News Article

Happy Diwali!

Diwali, a radiant festival celebrated with joy, holds a special place in the hearts of millions, not only in its country of origin, India, but across the globe. Known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali, or Dipawali, is a dazzling spectacle that illuminates the spirit of those who partake in its festivities.

This grand celebration derives its name from the rows (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that grace the entrances of Indian homes, symbolising the inner light that guards against spiritual darkness. Comparable in significance to Christmas for Christians, Diwali is a cornerstone of Hindu culture. Over time, it has transcended religious boundaries, evolving into a national festival embraced by diverse communities. The festival is also characterised by vibrant fireworks displays and the sweet indulgence of mithai, creating an enchanting atmosphere that captivates children and adults alike.

For Jains, Diwali marks the nirvana, or spiritual awakening, of Lord Mahavira, while Sikhs commemorate the release of Guru Hargobind Ji from imprisonment. Even Buddhists in India partake in the joyous festivities.

The timing of Diwali fluctuates each year, typically falling between October and November. In 2023, the festival unfolds over five days, with the pinnacle of celebrations on Sunday, November 12.

In the United Kingdom, Diwali is not merely a distant celebration; it is a lively and integral part of the cultural tapestry. The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich hosts an annual Diwali celebration, featuring live music, captivating performances, enriching workshops, and a mesmerising lantern parade and light display. Regardless of the British weather's unpredictability, the festivities, whether in public spaces or private homes, emanate vibrancy and exuberance.

Preparations for Diwali commence with the cleaning and decoration of temples, homes, and workplaces. Candles and oil lamps illuminate spaces, and devotional offerings (puja) are made. The ritual of washing with water and fragrant oils or donning new, fine clothes enhances the sense of purity and renewal.

Families come together for feasts, sharing sweets and gifts. Cities, towns, and villages come alive with the sparkle of fireworks in the evening and the bustling energy of fairs (melas).

However, the contemporary celebration of Diwali varies, reflecting the diverse cultural, heritage, and religious backgrounds of individuals. The festival has become a unifying force, transcending traditional religious boundaries, and fostering a sense of community.

Mehala Ford, the founder of COMMONGROUND& and the host of the National Maritime Museum's 2023 Diwali celebrations, emphasises the significance of shared rituals and ceremonies. These rituals, both new and revised, create a sense of belonging that extends beyond religious affiliations, bringing people together based on a shared sense of community.

In essence, Diwali in the UK is not just a celebration of lights; it is a celebration of unity, diversity, and the enduring human spirit.


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