What do I know about Diwali? Absolutely nothing! 0! Ok, ok I know more about it now, after I went to the festival on Sunday, but before my knowledge about the celebrations had been very poor. I heard about it at some stage while reading other blogs, but couldn't remember what it was. I probably wouldn't have gone to Trafalgar Square to watch it if it hadn't been for my sister, who wanted to spend her time in London as efficiently as possible.
After spending half a day on a freezing cold, watching half naked dancers, admiring beautiful women in their best saris and make up, I came home intrigued. I saw a candle being lit on the main stage and people cheering, but I still didn't know what Diwali was, so I asked my good auntie Wikipedia.
Diwali (also spelled Devali in certain regions) or Deepavali,[note 1] popularly known as the "festival of lights," is a five day festival which starts on Dhanteras, celebrated on thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) of the Hindu calendar month Ashwinand ends on Bhaubeej, celebrated on second lunar day of Shukla paksha (bright fortnight) of the Hindu calendar month Kartik.. Ingregorian calendar, Diwali festival is celebrated between mid-October and mid-November.
Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama, along with Sita and Lakshmana, from his 14-year-long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas and by bursting firecrackers.
Now, I'm a little bit more knowledgeable.
What I also like, is this explanation:
While Diwali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light". Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali as the "victory of good over evil", refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality.
Isn't it wonderful?
Hindu religion and culture is too complex for my blonde head. I know that there are different gods, that it's a very tolerant religion (it doesn't even exclude the existence of Jesus), that their religious stories are a bit like fantasies, that there are beautiful temples, but also casts, arranged marriages etc. You probably need to study your whole life to finally understand the complexity of the Hindu religion.
Probably for 'blonde' people like me the Mayor of London helps to organise the big celebrations like Diwali in the capital. It helps non-Hindu people to understand other cultures and take part in the festivities.
There are over 500,000 Hindu living in the UK. No wonder Diwali is such a hugely celebrated day. Thousands of people gather in Trafalgar Square every year to listen to music, dance and eat the gorgeous Indian food. This year there were artists from Bangladesh, India and the UK. Some of the Hindu communities from London performed as well.
There were henna artists, and women could dress up in colourful saris.
The smell of my favorite chicken tikka masala reached my nose every now and then, but I resisted the temptation - I still need to fit into my bikini in January.
I always enjoy observing different cultures mixing together, which London is perfect for. There were a lot of non - Hindu, white people. Some were just standing and staring (like us), some were dancing and enjoying the warm rhythms of the music in the 10 degrees cold. The celebrations lasted until the late evening. Unfortunately, we decided not to wait until the end and go home a little early (shame on us!).