Happy Diwali and Bandi Chor Divas to everyone! My name is Amrit, and I am a proud South Asian mum living in London. I love life, and I am always excited about what is around the corner for me. When I am not creating gem art, poetry or dancing and singing, I enjoy listening and getting to know people from all walks of life.
I dedicate all of my time to volunteering with a number of leading Sight Loss Charities and advocating on behalf of other visually Impaired people. I am a Sight Loss Councillor, Public Speaker, Media Spokeswoman, Blogger, Content Creator and podcaster. I use my Sight Loss to create awareness, educate and be instrumental in positively shaping the experiences and lives of Blind and Partially Sighted people. At the heart of everything that I do, is the core message that it is completely possible to live a happy and fulfilling life without vision. What perfect way to highlight this, then for me to tell you how as a totally blind person, I celebrate The Festival of Lights.
Diwali and Bandi Chor Divas are auspicious religious festivals that are joyfully celebrated by millions of Hindus and Sikhs all around the world in different ways, according to traditions and cultural customs. Symbolising the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. They are enjoyed by decorating and lighting homes with candles and diyas, wearing new clothes, exchanging gifts, feasting, family gatherings and fireworks.
For Hindus it marks a new year and a time to worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Beautiful rangoli patterns made of sand or petals are drawn outside the entrance of people’s homes, to guide and welcome her in. Also, it marks the return of Lord Rama and his wife Sita to their Kingdom, after fourteen years in exile and defeating the demon King Ravana. Whereas Sikhs associate Bandi Chor Divas with the victorious release of Guru Hargobind and fifty-two inmates from a Munghal prison.
So, how does a visually impaired Sikh lady like me celebrate these promising occasions that are so symbolic of light? I am delighted to say, very easily, as the many rituals performed during these celebrations stimulate all of my other senses. Firstly, once dozens of candles have been placed around the house, we come together to pay homage to Deities by offering them a tray of sweet delicacies, syrup covered jalebis and gulab jamuns invoke my taste buds as I am immersed in the aroma of scented candles and incense sticks surrounding me.
Then comes any girl’s favourite time, dressing up to look and feel like an elegant Indian princess. I slip on the most vibrant coloured Asian suit, embellished with heavy gold thread and gemstones. I love the way they sway and jingle along with the sparkling stones that lavishly decorate my jewelled earrings and necklace. When ready, we all excitedly head to our local Sikh Temple and before being greeted by an explosion of more brightly coloured stunning suits, we take turns to light a candle. This is the most poignant time of Diwali and Bandi Chor Divas for me, as with my limited remaining vision, I am able to be graced by the breath taking blaze of hundreds of dancing candle flames.
When deep reflection, prayers and thanksgiving are completed, devotees enjoy a mouth watering feast fit for a king. Our plates full to the brim with delicious samosas , spicy spring rolls, rice, dhals and naans. Followed by tantalising milk cakes adorned with coconut and edible glitter. I sit relishing the cheer and optimism surrounding us.
After a family evening of exchanging gifts and happy banter, we light up the night sky with thrilling fireworks. I gladly absorb the medley of exploding sounds and laughter. Finally, when night falls at home, I carefully watch each flickering candle flame, as the luminous firework displays vanish into yesterday. I stand still, quietly contemplating and deeply grateful for our joyous evening together. A happy Diwali gives way to a year full of abundant hope, wealth, love and peace to all.
Written by Amrit Dhaliwal