When I was tasked with writing a speech on Diwali, I thought, as a Hindu, this would be a walk in the park. However, although I loosely knew the story behind the celebration, I realised that I couldn’t fully explain some of the traditions. Why exactly do we light fireworks? What are the teachings? And most importantly, why did my mum and dad make us all clean the whole house from top to bottom over the weekend?
As mentioned in today’s reading, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil, or light over darkness. On Sunday, we decorated our house with diyas, flowers and string lights to signify the return of Rama and Sita. We invited several people around in the evening and, once it got dark, lit up the night sky with a car-boot-ful of fireworks. The atmosphere was incredible – the parents talking and laughing downstairs whilst the children were upstairs having their own fun. And that’s when I realised that these celebrations had another meaning.
Whilst it is a religious festival at its crux, Diwali is actually a way for us to stay happy and positive. As we approach the winter months, the cold weather and early darkness can often bring with it an element of gloominess or demotivation. It is therefore believed that the physical glow of light can help to keep these feelings at bay and promote good health and fortune. It was no coincidence that we had such a good time together – I genuinely believe that just the presence of light somehow created a kind of positive force in the air which we could all feel.
In India, Diwali has more spiritual connotations, particularly with nature. The festival places significance on waking up before the sunrise in order to receive the very first ray of sunlight. It is also typical for the men, who traditionally wouldn’t do such things, to go out into the streets singing and playing instruments. Once again, this has the same effect as the lighting of diyas – the sound creates those positive vibes which are then projected out into the world.
My final reflection on Diwali is this – you do not necessarily need to be religious or spiritual in any way to appreciate this festival. When all is said and done, it is simply a way for humans to purge themselves of any negative thoughts and focus on nothing but the good. And, in a world which can be stressful and demanding, even at the best of times, it is such a pleasure to take this time out to reflect, relax and rejoice.