Diwali – from Deepavali, meaning row of lights – is one of the most popular and widely celebrated Hindu Festivals. Diwali marks the end of the Hindu year. Above all, Diwali is about the concept of light: divas (traditional Indian lamps) were lit at Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhaya after 14 years of exile. The holiday is the celebration of good over evil where light is the symbol of knowledge.
Diwali has special significance for Jains in that it commemorates the passing of the Lord Mahavira, the 24th Jain Tirthankara, in the year 527BC.
For Sikhs, Diwali is celebrated in remembrance of the 6th Guru Hargobindji‘s return from imprisonment by the Mughul Emperor Jahingir. The magnificent Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit up with thousands of lights at Diwali.
On Diwali, families exchange gifts, sweets and cards. The Indian sweets, Mithai, are only exchanged during Diwali and are usually homemade. Traditionally, families will visit their place of worship and decorate their homes with ‘Rangoli’ patterns which symbolises Peace, Prosperity and Harmony.
Although some celebrate for only one or two days, many people celebrate for five days. Day 3 of Diwali is Lakshmi Pooja. This is the day when worship unto Mother Lakshma is performed. Diwali also forms the last day of the Hindu Financial year.
Leicester hosts the largest Diwali celebration outside India. This year approximately 48,000 people attended the switch on event on 12 October, which as you can imagine involved a lot of road closures! The celebration involved the lights being switched on and cultural performances. Many people from around the UK – and even abroad – traveled to Leicester to witness the event and to join in the festivities.
Since the 1960s, Leicester has been home to many diverse communities which in turn has produced a Diwali celebration full of pomp and show. Leicester is one of the most culturally diverse cities, nationally and globally and all cultures come together in the spirit of friendship to celebrate Diwali.
As the Lord Mayor of Leicester, and on behalf of the Lady Mayoress and Consorts, I am delighted to convey my best wishes for Diwali and the New Year to all Hindu, Sikh and Jain Communities of Leicester.
Diwali commemorates victory over darkness and evil, and I pray for happiness, peace, harmony and fulfilment of all our hopes and ambitions, and may the Festival of Lights be full of splendour and promise of peace and prosperity.
May the light of love shine brightly in your hearts.
The Right Worshipful, the Lord Mayor of Leicester Councillor Manjula Sood is the first Asian female Lord Mayor.