There are some key cultural events over the next week for some of our colleagues and we send best wishes for these celebrations.

This year, Diwali falls on Saturday, 14 November. Diwali is an important religious festival originating in India. People often think of Diwali as a Hindu festival, but it is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains.

Bandi Chhor Divas is a Sikh holiday which coincides with the day of Diwali (14 November). Also known as ‘The Celebration of Freedom’, Bandi Chhor Divas commemorates the release of the sixth Sikh guru, Sri Guru Hargobind Ji from prison.

International Day for Tolerance, celebrated on 16 November, was created by the United Nations to help foster mutual understanding among cultures and peoples. Tolerance and understanding lie at the core of the United Nations Charter, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Diwali takes place annually and lasts for five days, marking the start of the Hindu New Year. The exact dates change each year and are determined by the position of the moon – but it usually falls between October and November.

The word Diwali (or Deepavali as it’s sometimes called) means ‘row of lights’ in the ancient Sanskrit language of India. During this festival, people decorate their homes with lights and oil lamps, called diyas.

For many people, Diwali honours the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The lights and lamps are said to help Lakshmi find her way into peoples’ homes, bringing prosperity in the year to come.

It’s also a celebration of good triumphing over evil, and different legends based on this theme are associated with Diwali.

Diwali is also marked with fireworks and the decoration of floors with rangoli designs. Food is a major focus with families partaking in feasts and sharing mithai (sweets).

Bandi Chhor Divas

Bandi Chhor Divas is a Sikh holiday which coincides with the day of Diwali. Bandi Chhor Divas, also known as ‘The Celebration of Freedom’, commemorates the release of the sixth Sikh guru, Sri Guru Hargobind Ji, in 1619 CE from prison. Sri Guru Hargobind took 52 other prisoners to freedom along with him.

The Bandi Chhor Divas is celebrated in a manner similar to Diwali, with the lighting of homes and Gurdwaras, feasts, gift giving and family time. Sikhs consider this occasion as an important time to visit Gurdwaras (place of worship for Sikhs) and spend time with their families.

International Day for Tolerance

The International Day for Tolerance is an annual observance day declared by UNESCO following Year for Tolerance in 1995. It was started by the UN General Assembly, with the goal of getting educational institutions and the general public to see tolerance as essential in society.

It is an important celebration as it aims to help spread awareness of intolerance and educates us how to be more tolerant. It’s educational, brings us together, and it reminds us that it should be an ever present practice.

You can celebrate International Day for Tolerance by learning more about tolerance and intolerance and celebrating the differences between cultures. Try starting a conversation with someone with a differing viewpoint, you’ll likely find you have more in common than you expected.


Photo credits

Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas images:

International Day for Tolerance image: