Celebrating Diwali in lockdown

Pictures: Gaurav Vats

FAMILIES’ celebrations of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, have been adapted due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

The Vats family of Shinfield would normally have met up with friends and family to exchange gifts and traditional Indian sweets in the run up to Diwali which started on Saturday.

But this year Manisha and Gaurav along with their daughter Hazel, three, kept their celebrations before and during Diwali to their home.

Gaurav, who is Postmaster at Hurst Post Office, explained what happens during the festival: “In the days before Diwali we give our homes a thorough clean and then decorate them.

“We make rangoli patterns on the floor with coloured powder and put out lots of little oil lamps, diyas. On the first day of Diwali we finish our preparations.”

Hazel and her family marked the five-day festival with Indian sweets, and rangoli art. Picture: Gaurav Vats

In the evening, the family change into their traditional Indian clothes and pray to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune, power, luxury, beauty, fertility, and auspiciousness, and also to Ganesha, god of wisdom, success and good luck.

Prayers to Ganesha might relate to moving to a new home or the start of anything new.

Then they exchange presents and enjoy sharing Indian sweets, before letting off fireworks in the garden. The celebrations continue for another four days.

In normal years, without Covid-19, the five-day festival is shared with other families.

Gaurav said that when he lived in Indian one of the things he enjoyed, as seeing all faiths sharing the fun and celebration of each others’ religions together.

Diwali’s emphasis on light over darkness and good over evil comes from the story about the Hindu god Rama.

Gaurav explained that Rama was the oldest son of a king who had three wives. Rama’s stepmother made the king promise to do whatever she asked. She then demanded that her husband send Rama into exile in the jungle for 14 years and that her son be the next king. The King felt bound to keep his promise.

The younger son showed such respect and love for his older brother, he went into the jungle with Rama and his wife, Sita. In the jungle Sita was kidnapped by Ravana but Rama rescued her, killing Ravana.

After 14 years Rama, Sita and the brother returned to their family on a dark night with no moon.

But the people were so happy to see them returning the city was lit all over with lamps. Goodness had overcome evil and light had overcome dark.

The timing of Diwali, related to when there is no moon, moves to a different date each year.

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