What is Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas?
Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas or Deep Maala (which means a row of lamps). Jahangir (Mughal emperor) fell ill, which lead Chandu Shah, the orchestrator of Guru Hargobind Singh Jis father’s death, to imprison Guru Hargobind Singh Ji. He advised that Jahangir would only get better if a holy man did Tapasya (penance) for him. Guru Ji was imprisoned at Gwalior for two years. This initiated Sikhs to get together every month and do a Chownki (singing praises of God) from Amritsar to Gwalior. When Jahangir got better, Sain Mian Mir (a Sufi saint) said to Jahangir to let Guru Ji out.
Guru Ji said that he’d only leave if Jahangir releases all the other 52 kings who were illegally detailed political prisoners. Jahangir said to Guru Ji that they can take as many as that can hold onto Guru Ji’s coat tails. Then Guru Ji got a special Chola (robe) made, which had fifty-two trails, allowing each king to hold onto. Guru Ji came back to Amritsar and the Sikhs welcomed Guru Ji with Deepmala. They put lights all over Amritsar as our Guru has come back because the Guru is the Light for all of us. (basicsofsikhi)
Buckley London x Sikh Elders
In preparation for Buckley London’s relaunch in mid-October, conversations within the team were had to reimagine the brand, not only through its products but in connecting with our audiences and encouraging diversity.
Sikh Elder Service
The Sikh Elders Service is a community service under Touch Stone Support, which aims to improve the health and well-being of Sikh and Punjabi speaking Elders aged 55+ in Leeds by supporting them to live independently, encouraging conversations, and promoting socialising.
The service initiates support by organising group and social activities such as yoga sessions or poetry. They also arrange events, trips and offer home visits or telephone calls to build a sense of community and eradicate feelings of loneliness, and promote good mental health.
Manjit Kaur wore:
- Two-Tone Pave and Polished Tide Necklace/ Two-Tone Pave and Polished Tide Earrings/ Two-Tone Pave and Polished Tide Ring
- Two-Tone Pave Halo Necklace/ Two-Tone Pave Halo Stud Earrings/ Two-Tone Pave Halo Ring
Manjit Kaur “Usually we have to think about… phase jandi chunni de (if it gets caught in your scarf) but this does not.”
Kulwant Kaur wore:
- Sapphire Heart Pear-Drop Pendant/Sapphire Heart Pear-Drop Earrings/Sapphire Heart Pear-Drop Ring
Kulwant - “I like the colour. Blue colour. My favourite colour.”
Kulwant - “I like yours, looks very nice.”
Manjit “Yes, yours looks very nice too.”
- Canary Sparkle Pear Pendant/ Canary Sparkle Pear Earrings/ Canary Sparkle Pear Ring
Kulwant - “It feels light. Not heavy. Comfortable.” “This jewellery can go with anything” “I feel expensive today”.
Sikh Elders x Diwali Edit
Buckley London approached the Sikh Elders to continue and support the remarkable growth of South Asian representation and recognition across various media platforms, which have been truly inspiring.
Historically, campaigns centred around other festivals have not always educated us about the meaning, thus providing a lack of representation or understanding for those communities celebrating Diwali. However, it is incredible to see that there has been a shift in the last few years, where South Asian culture is celebrated, and representation is prevalent.
Therefore, Buckley London wanted the Sikh Elders as the face of their Diwali campaign as they are an advocate of the support that Sikh Elders Service provides. We also wanted the Diwali campaign to reflect the motivations of this organisation, which urged us to focus on the elders’ memories, history, and excitement around the festival. These were shared throughout the photo shoot, which allowed us to capture some wholesome and candid photographs in the Buckley London pieces.
Keen to highlight South Asian representation, the campaign not only allowed the elders to feel special, appreciated, and heard, but to also convey the message that irrespective of age, you have a reason to dress up. Sadly, as we get older, we tend to feel shy towards having our photograph taken or less of a motivation to share our feelings, in fear of no one listening. This is why the Buckley London team wanted to dedicate their time, to encouraging the elders to wear their best clothes, feel excited and have their photographs taken.
