November 12, 2020
It is said that you’ve not experienced India properly until you visit during Diwali. The famed Festival of Light is bright, colourful and noisy, and one of the world’s most spectacular and joyous celebrations.
Celebrated by Hindus, Jains and some Buddhists, Diwali is a five-day festival that takes place in October or November, depending on the cycle of the moon. At the same time the Sikh community celebrates the festival of Bandi Chhor Divas – the Sikh day of liberation. These two important religious festivals taking place on the same day bring India together in a joyful celebration.
Diwali symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. Hindus commemorate the return of deities Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile. They also celebrate the day Mother Goddess Durga destroyed a demon called Mahishasur.
It’s also a time when Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity is welcomed. This makes it an auspicious time for businesses who start their new financial year and for rural communities who give thanks for their harvest and pray for a good crop in the coming year.
Lorna Jongou is a coordinator at our Heathrow crew check in. She explains what the five days of Diwali mean:
The first day, Dhanteras, marks the start of Diwali. Homes are cleaned and decorated in readiness to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity inside. This is also a time to buy new kitchen utensils and gold.
The second day is known as Naraka Chaturdasi in South India or Choti Diwali (Little Diwali) in north India. This is when beautiful patterns are created from coloured sand. These are called Rangoli and can be seen in doorways of homes, shops and public places.
The third day is the main Diwali celebration. Candles and small clay lamps (called diyas) and candles are lit and placed in houses. New clothes and traditional Indian outfits are worn and everyone feasts on a variety of delicious vegetarian dishes. Families come together to join in prayers, hand out sweets and enjoy wonderful meals. Traditionally, this is also the day when fireworks are let off. These are discouraged these days on the grounds of noise and air pollution.
The fourth day is the first day of the new year, when gifts are exchanged with friends and relatives. It is considered a favourable day to offer prayers for wealth and prosperity.
The fifth and last day, known as Bhai Duj, is dedicated to celebrating sisters and recognising the duty of a brother to protect his sister. Sisters give their blessings to their brothers and they share food, to honour the bond between them.
Jas Singh, one of our Boeing 787 senior first officers, explains Bandi Chhor Divas.
“My name is Jas Singh and I am a British born Sikh. At the same time Diwali is celebrated, I celebrate our Sikh festival of Bandi Chhor Divas, meaning ‘day of liberation.”
This is a historic event for Sikhs relating to our sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji. According to Sikh history, on this day, Guru Hargobind Ji was released from prison by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir who freed 52 other Hindu kings with him.
Sikhs historically celebrated Diwali along with Hindus but in the late 20th century, Sikh religious leaders under order of the executive committee proclaimed Bandi Chhor Divas as the festival for Sikhs in October/November. This now forms part of two major events for Sikhs in the calendar – the other being Vaisakhi in April.
In Delhi, Bhandi Chhor and Diwali are celebrated in all the streets with Hindu Mandirs (temples) and Sikh Gurudwaras open to all, regardless of religion, to participate in the celebrations and eat the delights on offer – who doesn’t like food and fun eh!
As with any Indian festival, look beyond the food, fireworks and fun and you’ll discover captivating stories. You’ll learn about the culture, the history and the traditions of these great religions. To the Indian diaspora around the world, Diwali is more than just a festival. It’s a time to bond with family and friends, and enjoy rich traditions and cultural heritage. It’s a time when diverse communities and different religions come together to celebrate the victory of good over evil, when light puts an end to darkness. Surely we can all get onboard with that.
Based on the Hindu lunar calendar, Diwali occurs in either October or November, depending on the moon’s cycle. This year Diwali begins with Dhanteras on 12 November and ends on 16 November, but the major festivities always happen on the third day (14 November in 2020). In South India, Deepavali is normally celebrated a day early but sometimes when the lunar days overlap – like this year – it happens on the same day.
If you’re planning a trip to celebrate one of India’s fabulous festivals, we now have more ways than ever of getting you there.
We’ve just announced we’ll be flying three times a week from Manchester to Mumbai beginning in December and twice weekly to Delhi starting in January. These new services are on sale now and complement our existing services to these two Indian cities from London Heathrow. We also offer a fast, efficient cargo service offering new opportunities for companies looking to export and import goods such as fresh produce, pharmaceuticals and textiles between prime markets in the UK, US and India.
Be mindful that transport links and public spaces may be busy during the festival. Due to Covid-19 events may be cancelled or postponed or cancelled. Check local news before you set out.