By Tamsa Teji, Area Manager, West London
Diwali is close to my heart and very important to me. I’m proud to share my Hindu traditions. Observed by more than a billion people worldwide, it’s celebrated by a variety of faiths including Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain communities, making Diwali India’s most important festival.
The name comes from the Sanskrit term Deepavali, meaning “row of lights.” Diwali’s sometime known as the Festival of Lights, where the lighting of diyas (oil lamps) signifies the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. On this auspicious occasion we leave lights on at home, and light diva candles everywhere to illuminate light into our homes.
We mark the five days of Diwali with prayer, feasts, fireworks, family gatherings, and charitable giving. And for some like myself, Diwali’s also the beginning of a new year.
The five days of Diwali
Dhanteras (Day of Fortune) Two days before the main festival, go shopping! It’s considered good luck to buy something made of metal, like kitchen utensils, home appliances or jewellery.
Choti Diwali (Little Diwali) A day for getting ready for the big day. Intricate floral and geometrical designs, called Rangoli, are created on floors using coloured powders, rice flour and flower petals.
Diwali (Day of Knowledge and Light) As evening approaches, families gather to offer prayers to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Ganesh, the God of Prosperity. Families eat together before joining with neighbours for fireworks.
Annakut (New Year) Hindus celebrate New Year with celebrations varying across different regions. In Northern India, people worship the tools of work. Chefs will pay homage to their kitchen implements, businessmen will revere their ledgers, and artists will offer appreciation for their paints and palettes.
Bhai Dooj (Day of Siblings’ Love) A celebration of the sibling bond between brothers and sisters. Sisters pray for their brothers’ wellbeing whilst brothers give gifts to their sisters and pledge their love and to always protect them from evil.
Celebrating Diwali as a Hindu
The dates are based on the Hindu lunar calendar, which marks each month by the time it takes the moon to orbit Earth. Diwali honours the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The lights and lamps help Lakshmi find her way into peoples’ homes, bringing prosperity in the year to come. As well as visiting the temple, we recite Lakshmi puja (prayer) which is an important ritual. This prayer is performed to invite Goddess Lakshmi home. We pray to this goddess as she’s known as the goddess of wealth and purity.
As a celebration of good triumphing over evil, Diwali is associated with different legends based on this theme. In Northern India, Hindus celebrate the return of the gods Rama and Sita to the city of Ayodhya, after defeating the evil king Ravana.
This year, I’ll be celebrating Diwali at home with my friends and family. It’s like Christmas but instead of a tree there’ll be lots of fireworks. Guests also bring sweets and we share gifts and money. Everyone dresses in traditional attire and we eat and dance the night away together.
I grew up in a second generation home, so as a child it was all about fireworks and eating treats. Now I find it educational to learn more about the meaning and importance of Diwali. I spend time listening to my dad’s stories to keep learning and love that I now understand both sides of the celebrations. It’s an honour to share my culture and traditions with you.
To anyone celebrating, I wish you and your families a very happy Diwali. May your day be filled with light and prosperity.