Just like pretty much everything this year, Diwali, one of the most important festivals in India, commenced on a muted note — with the main festivities due to take place on Saturday, November 14.
Each year, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world celebrate Diwali. The festival symbolises the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, and new beginnings in the modern world.
Festivities usually lasts for five days — the highlight being spectacular fireworks.
This part of the festival acknowledges Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom after 14 years in exile.
Hinduism believes that during Diwali, the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, would visit their homes if they are illuminated. This is where Lakshmi Puja also comes into prominence.
But 2020 is the year of Covid-19, and every celebration is marred by the novel coronavirus. The Diwali celebrations are further hampered due to the alarmingly poor quality of air in the national capital region owing to stubble burning in the adjoining states.
Amid this, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to continue the tradition of celebrating this festival of lights at the Longewala post on Rajasthan border with soldiers. He has been doing this since 2014, the year he first became came to power.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Army Chief General MM Naravane and Border Security Force (BSF) DG Rakesh Asthana have also accompaned the prime minister.
Earlier in the day, Modi tweeted to wish the nation.
“Wishing everyone a Happy Diwali! May this festival further brightness and happiness. May everyone be prosperous and healthy,” he posted on Twitter.
On Friday, Modi urged every citizen to light a diya as a as a salute to soldiers who “fearlessly protect our nation”.
“This Diwali, let us also light a Diya as a #Salute2Soldiers who fearlessly protect our nation. Words can’t do justice to the sense of gratitude we have for our soldiers for their exemplary courage. We are also grateful to the families of those on the borders,” he tweeted.
“On the auspicious occasion of Diwali, I extend my heartiest greetings and best wishes to all the fellow citizens living in India and abroad. May this grand festival of happiness and light bring delight, peace and prosperity to each and every house of our country,” Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said in a series of tweets.
“The festival inspires us to work for the service of humanity. Let us, on this occasion, resolve to become a lamp of hope and prosperity for the poor, destitute and needy people of the society by sharing our happiness just as a lamp lightens many lamps by sharing its light,” he said.
“Diwali is also a festival of cleanliness, so let us honor mother-nature by celebrating pollution-free, environment friendly and clean Diwali,” he added.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also took to Twitter and said, “May this holy festival of Diwali bring prosperity and happiness and good health in the lives of people. Best wishes on the festival of light.”
“Wishing you all a Happy Diwali,” Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
ACROSS THE WORLD
On the occasion of Diwali, the iconic New York city destination Empire State Building was lit up in orange.
The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the leading umbrella diaspora organisation in the US, partnering with the Empire State Building, marked the festival of lights by illuminating the iconic Manhattan building in orange Friday.
FIA said it also served 10,000 hot meals in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut under the initiative ‘Diwali Soup & Kitchen’, aimed at taking Indian tradition, culture and customs related to the festival to a diverse audience.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles used the analogy of victory of light over darkness as reflective of overcoming the coronavirus pandemic crisis as part of their annual messages to mark the festival.
“This year, perhaps more than any other, Diwali holds a potent meaning for all of us; because just as surely as Lord Rama defeated the demon king Ravana and brought his wife Sita home, and just as Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, so too — I have every confidence — that we shall triumph over COVID-19,” Johnson said.
He reiterated the “mantra” for a year when Diwali is being marked in a locked down setting across the UK for people to wash hands, wear a face covering, and keep their distance from anyone not part of the household.
Prince Charles released a Diwali message video through his South Asian diaspora-led charity British Asian Trust and pointed out how the festival this year coincides with his own 72nd birthday.
“The Festival of Lights is, I know, a special time for families and friends to come together to share gifts and sweets and to enjoy each other’s companies. Very sadly this year, the ongoing public health crisis means that this will simply not be possible for so many of you and I can so well imagine how difficult and disappointing this must be,” said the heir to the British throne.