Diwali is one of the major religious festivals in Hinduism and it is a five-day celebration. This year we are in a very different place with the COVOD-19 pandemic and the need for prayer and the win for good over evil is more relevant than it has ever been. Diwali around the whole globe will be celebrated not in its traditional manner but with families at home, together and virtually.
The name Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit term dipavali, meaning ‘row of lights.’ Symbolizing the victory of light over darkness, good over evil. This year Diwali is celebrated on Saturday, November 14, 2020. This year the Diwali moto is; ‘stay safe, stay home, stay healthy’ as UK are in the second week of COVID lockdown.
Diwali is a time for wearing new clothes, visiting friends, family and the temple, exchanging gifts, feasting on sweets and food, feeding the poor, and setting off fireworks (though such displays have been restricted to limit noise and other environmental pollution).
Diwali is observed with slight variations in the traditions depending on which region people come from. Among Hindus the most widespread custom is the lighting of diyas (small earthenware lamps filled with oil and nowadays candles) on the night of the new moon to invite the presence of the goddess of Lakshmi (goddess of wealth). With the aim to invite wealth into the family.
In Bengal the goddess Kali is worshipped. In North India the festival celebrates the royal homecoming after a 14 year exile of Ram-Sita, Lakshmana and Hunaman to the city of Ayodhya after defeating the 10-headed king of the demons, Ravana. This is the main story of Diwali which is told worldwide to children.
In South India the festival marks Krishna’s defeat of the demon Narakasura. Some celebrate Diwali as a commemoration of the marriage of Lakshmi and Vishnu, while others observe it as the birthday of Lakshmi.
Although celebrated for many different reasons amongst people around the world the festival lights up the evenings in Hindu households with diyas. Homes are decorated, and floors inside and out are covered with rangoli, consisting of elaborate designs made of coloured rice, sand, or flower petals.
The 5 days of days of Diwali are as follows:
Day 1: Dhanteras, is dedicated to cleaning homes and purchasing small items of gold. Lakshmi (wealth) is the focus of worship on that day.
Day 2: Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali, marks and celebrates Krishna’s destruction of Narakasura and prayers are also offered for the souls of ancestors. On the third day,
Day 3: This is the main day of the Diwali Festival, Lakshmi Puja takes place in family homes or temples to ensure blessings of prosperity, diyas and candles are lit, with fireworks galore.
Day 4: Annakut, commemorating Krishna’s defeat of Indra, the king of the gods, this day marks the start of the new year in the Hindu calendar.
Day 5: Bhai Dooj or Bhai Bij, marks the bond between brothers and sisters and traditionally sisters will have their brothers and families come over for dinner.
2020 Diwali is about staying safe, staying at home and keeping healthy with the UK midway through the countries second lockdown. We have some heart warming messages from London Borough councillors
Written by Sushma Lobo