There will be double celebrations for the Sikh and Hindu community as Diwali and Bandi Chorr Diwas approaches.
Diwali has been celebrated all over the world as the festival of lights, where good (light) overcomes evil (darkness).
Historical events in both the Hindu and Sikh faith have coincided with the festival date and the event has taken a greater prominence in the respective faith calendars.
Guramrit Singh, volunteer at Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) Huddersfield, said, “In ancient Hindu history, Diwali celebrated the victory of Prince Ram Chandar (Rama) over the demon king, Ravan and the rescue of Princess Sita.”
“On their return from victory to their kingdom, after 14 years of exile, the locals joyously celebrated the event by placing candle lights throughout the Capital Ayodyha.”
In relation to the Sikh history, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, at the tender age of 14 was imprisoned by the Mughal emperor Jahangir for a period of 2 years.
Singh said, “On their release, during the period of Diwali, and their subsequent return to Amritsar, the Sikhs of the city joyously celebrated the occasion illuminating the entire city with candles, lights and lamps.”
From this day Sikhs continue to celebrate the occasion as ‘Bandi Chor Divas’ which means day of liberation.
Due to the pandemic Gurdwara services have returned to normal over the past few months in line with Government regulations and recommendations, congregation attendances have been actively restricted.
Singh said, “In any normal calendar year during Bandi Chor Divas, attendances at all Gurdwaras tend to spike. Unfortunately, with the current Covid restrictions we will advise that families celebrate this year at home.”
The Gurdwara will live stream prayers for the first time, the prayers will take place during the day via social media so that families can partake in the services from the safety of their homes.
When lockdown was announced earlier in the year, places of worship unfortunately had to close.
The Gurdwara congregation found it very difficult to begin with.
They had to accustom themselves to the change in their normal worship routine.
But quickly the volunteers and Gurdwara infrastructure adapted quickly to assist in local community projects helping the most vulnerable.
Singh said, “In particular the Gurdwara langar (free kitchen), provided food parcels for the elderly and vulnerable in the local area and consequently attracted attention and praise from the local Mayor and BBC Leeds Radio.”
There are many members of the congregation who have not attended the Gurdwara during the Covid pandemic.
Singh said, “There is a longing to partake again in Sangat (congregation) and Kirtan (prayers) whilst undertaking Darshan (auspicious sight) of our eternal Guru, Guru Granth Sahib Ji (holy book).”
Singh explained that during the 16th century, Sikhs longed for the sight of Guru Hargobind Sahib whilst they were imprisoned and the Hindu devotees longed for the sight of their Prince and Princess, Rama and Sita.
He said, “I strongly suspect Sikhs and Hindus, alike, will have a greater appreciation of the festivals of Bandi Chor Divas and Diwali, respectively.”
“I can only begin to image the fervour and joyous excitement in which the festivals will be celebrated next year when, with God’s grace, all returns to normal.”
The celebrations of Diwali and Bandi Chorr Diwas start on 14 November and last for one day only. Gurdwara’s and Mandir’s (Hindu Temple) are usually lit up with candles followed by prayers and other celebrations.
Due to the pandemic huge gatherings cannot take place as they normally would, but the community spirit will not dim.