Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the most popular – if not the most popular – festivals in the Hindu calendar, celebrated by millions of people all over the world. It symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness, of good over evil, and is often associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, as well as Rama and Sita, Krishna, Durga, and Ganesha in different regional traditions.
Diwali is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs as well as Newar Buddhists. In Jainism, it’s the anniversary of Mahavira (a notable Jain teacher) achieving enlightenment, while Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas, the anniversary of the 6th Guru Hargobind being released from prison.
Over the five days of the Diwali festive period, Hindus light up their homes with candles and lanterns, decorating with colourful rangoli designs and setting off fireworks. Spending time with your loved ones is very important, so families gather for food and festivities, and communities organise events like fairs, parades and performances.
In the UK, Diwali is the most well-known Hindu festival, with the fireworks set off during helping to make it more visible. London’s Diwali celebration, Diwali on the Square, is an annual event hosted in Trafalgar Square featuring food vendors, performances and light effects. It made a more low-key comeback in 2021 after the pandemic.
The Diwali celebrations in Leicester are the largest that take place anywhere outside of India – demonstrating how prominent the UK’s diaspora community is – with an impressive display of lights, dance and music, and religious events as well as other performances. Edinburgh, Cardiff, Birmingham and Greenwich also host their own celebrations.
Even if British Hindus don’t attend one of these large celebrations, they will still spend the week connecting and spending time with their families and loved ones, dressing in their finest clothes and feasting together. Many families will choose to set off fireworks – which, as Diwali and Bonfire Night coincided in 2021, made for a very noisy weekend.