Diwali is a vibrant and unique religious festival originating in India, that takes place once a year. It is also known as Deepavali or is commonly referred to as ‘The Festival of Lights.’
As it is one of the most important religious festivals, at Galactic Fireworks we wanted to put together a useful resource so that you can learn more about the 5-day-long celebration.
Here, we will cover:
- Who celebrates Diwali
- Why it is celebrated
- How it is celebrated
- Where you can attend celebrations in the UK
Who Celebrates Diwali?
Millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists celebrate Diwali.
Why is Diwali celebrated?
Each faith has its own reason to celebrate Diwali, but there is an overriding theme of celebrating good triumphing over evil; or light over dark.
Popular Hindu legend tells the story of Rama and Sita returning to their kingdom, Ayodhya, after 14 years of being banished to defeat the evil king, Ravana.
In Sikh culture, Diwali coincides with the date on which the sixth guru Hargobind Singh and 52 Princes were released from prison in 1619.
Diwali is one of the most important festivals for the Jains, as it marks the anniversary of the liberation of their 24th tirthankara’s (spiritual leader) soul. Mahavira was known for reviving and reorganising Jainism, therefore this is a very special celebration for Jains.
For many who celebrate Diwali in India, the timing of the festival also marks the end of harvest season. During this time, Hindus will take the opportunity to pay thanks to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
When does Diwali start?
While the dates of celebration change each year, generally, Diwali takes place between October and November. The exact dates of the festival rely on the position of the moon.
In 2019, it will begin on 27th October as this is when Amāvásyā begins. Amāvásyā roughly translates from the Ancient Indian language of Sanskrit to the lunar phase of the new moon.
How is Diwali celebrated?
There is no single way to celebrate Diwali, as traditions differ among countries, regions, cities - and even from family to family!
There are, however, festivities that are common throughout the majority. In Sanskrit, Diwali means “row of lights” – this is why the celebration is known as the festival of lights, and you can be assured that there are plenty of lights in various forms throughout the five days.
Candles are lit, homes are cleaned then decorated and fireworks are set off. Food plays an integral role during the celebrations, particularly on the third day where families will pray then feast. Indian sweets are the food that is often eaten and shared, these sweets are as vibrant as the rest, coming in different colours and flavours.
Family is very important throughout Diwali. It is typical for reuniting families to exchange gifts and have their favourite meals in their own homes.
Sikhs may choose to make a pilgrimage to the Harmandir Sahib during Diwali, which is known in English as The Golden Temple. This is one of the most important pilgrimage sites and during Diwali it is illuminated with lamps known as Diyas and fireworks.
Alongside the common celebrations of fireworks, the sharing of traditional sweets and lamps being lit, some very religious Jains will also fast for two days during Diwali, following the example of Mahavira, who they are celebrating.
The Use of Fireworks in Diwali
Fireworks are an integral part of the festival of light. WIth less focus on effects and volume, the vibrancy and the range of colours are crucial to a good Diwali display.
In fact, fireworks are thought to be deeply ingrained within Indian culture. They feature as a prominent theme of celebration and jubilation in many paintings from the 16th and 17th Century.
Typically, the first night of Diwali will see skies illuminated with fireworks. Across the UK, many of the cities honour the beginning of this festival with an opening ceremony; which closes with a spectacular display.
Where Should I Go In the UK For Diwali?
Tourists are increasingly planning their travels to India to coincide with the Festival of Lights, with Jaipur being tipped as one of the top cities to see Diwali in all its glory.
If you will be based in the United Kingdom during the festival though, there are some fantastic celebrations and firework displays that you can get involved with!
Outside of India, Leicester holds the largest celebrations for Diwali. Notoriously vibrant and jubilant, the ‘Golden Mile’ on Belgrave Road - the heart of the city’s Asian community - is transformed into an incredible street party.
Expect 40,000 people to walk through the lively street, take in fireworks, food and celebration. It lasts for a fortnight, so there is plenty of time to pay a visit and drink this all in. Be assured, the first night - which culminates in a huge fireworks display - is the time and place to experience Leicester’s renowned celebrations!
In 2015, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh promised to bring Diwali to the mainstream of the capital of Scotland.
Having been successful in winning the People’s Project fund, the festival has been expanded – including a parade through the city, a range of cultural and performing events and a firework display.
In addition, they now provide a four-day programme to celebrate Diwali – now including a spectacular Festival of Lights under Edinburgh Castle.
There is a wide range of events and celebrations taking place in the Midlands, namely ‘Diwali on the Square’, which was founded in 2017.
The family event takes place at Victoria Square in Birmingham’s city centre. It includes performances from singers, dancers and musicians, with beautiful stalls showcasing Indian culture and artefacts. The event also includes food stalls, so you can tuck into authentic Indian food, from the top-rated restaurants in the West Midlands.
Diwali in the Square is just one of the events the Midlands Art Centre annually celebrates the ceremony, with an evening of Indian Classic Dance accompanied with live music, encouraging members of all communities to join in!
Just walking around the streets of Birmingham is phenomenal, with many shops, restaurants and houses lined with rows of lights, candles and lamps.
We could go on, there are so many fantastic celebrations up and down England, Scotland and Wales– including some of the best and most vibrant firework displays you’ll see.
It is not uncommon for firework displays to take place at home with families using smaller scale fireworks too, whilst still hosting an incredibly beautiful and colourful display!