What is Diwali, and how is it celebrated?
Diwali, the festival of lights, marks the time when millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world celebrate the triumph of good over evil with beautiful rituals such as festive lights, fireworks, fantastic food and family gatherings. We delve into the Diwali story, history and traditions, to find out how Diwali is celebrated and how you can take part in the magical festivities.
To different religions, Diwali means different things. “In Hinduism, Diwali celebrates the return of the deities Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after a 14-day exile, for example,” Barnett explained, "whereas Sikhs commemorate the sixth guru Hargobind Singh's release from prison in 1619.”
Diwali is also a time for prayer and reflection. “Many people visit temples and pray to the Hindu deity Lakshmi,” Barnett noted. “It's also a time for happiness and joy; family and friends come together to feast, dance, and celebrate.”
DIWALI IN INDIA
In much of India, Diwali consists of five days of celebrations rather than just one.
- On the first day, they clean their homes and create intricate rangoli—designs made of coloured rice, sand, or flowers created on the floor of the home
- The second day is spent preparing or buying special food (especially sweets, called mithai), as well as praying for the spirits of ancestors in the afterlife.
- On the third day—the main day of Diwali—families gather and celebrate by lighting lanterns and candles in their homes and in the streets, and by shooting off fireworks! (In southern India, the second day is the main day of celebration, rather the third.)
- Traditions of the fourth day vary, but a common theme is the bond between the married couples, so they will often buy their spouse a gift to celebrate.
- The fifth day focuses on the bond between siblings, specifically between brother and sister.
How will Diwali be celebrated in the UK this year?
Diwali is a calendar highlight across the world, and the UK is no exception. Here are the best celebrations across the country you can attend this year.
The main celebration of Diwali in London, which attracts around 35,000 people each year, takes place at Trafalgar square October 23. Organizers have promised food vendors, lighting effects, performances on cinema screens and a Rangoli competition – a type of art that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Further details will be posted on diwaliinlondon.com. Greenwich National Maritime Museum is also holding a Diwali event on October 31st. They created a program of workshops and performances before a parade of lanterns brought the day to a close. For more information visit rmg.co.uk.
The Diwali celebrations in Leicester are said to be one of the biggest outside of India. This year, the lighting of the lights of Diwali will take place on October 24 before Diwali Day.
The day’s cultural program includes dance, music and religious ceremonies which will be shown on the giant screens every hour from 5.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. It will also feature fire performers, giant puppets and fun fair rides. More details can be found at visitleicester.info.
Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens and the surrounding area will turn into a haze of color, music and dance for the city’s Diwali celebrations on November 21. More details have yet to be released, but you can keep up to date at edinburghdiwali.co.uk.
Birmingham’s Victoria Square typically hosts the Festival of Light celebrations each year, a full day of free celebrations, with food, dancing and singing. More details have not yet been released.
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