The College recognises that we are a diverse and inclusive community with many cultures and celebrations. We want all staff to feel welcome, included and bring their whole selves to the workplace. This guidance aims to offer support for line managers and staff alongside improving awareness and understanding of Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas. These religious celebrations offer another opportunity for colleagues to get involved with celebrations and help celebrate different cultures.

Guidance for staff and managers

What are Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas?

Diwali is a festival of lights and one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and some Sikhs and Buddhists. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘dipavali’, meaning “row of lights.” The festival generally symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and traditionally marks the start of a new year.

Bandi Chhor Divas (meaning liberation of ‘political’ prisoners’ day) is a Sikh celebration that celebrates the day the sixth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind, was released from Gwalior Fort and returned to the holy city of Amritsar.

When are Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas?

Diwali usually lasts five days and is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). It is observed every year in early autumn after the end of the summer harvest. It coincides with the amāvasyā (new moon) and is thought to be the darkest night of the Hindu lunisolar calendar.

Bandi Chhor Divas falls in autumn and often overlaps with Diwali.

In 2021, the two festivals will fall on 4 November.

What do people do during Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas?

In the lead-up to Diwali, people will prepare by cleaning, renovating, and decorating their homes and workplaces with diyas (oil lamps) and rangolis (colorful art circle patterns). During Diwali, people wear their finest clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes, perform worship ceremonies of Lakshmi (the goddess of prosperity and wealth, light fireworks), and partake in family feasts, where mithai (sweets) are shared and gifts are exchanged.

For many, the festival of Diwali is concluded by attending temples and offering respects to Lord Rama, the personified form of divinity, upon whom the festival of Diwali commemorates.

The Bandi Chhor Divas is celebrated by lighting of homes and Gurdwaras (place of worship for Sikhs), celebratory nagar kirtan (a street procession) and langar (community kitchen). The day is also celebrated with a firework display.

Key workplace considerations during Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas

  • Managers should be prepared for people to request annual leave around this time period in order to observe and celebrate Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas.
  • Religious celebrations such as Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas offer an opportunity for colleagues to get involved and help celebrate different cultures. For example, a team could organise a pot-luck lunch to celebrate the festival.