From 5 November to 9 November this year, Hindus from all across the UK will celebrate Diwali – The Festival of Lights. For Hindus, it is a celebration representing good conquering over evil, after the deities Rama and Sita, returned home to the Indian City of Ayodhya, victorious having defeated the evil demon, Ravana. It is said that candles were lighted to guide them on their way. The Festival of Lights is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs.
During Diwali, there is much feasting and merriment with people lighting lamps in their houses. Also intrinsic to the celebration are fireworks and, Diwali is one of only three occasions in the UK where the firework curfew of 11pm is extended to Midnight (although it is wise to check this with your local council first). During the festivities, Hindus worship the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, as a bringer of blessings for the new year.
At Reading Gateway, the development by design led developer, Bewley, celebrations are also underway….
The Mathur Family – Sudeep, Surbhi, Ridddhima (11) and Arshiya (7) will be celebrating with their immediate family and local friends. Surbhi says: “This is one of the most auspicious festivals in the Hindu religion. It is a time for our entire family to come together, to pray and to celebrate with all our near and dear ones. It is a celebration of light and, throughout the five days of celebrations, we will pray to different gods and goddesses.”
The Mathur’s celebrations will begin on November 5 with Dhanteras. Whilst there will be no special ceremonies on this day, it is considered good fortune for gold and precious metals to be given as symbolic gestures of good prosperity for the year ahead.
The following day, November 6, is Choti Diwali (also known as Narak Chaturdashi). This is the pre-cursor to Diwali itself and, in the evening at dusk, the Mathur’s, along with other Hindu families, will wash up 32 diyas (earthen lamps) and place them on a wooden table called a chowki. A ‘puja’ is then performed by sprinkling water, vermillion powder and rice grains over the diyas before filling them with mustard oil, along with a cotton wick. These are then lighted before performing the puja a second time and placing into every corner of the home. This year, 7 November represents the main day of Diwali itself. The Mathur’s will worship Lord Hanuman in the morning and prepare Besan Laddu (a sweet bun made of flour, cardamom and almonds) and Kadhi Chawal (a yogurt based curry) to eat. In the evening, the family will change into new dresses before performing more puja’s on the diyas and then setting off firecrackers. Surbhi says: “It is usual to visit other people at this time and to bring them gifts – there are a number of families within Reading Gateway who will be celebrating Diwali and it is quite likely we will visit them during the evening.”
The fourth day of the celebrations is known as the annakut. The Mathur’s, along with other’s celebrating Diwali, will make a lunch with 56 different ingredients, known as a bhoj which is then served to all the family. The fifth and final day of Diwali – known as Bhai Dooj – is especially significant for brothers and sisters. The sisters put a mark on their forehead and pray for the brother’s well being.
For the Mathur’s, this Diwali will be extra special as they celebrate with their family and friends in their new Bewley home.