Festive season


Bandi Chor Diwas is a remarkable story of secularism and provides valuable insights on tolerance, love and acceptance in today’s communally volatile climate. 

After the infamous Sikh-separatist Amritpal’s month long manhunt, a succeeding panic among the Sikh diaspora in Canada of Sikhs supposedly being cornered in India, frequent incidents of arson, a celebratory parade on the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi and the recent killing of Hardeep Nijjar and the resulting India-Canada row has led to resurfacing of the Khalistan issue. Even though there is little to no support for the cause in Punjab today, this secessionist demand for a separate Sikh state, Khalistan, reverberates loudly within the Sikh diaspora. Although these voices pose no imminent danger, they definitely do result in sidelining of pertinent issues raised by Punjabis back home, thereby requiring immediate remedial actions against such forces.

An ideological shift can be employed as a corrective measure and one need not go too far, actually it would require these separatist elements to go back to what Sikhi truly means. Last week was filled with Diwali festivities, Bandi Chor Diwas, one of the most important festivals for Sikhs was among them. The story behind celebrating this day is secular in the truest and most beautiful way. Bandi Chor Diwas, Prisoner Liberation Day, marks the celebration of homecoming of the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind, when he returned from Gwalior Fort along with 52 Hindu kings.

The establishment of Akal Takht at Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple), and the growing strength of the Sikh army under Guru Hargobind instilled the fear of a potential danger from Sikhs in the mind of Nawab of Lahore, who then relayed this anxiety to Emperor Jahangir. Jahangir, who also feared that the sixth Guru might want to avenge his father, Guru Arjan’s death, demanded an immediate arrest of Guru Hargobind. He was taken to Gwalior fort, where he met several imprisoned Rajput kings. A sufi saint, Mian Mir, an admirer of the Guru, asked the emperor to release him. Upon this persuasion, Guru’s release was ordered, but the offer was refused by Guru who demanded that the Rajput kings shall also leave along with him. Jahangir, although initially reluctant, finally gave in when coaxed by Wazir Khan and agreed on releasing as many kings who could leave the fort while holding onto the Guru’s cloak. Legend has it that the Guru outwitted the Emperor by getting a special Chola with 52 panels attached to it. That day 52 Rajput kings left the Gwalior fort along with the Guru. Guru arrived at Amritsar on Diwali and people welcomed him, rejoiced his return by lighting diyas. To this day the tradition continues and Sikhs continue to celebrate Bandi Chor Diwas by lighting diyas and lamps.

On one occasion Guru was queried by Jahangir to adjudge the better religion of the two, Hinduism or Islam. In response to this,Guru quoted Kabir, “Hindhoo Thurak Dhuhoon Mehi EaekaiKehai Kabeer Pukaaree”, one lord resides within both Hindus and Muslims. All the 10 Sikh Gururs have at all times propounded secularism and protection of the oppressed from the oppressor. “Manas ki Jaat sab eke pehchanbo”, recognising the entire human race as one, was the foundational idea behind the establishment of Langar Seva by Guru Nanak. A secular state in it’s truest sense was conceived under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, 80 years after the demise of the 10th Guru. Khushwant Singh writes that the biggest contributing factor to Ranjit Singh’s success ‘was his respect for all faiths’. His court hosted ministers from all faiths and reflected the secular pattern of his religious policy. In conversation with a Muslim saint, he once said, “God wanted me to look upon all religions with one eye; that is why he took away the light from other”.

What is utterly baffling is that the Khalistani elements, pose themselves as the representatives of the entire Sikh community and advocate for a separation that any Sikh Guru would consider preposterous. Albeit the movement took birth in Punjab, today it echoes loud on the opposite side of the globe, causing damage to the image of Punjabis back home. The patriotism of the Sikh Kaum can never be questioned – be it the martyrdom of Gurus to protect persecuted faiths, the valour exhibited by Ranjit Singh against the Britishers, contribution of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh during the independence struggle, the unparalleled bravery of Sikh regiments during wars India has fought; they have stood true to what a “Singh” symbolizes, a lion. Today, relevant issues like agrarian crisis, unemployment, drug abuse are put on the back burner when narratives of “Sikh Secessionism” dominate the mainstream media and politics. These miniscule proponents of a separate Sikh state and their hyper sensationalism by media houses are causing an irreversible damage to the integrity and welfare of Punjabis back home, thus urgently requiring them to internalize takeaways from Sikhism’s Secularism.

