This year, Diwali – the Hindu ‘Festival of Lights’ – will be celebrated on the Wednesday 7th November.

For those taking part, it’s a celebration of goodness overcoming evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair.

Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists will also commemorate this day with food, sweets and fireworks.

Sikhs honour the day as Bandi Chhor Divas, which marks the release of Guru Hargobind and coincides with Diwali. While Jains observe the day as final liberation of Mahavira; and Buddhists celebrate as part of their worship of goddess Laxmi.

We asked several Brummies what Diwali means to them and the memories they have associated with this auspicious day.

What does Diwali mean to you?

A 'diya' light design prepared for Diwali celebrationsVimal Korpal
A ‘diya’ light design prepared for Diwali celebrations

Arti Maini:

“It’s the celebration for the start of a [Hindu] New Year and new beginnings, blessings and thanks to God. Candles burning brightly. Their diyas representing goodness overcoming evil, light overshadowing darkness. The warmth of the flames bringing joy and love into the hearts of many. The sparkling lights and booms of the fireworks, calling to the Universe: Can you hear us? Hinduism, this is a way of life that radiates beauty, peace and harmony.”

'Happy Diwali' decorations ahead of the festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and JainsVimal Korpal
‘Happy Diwali’ decorations ahead of the festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains

Do you do any charity work during this period?

Sandeep Gogna:

“During the period of Navratra and Diwali, we and the Shree Geeta Bhavan mandir (temple) collect food for the homeless. This year we have donated 600kg of food, clothing and toiletries to Trestle Trust in Birmingham. Diwali is for everyone.”

Sandeep Gogna (left) with the 600kg of food items donated by Hindus to the Trestle Trust for DiwaliVimal Korpal
Sandeep Gogna (left) with the 600kg of food items donated by Hindus to the Trestle Trust for Diwali

What memories do you have of Diwali when you were younger?

Sham Sharma:

“In the 1940s, when I was in India in Punjab, we had a cooking area with a small fire for cooking. On Diwali we would disinfectant and clean the area using mud and cow dung. Because of the heat, it would dry quickly and kill germs, we would then sweep it. It was my job to milk the cows, we had two: kalee gaay (black cow) and lal gaay (red cow).

“We would light diyas, the candles. My father, when he arrived home, started the Laxmi puja (worship). This is prayers to welcome prosperity into the house. My mother would make the food, pakoras are always made on this day as it is traditional to burn oil on this day. Aloo gobi, daal and mitai (Asian sweets) were also served along with the milk I had milked. It was delicious!

“We didn’t have lots of money so we didn’t buy fireworks. Even though we had little money, we didn’t feel poor. At times, we may have been hungry but we were happy. It’s different now in the UK, I love being with my grandchildren and seeing their smiling faces.”

Diwali 'diya' lights are displayed by those celebrating Diwali across the worldVimal Korpal
Diwali ‘diya’ lights are displayed by those celebrating Diwali across the world

Where do you celebrate Diwali?

Rama Sharda:

“There is a saying ‘Diwali Apna Ghar’ which means ‘Diwali at your home’. So if you can get home for Diwali, you will, or you’ll get to a temple.

“When I was young and in India, we had a flat roof house, the house would be whitewashed and it would be my job to put the diyas (lights) all around the edge at top of the house and decorate it.

“My father was a Captain in the army, he would always return home on Diwali. I would wear any new clothes, normally a sari my mother had bought.
I enjoyed making designs with coloured powder. It’s known as rangoli, and added around the floor of the house.

Ravi Nath:

“Always go to my mum’s for prayers and celebrations. When at home we make sure every light and candle is lit in the house, all windows and doors are ajar, welcoming in goodness and luck.”

Anupa Kanish:

“At home, we light candles and say prayers. Sometimes, we light sparklers and fireworks. We don’t cook food but buy mitai (Asian sweets). I also take chocolates and samosas to work for colleagues to share in the celebrations. It’s always vegetarian food and no alcohol on this day.”

