Co-Founder Bavita Rai shares why Diwali is important to her
Diwali, literally, the Festival of lights is my favourite of all the festivals of the Indian sub-continent (and there are many!). I wanted to give you a glimpse into my world as a British Indian celebrating this festival. I feel very fortunate having grown up in 2 cultures because I have had the privilege of participating in festivals/celebrations that are important to both. Diwali, however, still has to be my favourite of them all.
What is Diwali?
The date of the festival is based on the lunar calendar and changes every year, but it usually falls in November or late October. It falls on the new Moon on the darkest day of the lunar month. Sometimes, we forget how many of these festivals are aligned with constellations and with the seasons. I have often wondered about the coincidence between the festival of light being celebrated on the darkest night.
Diwali is a celebration of good triumphing over evil and to honour Rama and Sita after defeating the evil king Ravana (10 headed demon). Devotees of Lord Rama celebrated his return to the city of Ayodhya with joy and happiness, by lighting the way with diyas (candles), to welcome him back.
Diwali carries a spiritual message and one that symbolises victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The true meaning of Diwali is the celebration of light, making a fresh start and plans for a new year.
How is Diwali celebrated?
In the run up to Diwali homes are cleaned, decluttered and decorated. I could never understand when I was growing up why my mum always insisted the house being cleaned (a spring clean in Autumn). It was only when I was older, I realised this was all part of getting ourselves ready to free the mind and heart, of anything that could be troubling or casting a shadow over our lives. By freeing the mind and heart would allow the divine light to shine in your home, life, and family.
Family and friends gather for Lakshmi (Hindu Goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity) puja (prayer) to welcome the Goddess into their homes to bring prosperity, hope and happiness for the coming year. Homes and neighbourhoods are littered with diyas and rangoli artwork (made from coloured powder).
The intricate designs of the ‘rangoli’ artists are beautiful from abstract art to drawings of Lord Ganesh (Lord of Success and Good Fortune). One can get intoxicated just by soaking in, the sheer vibrancy of this colourful festival. It truly is an illuminating day in the midst of a cold, dark autumn day with houses having diyas shine brightly, enticing, inviting the Goddess of light to visit their homes.
Diwali 14 November 2020
This year Diwali will be different given restrictions of lockdown. However, the essence, the spirit of Diwali remains unchanged. My home will still be showered with diyas and rangoli art (the cheats version -stencils). I will be video calling family and friends enjoying Indian sweets and giving lots of ‘virtual hugs’. Diwali will still convey the message of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.
Reflecting back on the year and the impact of Covid-19, for me the message of Diwali is even more powerful. There is light, there is hope and united we can defeat this virus very much like how Lord Rama and Sita defeated Ravana.
Please do join me this Saturday and light a candle, a diya to celebrate Diwali and all that it stands for.
May millions of lamps illuminate your life, your loved ones with endless joy, prosperity and good health. ‘Shubh’ Diwali to you.
Bavita Rai, CEO