South Asian Heritage Month is marked each year between 18th July and 17th August, first taking place in 2020. The South Asian Heritage Trust, who first conceived this month, outline that this heritage month seeks to commemorate, mark and celebrate South Asian cultures, histories and communities.
The dates of the month have significance:
“The month begins on 18th July, the date that the Indian Independence Act 1947 gained royal assent from King George VI, and ends on the 17th August, the date that the Radcliffe Line was published in 1947, which finally set out where the border between India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) would be.
The start and end dates show just how much of an influence Britain has had on South Asia as a whole over the last few centuries. The dates coincide to a large extent with the South Asian month of Saravan/Sawan, which is the main monsoon month when the region’s habitat undergoes renewal. Having it take place across the two Western calendar months of July and August is entirely apt, as it respects the traditions of the South Asian calendars. This period also includes several independence days connected to South Asian countries.”*
The countries that make up South Asia are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Through migration we have seen the people and culture of these countries spread across the world, influencing and blending with other cultures. People of South Asian Heritage make up approximately 1 in every 20 people in the UK.
The Network for Racial Justice, asked their members of South Asian heritage to share a little about their culture and here are a few of the contributions:
Sanna Khaliq – Careers Assistant at Bayes
Happy South Asian Heritage month! As a Pakistani Muslim woman I am so pleased that we are all coming together as south Asians to celebrate our culture and identities. My favourite aspect of my culture is definitely the clothes and food as I’m sure many others would agree on. I just wanted to send out a message saying we may have separate countries and differences within our cultures and have a wide variety of religions but that’s what makes us great so on that note I hope you all have a great month and celebrate your identities and where you come from proudly!
Michelle-Louise Yembra – Senior Student EDI Officer and Events and Engagement Lead for NRJ
I’m of dual heritage; half Indian, half Nigerian. My South Asian, Indian, heritage comes from my mum, so a lot of the pride I have regarding my Indian heritage and culture is also woven tightly together with my feminism. My mum, and my wider family, have taught me resilience, a trait I see among many friends, family and colleagues of South Asian heritage over the years, perhaps there is something in the shared history that we have that has required our ancestors to develop this resilience and passed on through generations.
My heritage means many things to me; community, culture, joy, food, hard work, resilience, vibrancy. I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. My favourite thing about witnessing Indian cultures over the years is the willingness and desire to share and welcome others into our culture, whether that’s our food, our festivals, our celebrations or whatever a person may want to engage in. That makes me proud.
Shaminder Uppal – Project Manager for the Tackling Racial Injustice Research Project
Proud to be a British born south Asian woman, born to immigrant parents and grandparents from the Punjab. Born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne at a time when dimming the light on south Asian culture in public was the norm or the safer choice.
South Asian heritage month is the perfect opportunity for me to both reclaim and shine a light on my identity, a south Asian British born Asian woman, a proud mother a daughter, wife, sister born to immigrant parents who originated from the Punjab in India. Whose social class changed from living their best life to setting up home with only the clothes on their back and kind gestures from long distance relatives in a land that felt alien. I say reclaim as for years growing up in a then predominantly white Tyneside, I would subconsciously dim the light on my heritage, the vibrant clothes, aromatic dishes and the amazing music and world of Bollywood!
I am proud of my heritage as many south Asian staff alongside those from Caribbean backgrounds were brought into the NHS system and are the pillar of its existence and survival, a British system that needed immigration and qualified staff from abroad, but seldom did value or respect those who occupied roles that were undesirable to British born medics.
I am proud my heritage and religion (although not raised in a strict Sikh household) promotes equality although culture often contradicts this notion. I am proud of a often reserved community who dare not talk about considered taboo subjects including divorce or even acknowledge, sexual abuse or domestic violence, mixed marriages and sexual orientation have begun to open the door to a better understanding and more importantly a notion of ownership, allyship and appetite for change and justice.
Are you of South Asian heritage? We’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below and tell us about what you love about your heritage/what makes you proud to be South Asian.
If you are a staff member who is a person of colour and interesting in joining the Network for Racial Justice, check out our page on the staff hub for info and joining details.