October 28, 2016
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is the most popular festival from South Asia. In Hinduism, Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Diwali is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains, though with different back stories for the celebration.
Diwali begins on the 29th October continues through the 30th October.
USW Staff and Students Talk about Diwali
On the Meaning of Diwali:
"Diwali is the main festival in Hinduism. It’s analogous to Christmas in Western culture. The legend goes that Lord Rama fought and defeated Ravana, the demon king of Lanka (what is now Sri Lanka). Diwali symbolises the triumph of good over evil.” – Dr Hitesh Boghani from India
"Another word for Diwali is 'dipawali’ which is the Sanskrit word. It is the celebration of light, of good over evil, light over darkness. We celebrate this because Lord Krishna, one of the gods, vanquished a demon. People who don’t celebrate Diwali often confuse it as being a festival about just light, but the light symbolises the triumph of good over evil, which is main focus of the festival.” – Viknesh Vijayan from Singapore
"Diwali is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu faith. It is celebrated in India, Nepal, Bangladesh among other countries. In India, there are different regions, each celebrating Diwali in different ways. Different regions worship different gods as part of the festival! In West Bengal, we celebrate Diwali in the essence of Kali Puja. We perform venerations to Kali. Diwali is to enlighten the light in us, to make us good and protect us from evil.” – Avro Chakraborty from Bangladesh
On Celebrating Diwali at Home and at University
"On Diwali, people light up oil lamps around their houses. We also use images of the peacock and posters which wish people 'Happy Diwali’. We make the house feel festive.
In the morning we pray and seek blessings from our parents and from the gods. On the day of Diwali, we put on new clothes before the sun rises. The clothes do not have to be the ceremonial clothes, they can be jeans, a T-shirt etc.
There will be about 30 or 40 people who will come to our house for lunch where we will eat lots of cookies. My mum will bake the cookies a week before.
(At university) I won’t be with my family or my friends from home but I’m going to celebrate it with the new friends that I have made here. I have friends from Germany, Malaysia, Brunei. It’s going to be different. I’ll try and cook some traditional food. I will ask them to come to my house. It will be nice for them to experience Diwali, eat traditional food and have some fun.” – Viknesh Vijayan from Singapore
"We used to do the pujas (prayer ritual) then the fireworks. We would light lamps and candles in our houses and celebrate. This will be my first Diwali away from home. I am going to be speaking to my family over the festival.” – Avro Chakraborty from Bangladesh
In Gujurat, we celebrate Diwali as a long festival. It is celebrated over seven to nine days. People also use the festival to signify the end of the economical year and many businesses close on the twelfth day. The thirteenth day is dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi, who symbolises wealth, happiness and prosperity. Everybody worships Lakshmi for luck in the new economic year.
We have lots of shopping to do. We buy and wear new clothes. The house is cleaned from corner to corner and is then decorated with lots of lights. People also draw rangoli patterns on the floor. These are highly colourful, artistic patterns. Some people will set off firecrackers. There’s a very lovely ambience on Diwali day. When people go and visit other people’s houses, there’s kind of a competition to see who has drawn the best rangoli pattern. A traditional part of the festival is visiting the houses of family and friends.
I remember my elder cousins waking me up early (on Diwali day), at about five o’clock in the morning and we would light firecrackers. You would hear noises all over the village of firecrackers being let off. After hearing those noises, you would know that Diwali had started.
Traditionally, the elders of the family give gifts to the younger members of the family and the children. The gifts would usually be money. I can remember myself as a young child bowing down to any elder to get gifts – I had a lot of elders in my family!
We don’t normally have large family gatherings in the UK. I would consider our friends here to be our family as well, so we will have gatherings within our friend group. The rangoli is challenging in a way as you can’t really do it on carpets! Over the past few years, I’ve celebrated Diwali over the phone, talking to friends and family, a sort of tele-celebration! " – Dr Hitesh Boghani from India
Avro Chakraborty, studying Masters in Commercial Law in Treforest.
Dr. Hitesh Boghani, Research Associate in Cardiff.
Viknesh Vijayan studying MSc Professional Practice in Treforest.
For more info, see What is Diwali? on the BBC website, or Wikipedia.