By Lindsey Megarry-Jones, Senior Statistical Programmer
Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is one of the most vibrant and widely celebrated festivals in India and for Indian communities around the world and will be celebrated this weekend on 12th November. It holds a special place in the hearts of not only Hindus but also Jains and Sikhs. Diwali is often referred to as the “Festival of Lights” for a profound reason. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the significance of Diwali and explore how various communities celebrate it in the UK.
Who Celebrates Diwali?
Diwali transcends religious boundaries and is celebrated by several communities, including Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs. Each community has its own unique reasons and customs for observing this joyous festival.
Hindus: For Hindus, Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana to their kingdom after defeating the demon king Ravana. It symbolises the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. Hindus light oil lamps and offer prayers to deities during this time.
Jains: Diwali holds significant importance for Jains as it is believed to commemorate Lord Mahavira’s attainment of nirvana, or spiritual liberation. Jains engage in prayers, meditation, and often visit temples during this time.
Sikhs: For Sikhs, Diwali is linked to the release of Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Sikh Guru, from imprisonment. They refer to it as Bandi Chhor Divas (Prisoner Release Day) and celebrate by visiting Gurdwaras, participating in kirtans (spiritual music), and lighting lamps as a symbol of hope and freedom.
Why is it called the Festival of Lights?
Diwali derives its name from the Sanskrit word “Deepavali,” which means “a row of lamps.” The central theme of this festival is the triumph of light over darkness. People light oil lamps, candles, and decorate their homes with colourful lights to symbolise the victory of knowledge, goodness, and hope over ignorance and evil. The dazzling display of lights not only brightens the physical surroundings but also serves as a metaphor for the inner awakening and enlightenment of the soul.
Biggest Diwali Fireworks Celebration in the UK
Leicester, often dubbed “The Diwali Capital of the UK,” hosts one of the biggest Diwali fireworks displays outside India. The city comes alive with a spectacular procession, traditional dances, and an enchanting firework extravaganza that lights up the sky. Leicester’s Diwali celebrations are a testament to the rich cultural diversity in the UK and showcase the unity of different communities in commemorating this festival.
How is faith expressed during Diwali?
People show their faith and devotion in different ways during Diwali. They engage in special prayers, read scriptures, fast, meditate or listen to devotional music to strengthen their faith. People also clean and decorate their homes, light oil lamps and exchange gifts. Central to celebrations is the sharing of special meals with your family or at the place of worship. Someone who celebrates Diwali may also support charitable organisations and engage in acts of kindness at this time. Lighting candles and setting of fireworks symbolises the victory of light over darkness or the triumph of good over evil and the enlightenment of the soul.