Namaste! My name is Sandeep Mahida and I am the chairperson of the Civil Service Hindu Connection.
What is the Civil Service Hindu Connection?
The Hindu Connection recently became a cross-government staff support network. It grew from a Home Office departmental network as our profile started to rise across government and colleagues wanted to join us.
Our focus is to support the needs of Hindu staff and our members, promote diversity, inclusion and wellbeing, and support Civil Service departments. Our membership is open to all staff – you don’t have to be a Hindu - you may simply be interested in Hindu culture. You can learn more about the Civil Service Hindu Connection here.
The Civil Service Hindu Connection celebrates Diwali
We held a Diwali celebration at the Home Office on Thursday 17 October. The event was attended by over 220 staff and focused on the theme of unity in diversity.
The Minister for Communities and Faith, Viscount Younger of Leckie, opened the programme with an important message about how festivals like Diwali bring communities together. Lord Popat of Harrow spoke about the importance of integrating into the community successfully.
Speakers from the Hindu Community spoke about how diversity is in the DNA of the Hindu faith, and how this is a strength that should be celebrated. We were reminded of the famous Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu scripture - ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, meaning the whole world is one family.
Civil Service Faith and Belief Champion Clare Moriarty spoke about the importance of having your faith understood at work, while Lord Gadhia of Northwood touched upon the importance of diversity to reduce group-think in the workplace.
The programme finished with a written Diwali message from the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.
There were traditional regional dances and music from the Bengali, Gujarati and South Indian communities, and the event closed with tables heaving with Indian cuisine.
One of the event highlights was when around 80 audience members, including most of the guest speakers, participated in Garba, the traditional Gujarati folk dance.
Celebrating diversity: what Diwali means to me
On 27 October, millions of Hindus will be celebrating Diwali (or Deepavali), the Festival of Lights. The name comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali meaning 'row of lights'. Hindus traditionally decorate their homes and businesses with ‘diyas’ or earthenware lamps. The significance of Diwali varies among the different Hindu traditions, but the common theme is the victory of knowledge over ignorance represented by light.
Diwali usually takes place in October / November and lasts for four or five days, depending on which regional Hindu calendar you follow, with the days of the festival being variously named according to regional or cultural traditions and associations. Other Indic faiths also celebrate their respective festivals on the same day as Diwali.
So, what does Diwali look like to me?
My family and I celebrate Diwali over five days with family gatherings, worship, feasting, shopping, sharing of Indian sweets, exchanging gifts and fireworks.
On day one we decorate the house and perform worship in the evening. We celebrate Diwali proper on day three, and after performing Lakshmi ‘puja’ or devotional worship to the Goddess Lakshmi for a good year ahead, we feast and set off fireworks.
We celebrate the Hindu New Year on day four by visiting family and friends with gifts and best wishes. Finally, on day five, I get some bonding time with my sisters, as this day traditionally celebrates the love between brothers and sisters.
In addition to the fun and festivities, Diwali for me, personally, is a time for self-reflection, realising what is important in life and looking to the future with a positive mindset.
Wishing you, your families and loved ones a very happy and auspicious Diwali!
If you have any queries, or are interested in becoming a member of the Hindu Connection and joining our mailing list or accessing our resources and services, please get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.