The history behind Hinduism’s happiest festival and how it is celebrated right here in the west end of Glasgow
Every year our Hindu community illuminate Glasgow as they unite and celebrate Diwali, Hinduism’s biggest and brightest festival. In previous years, Diwali celebrations have been nothing short of spectacular. From fire jugglers and fireworks to traditional Indian dancing and storytelling, Diwali immerses Glasgow in vibrancy and excitement. Diwali is known as the Festival of Light and represents the start of the Hindu New Year.
Diwali literally translates to ‘row of lights’. It lasts for five days with the leading festivities taking place on the third day. Diwali commences on the thirteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month, Ashvina, and ends on the second day of the light half of Karttika. This corresponds to one of the main themes represented by Diwali, the transition from darkness to light where darkness signifies ignorance and light signifies knowledge.
The similar theme of good triumphing over evil also holds great importance during Diwali, emanating a joyous atmosphere throughout the celebrations. This past year, the third day of Diwali was celebrated on October 23rd.
The festival of Diwali has a vast and vibrant history and its origin is rooted in Hindu mythology. One of the most memorable reasons for celebrating Diwali is in commemoration of the Ramayana. This historical tale honours RamaChandra, the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu. It is believed that on this day Rama returned to his Kingdom of Ayodhya with his wife, Sita, after fourteen years of exile in the jungle. During this time he fought and won the battle against the demon king Ravana, who had kidnapped Rama’s wife.
At home, Hindu families irradiate each room with candles and lanterns and enjoy firework displays as the light symbolizes Rama’s victory over the evil Ravana. Bathing the home in light is said to dispel anger and ignorance, and more importantly, glorify the divine light of God.
Another prominent aspect of Diwali is the worshipping of goddess Lakshmi. She is the female counterpart of Lord Vishnu and is known as the female energy of the Supreme Being. As well as embodying beauty and purity, Goddess Lakshmi also means ‘Good Luck’ so is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual. Hindus leave the windows and doors of their homes open so that Lakshmi is able to enter. Rangoli patterns are also drawn on the floor near the entrance of homes. Rangoli is a type of folk art from India created from coloured rice, coloured sand and dry flour. The most popular Rangoli pattern of Diwali is the lotus flower. This is because images of Lakshmi traditionally show her either holding a lotus or sitting on one and so this particular Rangoli design is said to encourage the goddess to enter the home and bring good luck for the New Year.
With Diwali marking the Hindu New Year, the day is viewed as a fresh start. It is traditional to clean the house and exchange gifts between family and friends. It is also auspicious to buy silver jewellery for the women of the house. Although the meanings of Diwali, its symbols and rituals, and the reasons for celebration are innumerable, this day always remains a joyous one for those celebrating. The Hindu Temple in Glasgow, located at La Belle Place, was the hub of excitement for the Glasgow Indian Community this Diwali.
Families of all generations, students from India and visitors gathered at the temple to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Divas (clay oil lamps) were lit by everyone and allowed us to remember and reflect on the purpose of this festival. Grand offerings of sweet delicacies were also placed before the Gods.
The priest then invited all devotees to worship the Divine Goddess Lakshmi to achieve blessings of wealth and prosperity. The atmosphere throughout was one of joy and happiness as families, friends and strangers greeted one another. The Diwali celebrations spilled into the night with a spectacular fireworks display in Kelvingrove Park, enabling all participants to commemorate their faith openly with pride and joy.
During the lead-up to Diwali, all Glasgow schools are invited to visit the Hindu Temple and participate in what can only be described as an Extravagant Diwali Workshop. Female pupils dress up in saris, bangles and bindis while male pupils learn the art of turban dressing. There are yoga sessions and Bollywood dance lessons, with teachers joining in the fun. The pupils can also visit the worship area where the priest presents a basic knowledge of the Hindu religion coupled with a brief definition of what the deities represent; allowing students to learn about Hinduism and the significance of Diwali.
The Hindu temple opens its doors to visitors all year round, encouraging people of all faiths to enjoy the festivals and celebrations of Hinduism. Without the community of Glasgow, the unity and joy that echoed throughout the temple this Diwali would not have been possible so thank you to all who celebrated.