Hindu Matters In Britain - For British Hindus

Diwali like no other

The pandemic has changed the boundaries of what we can do, and what we cannot. Diwali no longer means that thousands of people out on the streets of Leicester or on Trafalgar Square. Diwali is the Festival of Lights, where good wins over evil. And despite the restrictions, let us not forget this and mark the great festival despite the evils of the pandemic. It is time for light to win over darkness once again.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak gave a historical glimpse when he lit a diva outside No 10. That is a first. Who would have thought of such an act only a decade ago? He also had an important message asking people to observe the coronavirus restrictions and encouraged people to meet each other virtually.

"We're going to get through this," he said to BBC reporter Sima Kotecha.

"Faith is important to me, I'm a practising Hindu, I pray with my kids, visit the temple when I can - at the moment rather less so because I'm busy.

"For us as Hindus, Diwali is special, and it's going to be difficult this year.

"But we've got Zoom, we've got the phone, and most importantly, we've got each other. Whether you can see someone or not the bond of family, that bond of love is always going to be there. And it will be there on 3 December as well."

The lockdown restrictions mean that we will not be able to gather in each other’s houses. But it is critical for people to obey the rules if we are going to beat the virus. The second lockdown restrictions are due to end on 2nd December and Mr Sunak said families need "to stick with this for a couple more weeks".

It looks like that the majority of people are abiding and planning virtual events. In some ways, the pandemic has created new experiences and new learning opportunities for people who otherwise would not be anywhere near technology. Virtual events mean you can invite anyone from anywhere in the world and they can all connect at the same time.

One such initiative is the 26 or so Hindu places of worship and organisations in the West Midlands who have got together for a special virtual Diwali extravaganza.

Speaking to Birmingham Mail, spokesperson Ashvin Patel, Chairman of the Hindu Forum Walsall, said: "Diwali is the biggest event on the Hindu calendar and traditionally temples would have their own individual events.

"This year we have managed to bring together 26 Hindu organisations to help us celebrate while we have to abide by social distancing rules, which is the first time we've been able to do this.

"We've been encouraging video contributions from families and especially young people ahead of our live stream on Zoom.

"These will feature the reading of scriptures, drama performances and dancing. We will also have a video message of support from Mayor Andy Street."

Such events will be occurring all over the country and the success of it will help to fight the pandemic.

Despite the efforts, there are major worries from many shop owners who rely on the Diwali crowds on the busy high streets. In places like Belgrave Road in Leicester and Ealing Road in London, many businesses are suffering, and some are unlikely to open when the lockdown is over. It is a sad state of affairs. Let us hope the symbol of Diwali turns a corner and keep the lights on the economy.



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