Colourful Rangoli decorations during DiwaliVimal Korpal
Colourful Rangoli decorations during Diwali

Are there any funny stories you remember about Diwali?

Raman Lal:

“I remember in the villages in India, the farmers would open their bottle of home-made alcohol, though alcohol is not usually drunk during  this period. My father uses to give us a little taste. It was very bitter. He use to then say ‘Don’t tell your Daadi (grandmother)!’

What do you remember about Diwali when you were younger?

Pam Kaur:

“I’m a Sikh from Dehradun in India, now living in Handsworth. Diwali to me is memories of childhood. It starts with the hard work of cleaning the whole house. Summer had brought dust, and the monsoon season had left green slime on walls and garden.

“So dad was always keen on having house painted before Diwali, meaning workmen in the house and endless cups of tea; and when they do finish, there’s paint to be cleaned from the doors and windows and the shine on the marbelled floor needs to be restored. But its all good fun because Diwali is just around the corner.

“The day before, boxes and boxes of mitai (Asian sweets) arrive, stacked in two piles, kilo and half-kilo boxes. I used to say, ‘Oh dad, seriously, do we really need that many?'”

Diwali 'diya' lights are displayed by those celebrating Diwali across the worldVimal Korpal
Diwali ‘diya’ lights are displayed by those celebrating Diwali across the world

Are there any rituals you carry out during this time?

Kashav Sehra:

“Many people celebrate at home and carry out a Laxmi pooja (a prayer to the goddess of wealth and finance). Many accountants, especially in India, generally settle their accounts for the year and start a new financial year coinciding with Diwali.

“Many engineers and tradesmen on the day after Diwali offer a prayer to Lord Vishwakarma. Myself being an engineer I partake in this prayer, albeit in a small scale. In the morning I light some incense and offer an appreciation prayer to my tools. I would also not use my tools for that day.

“On the evening of Diwali, me and my family would take some mitai (Asian sweets) along with some candles to the temple and light them there. We would also distribute sweets to friends and family. In the past, we used to make home-made samosas and snacks, however, these days a busy lifestyle doesn’t allow for this anymore; but nevertheless we still love the celebrations and food, and my children especially love the fireworks display at the mandir!”

The religious symbol for Hindu god Ganesh, decorated with rangoliVimal Korpal
The religious symbol for Hindu god Ganesh, decorated with rangoli

What do you like about Diwali?

Sushill Sharma:

“Celebrating Lord Ram, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The story of Valminki who wrote the Ramayana. He went from villain and dacoit (bandit) to a holy man. His story is not often told. Diwali is a time be with the family. My dad doing Lakshmi puja (worship) at home, having a Tilka on your forehead, eating lots of sweets and food; displaying fireworks and laughing with family.”

Sanju Sharma:

“Lovely time for family. Playing cards, eating samosas and pakoras with chutney, then there’s the sweets: jalebis and ladoo. There’s fireworks, more food, then more fireworks. Enjoyment and frivolous time, great ambience and an abundance of laughter.”

Ashok Bhardwaj:

“Diwali memories mean to me the fear and excitement of the fireworks , the incredible Bonfire display in Handsworth Park (early 1970,s) actually saw Slade perform the one year. And of course the new clothes we used to all get. Not forgetting my Mums wonderful home cooking .”

Does Diwali have any astrological significance?

Viren Patel:

“Diwali, it’s actually the time when the sun is debilitated and the moon is in total darkness and doesn’t reflect the light from the Sun to the Earth. Therefore not great time for our minds and emotions.

“Diwali is therefore time to find own inner light by meditating more. We should celebrate when the Sun comes out of debilitation, hence Festival of Lights.

“Ravan can be likened to the darkness in the mind and Ram the light or sun that overcomes it. The return of Ram is also when the sun comes out of debilitation. Ram is the Sun.”

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