Photo Credits: Siasat.com

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Rubani Sandhu



This festival season, opt for outfits that do not compromise your comfort for style. 

From Durga Pujo to Diwali, October remains a month of celebration, of sweets, of lights and beautifully dressed people. From the bold sarees and big bindis to ghagra-choli and stilettoes, it is the month where everyone goes all-out to show their best fashion game.

However, when you are visiting your fifth relative of the night, and have to laugh through the pain of your tightly tied lehenga, you cannot help but wish that you were at home, in your comfiest pair of pyjamas instead.

Since fashion gets a little overbearing and tiring in the season, here are a few tips for you to look your best with comfort:

Lighter Fabrics 

Opt for lighter fabrics like chiffon, linen and cotton-silk, instead of your usual heavier silks. Kurtis and sarees in linen and chiffon are the epitome of being breezy with style. Lehengas and kurtis paired with statement accessories and a catchy hairdo make your outfit different and your day a lot better.

Drop thrints instead of embellishments 

Look for clothes that are heavy in print instead of one with embellishments, such as sequins or embroidery. this not only makes your outfit softer to wear but also makes it eye catching. You can choose from prints such as kalamkari, batik, indigo and ikat. Batik sarees and skirts, indigo kurtis with palazzos, kalamkari kurtas with churidars and ikat shirts are some of the most popular outfit choices. The best way to style them is to let your print stand out on their own.

Go wild with accessories

Choose outfits that are simpler on clothes and heavier on accessories. You can pair plain white or coloured kurtis with big earrings, or a simple saree with a statement necklace. Nose rings have also become a popular accessory these says as hey can help enhance your face. Whatever you choose, let your accessories become the highlight of the outfit.

Drop the chunni

This Diwali, style your salwar kurtas and lehenga cholis without the dupattas and let your hand be free for that extra gol gappa or diya. In most cases, dupatta becomes a burden to carry and does not adsd alot to ones outfit. Outfits sans chunnis has become a a popular choice esp among the younger crowd.

So this October, bring out your festive spirit in outfits that don’t make you lose out on your comfort. Experiment with your looks, enjoy your celebrations in a better oood and let your body and feet thank you later.

Featured Image Credits: Maumil Mehraj

Satviki Sanjay 

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It is well known that its hard to be an atheist in a country like India, where 99.76% of people have strong religious identities and beliefs. These hardships increase tenfold during- you guessed it- festive holidays.

In a very informal study of those in my immediate friend circle, I realised that people who don’t necessarily believe in God, or are not even fully aware of the story of Ramayana – basically moderate or soft atheists, still enjoy Diwali. For all Indians, Diwali is more than a religious holiday, it provides motivation to clean your dwellings, a reason get dressed in traditional clothes (no matter how uncomfortable and restraining) and an excuse to laze around and play cards with your near and dear ones. Moderate atheists are usually seen having the best time, cooperating with most of the traditions, albeit with sly remarks about how compulsive their parents are.

Sure, it seems harmless so far. But for a devout atheist, things are a little different. Diwali seems synonymous to coercion and hypocrisy. This year I stood first hand witness to people burning crackers while wearing anti pollution face masks, my family members dancing to the most demeaning of Bollywood item numbers, and being told from  at least four different sources to, “Smile more, beta”.

And I’m sure its the same story everywhere. Your average Diwali starts with you being forced to sit in a pooja, meeting people you haven’t seen since last years Diwali, and being expected to spend exorbitant amounts of money on things that are really unnecessary. Any rational person may still find indulging and complying with your family a fair trade off, given how much they do for you. And that does sound fair.

But living in the world of #metoo, sensitisation and libertarianism, festivals manifest themselves into culture wars. Even a two-day period of compliance with religious hypocrisy becomes a source of moral panic. For the first time in history, the moralizers are young people, and not their parents. Each time I am forced to dance to a Yo Yo Honey Singh song or waste food as offerings to idols, I spiral into existentialism and despair. I feel troubled because I think wastefulness in the name of religion is wrong. And I’d rather protest than be a silent onlooker (even if that protesting is limited to declining party invitations, not lighting lamps or eating Diwali sweets).

Because at the end of the day, the representation my generation has fought for is more important to me than family values. It can be said that I’m evaluating culture for it’s moral correctness more than for it’s sentiment. But that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make as a devout atheist.

So long, a Not So Happy Diwali.

Feature Image Credits – Surabhi Khare for DU Beat.

Nikita Bhatia

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