consultancy team, on the importance of celebrating equality and diversity in the workplace.

“This week Diwali comes to a close and I have been sharing the history – as well as samosas and other delicacies! – of Diwali and Bandhi Chorh divas, which I celebrate, with my Consultancy colleagues.

“We emphasise equality and diversity at NECS and everyone has an opportunity to raise awareness of key events in our everyday lives, as well as celebrate occasions with our colleagues. I feel it is really important that we can share information on the issues and celebratory days that matter to us and have the opportunity to learn about different faiths, issues and practices across the world because ultimately it contributes to the quality of work we deliver for our customers, the richness of our staff and our engagement experiences. I wanted to share more Bandi Chorh and Diwali more widely on this blog.

“The word Diwali means row of lighted lamps and also known as a festival of lights. It is celebrated by the Hindu community across the world. This day celebrates the return of Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman after 14 years in exile.

“During their exile, Sita was kidnapped by Raavan as he wanted her to become his wife. A huge battle took place between Ram and Raavan in which Ram won. It is said the exile was subsequently cut short and Ram, Sita and Ram’s brother Lakshman then returned to their kingdom.  To celebrate their safe return and welcome them back, people lit up their homes, streets and everywhere else. 

“Diwali is celebrated as the victory of good over evil and lightness over darkness. Hindus celebrate Diwali as a five-day festival and mark the occasion by cleaning their homes, exchanging delicacies and gifts with family and friends, holding prayers at the temples and homes, lighting diyas (clay lamps) and candles and doing fireworks. Prayers are often offered to Laxmi, goddess of prosperity and good fortune.Traditionally, people used to leave their doors open to symbolise welcoming the goddess’ Laxmi’s visit to their homes on the evening of Diwali. 

“In India, there are often re-enactment plays held in big grounds and local people gather to watch them. These events usually see the villages, towns and cities come together to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. 

“Guru Hargobind Sahib jee, the 6th Guru of the Sikhs, bestowed the act of Miri-Piri (temporal power and spiritual authority) on Sikhs in 1606, which encourages all Sikhs to aim to become saint (piri) and soldiers (miri) alike. Sikhs have an embedded practice of becoming soldiers of the mind and the daily practices encourage to control our internal battles as well as any external ones.

“Guru Hargobind Sahib ji is famously known for establishing the Akaal Takht Sahib, the supreme throne of Sikhs in Amritsar, Punjab, India. The Akaal Takht has two tall Nishaan Sahibs permanently displayed outside, which serve as a reminder of Miri-Piri to the Sikhs around the globe. Nishaan Sahib is a triangular flag (usually orange in colour) with a Khanda (Sikh symbol) on it and can be seen at every Sikh Gurdwara, anywhere in the world. The importance and significance of the Akaal Takht is like Vatican is for Christians. 

“Guru Hargobind Sahib ji refused to accept the dictatorship and conform to Emperor Jahangir’s immoral practices. As a result, he was imprisoned at the Gwalior fort for a long time.  Later, the ruler offered to release Guru ji on multiple occasions, but Guruji refused to leave until all 52 kings (also imprisoned) were also released.  

“The emperor agreed to release prisoners that could hold onto the Guru’s robe. Guru ji had a robe made with 52 tassels. All the 52 imprisoned kings were able to hold onto a tassel and walk out of the prison with Guru ji. In this way, the Guru freed all the political prisoners held at the Gwalior fort. Sikhs light candles and diyas (clay lamps) to mark the occasion of Guru ji’s and other kings’ release, Guru ji’s return to Amritsar and ultimately, the victory of truth and justice.

“Bandhi Chorh (release) divas (day) offers us a timely reminder to reflect on our individual lives as well as what’s happening around us in the world and where we may feel imprisoned; to thoughts, practices, behaviours, choices, how these may be restricting us and taking actions to free ourselves from these shackles of Maya (illusion).

“Bandhi Chorh divas is also famously known as a Day of Liberation and celebrated by Sikhs all over the world. Sikhs visit the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) and hymns are sung and workshops held for children. Gatka (Sikh martial arts) demonstrations also take place and Guru Ka Langar (free vegetarian food) is distributed in the Langar hall (Gurdwara dining hall).

“The Day of Liberation also reminds us to help those that need our help. This occasion is a reminder for us to pray for anyone incorrectly imprisoned and pray for truth and justice to prevail for all humanity. Sikhs are encouraged to live a conscious life and are often seeing helping others by default as a result of our faith’s practices.

“Both Bandhi Chorh divas and Diwali commemorate the victory of righteousness over darkness and remind us to engage in practices that serve the humanity. I wish all my colleagues celebrating- A very Happy Bandhi Chorh divas and Happy Diwali!”