Celebrating Diwali 2021

In our latest member voice article, Community Pharmacist and PDA Regional Rep, Jayesh Ladva explains what Diwali is and why he is particularly excited to celebrate this year now that lockdown is over.

Thu 4th November 2021 The PDA

What is Diwali?

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists across the world. It is known as a festival of new beginnings and is generally associated with the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. For some, Diwali coincides with harvest and New Year celebrations. People come together and celebrate with gratitude, togetherness, kindness, and compassion.

During Diwali many find that friends and family will visit each other, gifts will be exchanged, new clothes will be worn, and the less fortunate will be cared for. Many people will also associate Diwali with eating traditional Indian sweets and firework displays lighting up the night’s sky.

The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali, meaning “rows of lighted lamps”. Houses, shops, and public places are decorated with small oil lamps called diyas.

What does Diwali mean for different religions?

For each faith that celebrates Diwali, it marks different historical events and stories, but nonetheless, the festival still represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness.

Hindus will celebrate this festival over five days. Most will celebrate by lighting diyas on the night of the new moon to invite the presence of Lakshmi (the goodness of wealth). They will also celebrate the homecoming of Ram, Sita, and Lakshman after 14 years of exile, during which time they also defeated the demon Ravan. Traditions surrounding Diwali go back thousands of years.

Sikhs celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind Singh and 52 princes from prison in 1619. The emperor, Jahangir, agreed to release the Guru however, the Guru asked that the princes also be released. The emperor said only those holding onto his cloak tail could go. Guru Hargobind Singh had a cloak made with 52 tassels and so each prince was able to hold on and leave with him. This day is known as Bandi Chor Divas (which translated means prisoner release day). It is also believed that in 1577, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holiest place in Sikhism, was laid on Diwali.

For the Jain community, the festival is about the enlightenment and liberation of Mahavira, the most recent Tirthankaras (a saviour who has succeeded in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths and has made a path for others to follow). The lighting of lamps celebrates his holy knowledge. Diwali is also celebrated by some Buddhists in remembrance of the day when Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism in the 3rd century BC.

When will Diwali be celebrated in 2021?

Every year Diwali falls in either October or November, depending on the cycle of the moon. It’s observed on the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu calendar. For those celebrating all 5 days, the festival will begin on 2 November and end on the 7 November, with Diwali itself (or Bandi Chor Divas for Sikh’s) being celebrated on Thursday 4 November.

The 5 days of the Diwali festival celebrated by Hindus are outlined below:

Day 1 – Dhanteras (Tuesday 2 November 2021) – This day is dedicated to cleaning homes and purchasing small items of gold. Lakshmi is the focus of worship on that day.
Day 2 – Choti Diwali (Wednesday 3 November 2021) – Commemorates Krishna’s destruction of the demon Narakasura. Prayers are also offered for the souls of ancestors.
Day 3 – Lakshmi Puja/Kali Puja (Thursday 4 November 2021) – This is the main day of Diwali where families seek blessings from Lakshmi to ensure their prosperity. Diyas, candles and fireworks are lit, as well as visiting temples.
Day 4 – Govardhan Puja (Friday 5 November 2021) – This day remembers Krishna’s defeat of Indra (the king of gods). It is also the start of the New Year in the Hindu Calendar.
Day 5 – Bhai Dooj/Vishwakarma Puja (Saturday 6 November 2021) – On the fifth day the bond between brothers and sisters is celebrated. On this day traditionally sisters pray for the success and well-being of their brothers, but in recent times you will find siblings regardless of gender do it for each other.

What celebrating Diwali means to me

I am incredibly excited to celebrate Diwali with my friends and family this year as celebrations were not able to take place as normal in 2020. Working as a community pharmacist on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic, I take nothing for granted and cherish every day I have with those closest to me, including spending time with them on important festivals where special memories are made.

During Diwali, our house will be lit with candles and decorated with rangoli (patterns made out of coloured powder and sand usually created on the floor). There will be prayers, rituals, gift-giving and fireworks to celebrate the festival, and naturally, there will be food. I’m particularly looking forward to eating lots of Indian sweets (mithai) like halwa, laddu, barfi and gulab jamun. However, most of all I am looking forward to spending good quality time with friends and family.

From my family to yours and from the PDA, happy Diwali/Bandi Chor Divas and prosperous New Year.

By Jayesh Ladva, Community Pharmacist and PDA Regional Rep

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