By Namratta Bedi, RISE Steering Group Member & Micro Space Planner
This year, the popular Hindu festival of lights, Diwali (or Deepavali as it’s known in South India), falls on Saturday 14 November. The five-day celebrations begin with decorating your home, religious rituals, enjoying gifts, fireworks, and delicious food together with family and friends. Although this year may be a little different.
Every region in India has distinctive traditions, but whatever the customs, Diwali represents hope, positivity and happiness. The lighting of diyas (oil lamps) and rows of lanterns signify the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance within the Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities. This is linked to the ancient legend of Lord Rama, who was deprived of his kingdom and sent into exile for 14 years. Diwali celebrates Rama’s eventual defeat of the evil spirit Ravana, and his triumphant return to his home with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman.
The weeks leading up to Diwali are a time for redecorating the home, buying new clothes and jewellery, and exchanging gifts such as sweetmeats, dried fruits and nuts. I love the build-up before Diwali, especially after Dusherra, which means there’s 21 days till Diwali. After that, it really snowballs – the rush to get presents, cleaning and decorating the house. The list goes on!
On the day itself, I decorate my house with Rangoli patterns and place a diya in each room to light it up. Later in the evening, after I have done my pooja at home, I would normally get together with my sister and her extended family of in-laws for a family meal, fireworks and a game of cards, which is traditional. My favourite part of Diwali is the fireworks – I love them. I’d get sparklers for the kids in our family, while the teenagers jostle for their turn to light the firework.
This year will be different, but some things never change. I’m still be decorating my house with lights, Rangoli patterns and as usual a diya will be lit in each room. Although the family may not be able to meet up in person, we’re planning to get together for a Zoom catch up where they’ll be of course many, many fireworks!