'Victory of positivity': Winnipeg Sikh school celebrates Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas

The school has been holding Diwali celebrations since it opened in 2012. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC - image credit)
The school has been holding Diwali celebrations since it opened in 2012. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC - image credit)

Students at a Winnipeg Sikh school celebrated the festival of lights this weekend with singing, dancing and prayers.

"It's just a time to think … of good over evil and just think of positivity," said Mannat Chahal, a Grade 11 student at Dasmesh School Winnipeg.

The school kicked off its annual Diwali celebration on Saturday, where students performed folk dances, sang songs and gave speeches to commemorate the five-day long holiday celebrated around the world by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists.

It also celebrated Bandi Chhor Divas, known as the "day of liberation," which commemorates the day Guru Hargobind Ji was released from prison, and at the same time helped release 52 Hindu kings.

"It signifies freedom, resilience and the triumph of good over evil," said Mannat, who sang in one of the dance performances at the school on Holmes Road in West St. Paul.

The school's principal, Amandeep Sran, said the celebration allows children to connect with their culture.
The school's principal, Amandeep Sran, said the celebration allows children to connect with their culture.

The school's principal, Amandeep Sran, said the celebration allows children to connect with their culture. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

The school has been holding Diwali festivities since it opened in 2012, said Manjinderpal Singh Chahal, who is the school's president and Mannat's father. He said he founded the independent Sikh private school so his daughter and children like her could learn about Sikh values while also studying the Manitoba curriculum.

"We focus on the academics ... and along with that, we also focus on the language," he said, adding that students are taught cultural dances and the Punjabi language as part of their studies.

Students at the school are taught cultural dances and the Punjabi language along with the Manitoba curriculum.
Students at the school are taught cultural dances and the Punjabi language along with the Manitoba curriculum.

Students at the school are taught cultural dances and the Punjabi language along with the Manitoba curriculum. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

It's important for students to learn their culture, both at home and in school during events like Diwali, according to Amandeep Sran, who is the school's principal and Mannat's mother.

"These festivals are very important … to connect culturally with our kids," she said ahead of Saturday's celebration.

Students performed folk dances, sang songs and gave speeches to commemorate the holiday.
Students performed folk dances, sang songs and gave speeches to commemorate the holiday.

Students performed folk dances, sang songs and gave speeches to commemorate the holiday. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

The students had been rehearsing for the concert since September, she added. They also planned to light Diyas, or oil candles, and fireworks were set to be on display at the end of the show.

"It signifies the victory of positivity over negativity," Sran said.

The festivities are especially important for students who were born in Canada but whose parents are from India, said Manjinderpal.

"The ones people missed being in Canada, they can see all those dances," he said.

Manjinderpal Singh Chahal is the president of Dasmesh School Winnipeg, a independent Sikh private school founded in 2012.
Manjinderpal Singh Chahal is the president of Dasmesh School Winnipeg, a independent Sikh private school founded in 2012.

Manjinderpal Singh Chahal is the president of Dasmesh School Winnipeg, a independent Sikh private school founded in 2012. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

"I think it's still in their DNA. When they come on the stage, they have those cultural dresses, they just look like when we were at that age."

It's also nice to see parents and the community come together to support the event, he added.

"At the end of the day, the kids, they're gonna take so much positivity, love and hope."