Today marks the biggest festival of the year for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and many others: Diwali!
Known as the ‘festival of lights’, Diwali (or Deepavali) comes once a year and is spread out over 5 days, with the official day being calculated based on the lunar cycle for that year.
Think of it as Christmas, Eid and Easter all wrapped up into one large celebration. You probably already know the story behind it from your Year 9 Religious Studies class, so here’s a few things you might not know:
1) Diwali is actually a public holiday in many Asian countries, including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Singapore. Although it’s not one in the UK, it’s widely celebrated across the country, especially in cities such as Birmingham, Leicester and of course, London, where a significant proportion of the population are non-white.
2) The festival is traditionally associated with Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, and as a result, a lot of Indian businesses may actually view it as the day to start the new financial year. Meanwhile, oil lamps are lit in homes to attract her presence and bring good fortune to the family. However, the festival also has ties to other deities, including Yama, the God of Death in Hinduism; in Nepal, many pray to him on this day for a longer life.
3) Diwali is all about the food, the clothes and the money.
To be honest, the entire festival is really just an excuse to gorge on sweets and savoury snacks while you deck yourselves out in new Desi decor. Girls and women also like to wear henna on their hands, a temporary form of skin decoration to match their outfits.
4) It’s not called the ‘festival of lights’ for nothing; all the lamps and bonfires are meant to symbolise the victory of good over evil, happiness over sadness, while fireworks are set off to ward away any evil spirits.
And there you have it, a quick fact file on Diwali. So why not join in the celebrations here at the university? HinduSoc will be putting on a Diwali Cultural Day tomorrow in SUSU from 10am; there’ll be food, free masala chai, music, henna painting, rangoli and more! From 6pm, you can also light sparklers on the red-brick.
From all of us at the Wessex Scene, happy Diwali!