The festival for new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, Diwali will be kicking off today.
With the ongoing lockdown in England, Sikhs, Hindus and Jains across the country will be finding ways to celebrate safely.
Traditions usually include setting off fireworks, lighting oil lamps, and visiting relatives, but the festival will have to be celebrated differently this year.
If you’re unsure what the origins of Diwali are, here’s everything you need to know…
When is Diwali this year?
The date for Diwali changes every year to coincide with the new moon and the end of the summer harvest.
The third day, known as main Diwali, is the festival’s climax and is a national holiday in some countries.
This year, the festival began on Thursday, November 12, with main Diwali celebrations scheduled for today (Saturday, November 14).
What does Diwali mean?
The word ‘Diwali’ is derived from a Sanskrit word, deepavali, which translates to “row of lighted lamps.”
During the festival, those celebrating light small oil lamps called diyas, which are placed in shop windows, houses and public places.
Fireworks and sweets are also used in celebrations, making the festival popular with children.
What is the story behind Diwali?
Diwali celebrations differ between religions, as do the historical contexts behind each variant.
For Hindus, celebrations centre around the return of Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after the deities had been exiled for two years.
Hindus also celebrate the day the demon Mahisha was destroyed by Mother Goddess Durga.
For Sikhs, Diwali includes celebrations of an important event in 1619, when sixth guru Hargobind Singh was released from the Mughal prison – although Sikhs did celebrate Diwali prior to this.
Construction of the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the holiest place in the Sikh world, began during Diwali in 1577.
For Jains, Diwali marks the point at which Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, reached the state of Moksha (eternal happiness).
How do people celebrate Diwali?
Ordinarily, Diwali traditions include lighting candles, dining with relatives, setting off fireworks, and worshipping Lakshmi, bringer of blessings for the new year.
With new lockdown restrictions in the UK, members of separate households are forbidden from mixing, which has had a significant impact on Diwali celebrations this year.
The move has drawn criticism from Hindu communities, who have said the government’s drive to “save Christmas” has come at the expense of those who celebrate Diwali.
Local communities are nonetheless pressing ahead with celebrations in line with government guidelines – in Preston, there are plans for YouTube firework displays, socially distanced prayers in temples, and Zoom parties.