In conversation with Manjit Kaur:
How do you celebrate Diwali/Bandi Chhor Diwas?
“When we were little, it was just about eating mithai (sweets), making things, getting new toys, new clothes, and dressing up. And then as we grew up, we learnt more about the reason why we celebrate Diwali.”
What was it like celebrating Diwali/Bandi Chhor Diwas in Punjab vs the United Kingdom?
“We celebrate wherever we are. We have been in this country for about 45 years, and we celebrate every year. We normally start cooking a week before, mithai at home and then on the day we go to the Sikh temple. Then at the gurdwara, we all get together listen to kirtan, eat, and come home. Put candles on, lights on.”
What is your favourite memory?
“It is just getting new things because we used to get new toys. They used to go to each other’s houses and bring toys for the children and mithai, that is all... I do like mithai.”
Which is your favourite?
I like besan too.
In conversation with Kulwant Kaur
What was your favourite Diwali/Bandi Chhor Diwas that you have celebrated?
“When I was born in Punjab? So, we were in excitement because we decorated our home. So, decoration with paint, and whatever of that kind you know. Then we change clothes, and we go to Sikh temple. Bring lots of different mithai. Which is favourite, everyone’s favourite is jalebi. Especially Diwali jalebi and Vaisakhi you know, it is a favourite. And then we serve other people and give it next door. You know what ever we make, you know. So, this is the excitement, you know.”
“And what we will be wearing that day. New clothes we are wearing, you know so the parent cooking, we not cooking that time. So, we just have the excitement to eat. And then we go gurdwara in the evening… take some uh first we take some mithai, inne mithai kendi appa (we call mithai sweets), that we take in gurdwara and the um, called diva (light). First, we go to gurdwara, then we give mithai to other people and then we bring it home and then we give it everybody. Sharing with everybody. Just put candles out, diva… main thing. All on the roof you know, in India. Then we put it around the building, all over. We were in excitement, and then we do pataka (fireworks) you know.”
Yes, the fireworks.
“Yeah, and that is why we were looking forward to it all the time. When Diwali coming, we do this. The children are more excited than parents. So, we enjoyed Diwali, you know. Second day as well because when we go to school, we come back and “oh we are eating this one today…” “what I like” “this one…” you know, there is that excitement. And we listen to kirtan as well you know… In India, they are telling you the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji and why they are celebrating Diwali. Because that is why the Bandi Chhor came out of the jail fort and they come out to Amritsar. And that is why it is deep maala… called it is deep maala. That is why we excitement, everybody. Most of India, everybody celebrating Diwali.”
Where abouts in India are you from?
"I’m from Punjab. Hoshiarpur, Punjab."
"Yeah, I come from village. So nice quiet. Nice environment."
How long have you been in the United Kingdom?
"Ah, 51 years now."
Wow. And do you have children?
"Yeah, I got four children. Three daughters and one boy. So, they are all well-educated. They all own job. So, they are all retired now."
How do you spend Diwali with them?
"Oh yes, first we go into gurdwara and same thing. Then we come and then we do your ar… um at home, our, you know deep maala diva, candles, whatever we’ve got at home. Then, when we come home, we do that and celebrate. So, children excitement as well. New clothes, you know, they got."
And then do you make sweets as well?
"Yes, we do. We do, in here mostly we do like less sugar, which is less sugar, so we make at home, like some barfi. You can call burfee. And gajrella. So, these things are easy to make. Gulab jamun. So, this is all favourite mithai. Which one we can make at home you know, which is less fat or less sugar. So, this this... I can make myself."
Do you know what you are going to make this time?
"This time making um, I think which I learn from tv, they said no putting koha/koya in gajrella. They put in, what they call it, this urm, some, vegetarian but it is something not without fat (tofu)."