With its rich history stretching back over 2,500 years, Diwali – the Festival of Lights – is celebrated by many Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists around the world.
The word ‘Diwali’ comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, meaning "rows of lighted lamps" and is the biggest holiday in the Indian calendar. The five-day festival is linked to many stories in religious texts. The common thread which unites all the stories, and which is integral to the Diwali festival is the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness, and of new beginnings. Diwali traditions include the lighting of lamps, exchanging gifts and sweets, fireworks, and festivities with family and friends.
With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, celebrating Diwali with loved ones in person is now easier. Some of our students and staff share their experiences of the festival this year in the UK and memories of celebrating Diwali in India.
Muthu, a Study Group alumni student, now studying a BSc at the University of Leeds, explains what Diwali means to him:
“Diwali – the festival of lights, is a day to commemorate the triumph of good over evil but most importantly, a day of joyous celebration with friends and family, which I find to be the most enjoyable part of it (along with good food too, of course!)
“While, this year would be my first-time celebrating Diwali away from my family in India, the Internet allows for us to still be connected despite being physically apart, which I am very much thankful for.
“Moreover, this year I intend to spend Diwali with the friends that I have made during my time here and have an enjoyable celebration as we share food and eat traditional Indian sweets (for example, laddus). Typically, these sweets or savouries would be made at home in the days leading up to the festival, but I am not that confident in my sweet making skills at this point in time, so it’s store-bought sweets for everyone this year.”
Vinitha Sebastine from India, a Mathematics Tutor at Study Group’s Durham University International Study Centre, talks about her childhood memories of celebrating Diwali:
“I cherish my childhood memories of celebrating Diwali with my parents and siblings in India. The schools and offices are closed in India during this season, and it feels like the Christmas season here in the UK.
"My mom makes a variety of traditional snacks that is shared with friends and neighbours. My parents bought new clothes for us that we wear to light up the fireworks in the evening.
“Every morning, my sister and I used to create and draw rangoli in our front porch using colourful powders specifically bought for rangoli.
“We also decorated the front walls, doors and windows of our home with rows of clay lamps that are lit every evening during this season.”
Prakash from India, studying at Study Group’s University of Huddersfield London Campus, relates his experience of celebrating Diwali in India:
“On Diwali, we wear new clothes and visit a temple with family members whilst carrying sweets called "kajjaya" which are very famous in India, especially In Karnataka. This sweet is prepared only for Diwali, and along with this the main thing is the thread; it is not a normal thread it is known as "nom dhara". Every year on Diwali we will tie this thread to our hands and remove it the next day before keeping it very safe for the next year. Last year’s thread and this year's new thread are both carried to the temple, and it looks very pretty in different colours.
“In addition to this, bananas and betelnut are also very important to carry to the temple.”
Happy Diwali to all who are celebrating this festival of lights at this time. On behalf of Study Group, we wish you and your family and friends a wonderful festival.