Happy Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas

Taking place from Sunday 12 November, we'd like to wish a very happy Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas to all students and staff celebrating.

What's on

Join our celebrations happening on campus and around Birmingham.

  • UoB's Punjabi Society and Sikh Society's Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas celebration event: Open to both members and non-members, come along on Wednesday 8 November to University HouseRoom 205 from 14:45 to 18:00 to learn more about the history of both festivals. You can take part in a quiz, enjoy free snacks with chaa (Indian tea) and paint divas for £1 (cash only). No need to book, just show up!
  • Diwali Ball 'SIYA' 2023: UoB's Hindu Society is having its first ever Diwali Ball called 'SIYA'. Save the date for Friday 17 November from 19:00 and get dressed up for a delicious 3-course meal in a venue that's only a 15-minute ride away from campus (with free parking). The evening will also have a whole host of dazzling performances, including from UK R&B artist Arjun, DJ Manny B, JustBollywood team and Signature Drummers, who will be livening up the evening with their dhol (drums). 

What is Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas?

Diwali is a five-day holiday, also known as the ‘Festival of Lights,’ and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, but for different reasons. It always takes place sometime between October and November, but the exact date varies each year as the Hindu calendar is based on the Moon.

The name derives from the Sanskrit term dipavali meaning ‘row of lights’. This is because those who celebrate decorate their houses and public places with small oil lamps called Divas, celebrating the return of deities Rama and Sita to the city of India, Ayodhya, after their 14-year exile.

The festival also coincides with Bandi Chhor Divas, also known as the ‘Day of Liberation,’ a holiday observed by Sikhs. This holiday honours the day that the sixth Guru – a religious teacher of the Sikh faith – named Guru Hargobind Singh was released from Gwalior Fort along with 52 other prisoners jailed in 1619. The day is celebrated as a triumph over evil and as a tribute to Guru Hargobind, who embodied justice and freedom for everyone. 

He later returned to the holy city of Amritsar on the day of Diwali, and the Harmandir Sahib (also known as the Golden Temple) was lit with hundreds of lamps to celebrate his return, hence the day came to be known as the Bandi Chhor Divas.

Both holidays are typically celebrated as the way the people of Ayodhya hailed their beloved king Ram when he arrived from exile, is how the Sikhs welcomed their Guru.

How are Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas celebrated? 

For many people, the festival of Diwali honours the goddess of wealth called Lakhsmi.

To help Lakshmi find her way into people’s houses, some may clean their homes, wear new clothes, exchange gifts (often sweets and dried fruits), prepare festive meals and light small oil lamps called Divas. A big part of Diwali celebrations is the fireworks, which symbolise the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil, similar to Bandi Chhor.

To celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas, Sikhs will often dress in traditional Indian clothing and visit their places of worship called Gurdwaras to pray. Other festive activities include lighting candles, eating langar (feast) and receiving prasad (holy food) to celebrate the safe return of Guru Hargobind.

How do you celebrate?

We'd love to learn about your Diwali and Bandi Chhor celebrations. Srushti, an MSc International Business student and Karina, a BSc Geography and Urban Regional Planning student shares what Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas means to them below.

“Diwali, to me, is a radiant celebration. It's a time when my heart fills with anticipation and joy. The air is rich with the sweet scent of incense and the sound of laughter. As I light oil lamps, the darkness recedes, and my home is transformed into a haven of light and colour. The traditional rangoli designs adorn the doorstep, welcoming all who visit. It's a time for family gatherings, where we share delectable sweets and heartfelt conversations. Diwali is a reminder of the victory of good over evil and a chance to renew bonds and seek blessings. It's a truly magical and emotionally fulfilling holiday.”

Srushti Gawande, MSc International Business 

srushti diwali

“Diwali/Bandi Chhor to me means unity, celebrating light over darkness, and paying homage to my ancestors' sacrifices. As a British Punjabi person, keeping up my traditions of celebrating festivals and practising these rituals is a key part of my identity. I also feel it is important to understand why we celebrate these festivals, and the history behind them. During these festivals, me and my family visit our local gurdwara and mandir to pray and receive blessings from our Gods. It is peaceful and enlightening to listen to ‘bhajans’ (devotional songs), and meet our loved ones here. It is a time of reflection, compassion, selflessness and peace. We also make sure our house is very clean, sweeping our floors, dusting shelves and lighting a small tealight or diva in each room so our home is ready for our Gods to bless it. We then head to our local mandir and light divas (small candles), particularly 7 for each member of my family. It is beautiful to see them scattered amongst a colourful array of tealights, divas and other candles. We wear traditional clothing such as kurtas or Indian suits, and also enjoy watching the fireworks display that our local mandir has on. We meet with our family members, catch up with friends, share delicious Indian sweets as our homes are lit up with little lights. Celebrating these festivities makes me proud of my identity, culture and history. It inspires me to continue learning about my religion, our rituals and the sacrifices our Gurus and Gods/Goddesses have made."

Karina Kanda, BSc Geography and Urban Regional Planning 

If you also celebrate these occasions, please reach out to us at studentcommunications@contacts.bham.ac.uk and tell us how you're planning to participate!


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