Diwali is one of the most important celebrations in Hinduism. Known as the Festival of Lights, it is celebrated with much pomp and vigor in India. In recent years, many more countries have joined in celebrating Diwali. However, this year’s Diwali celebrations, whether in India, the United States, or other nations, have been severely marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For this year’s Diwali, many U.S. temples set up online prayer ceremonies. This was done to minimize the number of people who visit the temple on this auspicious day. Times Square used to host Diwali celebrations every year, featuring music and dance performances, appearances by Bollywood celebrities, and so on. But for this year, the entire event was moved online.
The virtual event included musical concerts, a lamp-lighting ceremony at Times Square, and a recorded message from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Covid-19 is the biggest evil right now, but we realized that we needed to defeat it by following the rules and regulations while still celebrating to uplift the spirits not only of our Indian American community but for everyone who can now join in on the festivities,” Neeta Bhasin, event manager of the Times Square Diwali celebrations, said to NBC News.
In London, Leicester’s Golden Mile used to be a riot of colors and lights every Diwali. For two days, the road used to be the host of music and dancing events, attracting around 40,000 to 50,000 people. But as in the U.S, the celebrations were muted in Golden Mile this year. Sixty-two-year-old Joshna Ramji pointed out that people use to buy new clothes, food, gifts, etc., to celebrate the festival, and the atmosphere used to be festive.
In India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other parts of Asia, Diwali was celebrated with full vigor, although public gatherings were kept to a minimum. People visited temples with face masks on. Though these countries observe Diwali, celebrations vary depending on the region. In Nepal, Diwali is celebrated as Tihar and is a 5-day celebration. One of the days involves offering delicious foods to the dogs and garlanding them as a sign of respect. In Malaysia, Diwali is the biggest Hindu celebration and is classified as a federal public holiday. In Singapore, lights adorn the region called Little India. Hindus visit the Sri Mariamman Temple during this day.
Diwali is celebrated in honor of the return of Hindu God Lord Rama to his kingdom after slaying the demon Ravana. The festival indicates the victory of good over evil. The lighting of numerous lamps symbolizes this idea. In addition to Hindus, people of other faiths like Sikhs and Jains also celebrate the event. For Sikhs, the day also marks the prison release of their guru Hargobind in 1619. For Jains, Diwali is the day Lord Mahavira attained enlightenment. In addition to Lord Rama, Hindus also pray to Lord Krishna and Goddess Lakshmi during Diwali.
The exploits of Lord Rama are narrated in the epic poem Ramayana, written by sage Valmiki thousands of years ago. The text contains almost 24,000 verses and is considered an Adi Kavya, meaning the first poem written in the world. Ramayana talks about duties and responsibilities with regards to parents, children, husband, wife, rulers, gurus, and so on. Written in Sanskrit, Ramayana is one of the most influential works from ancient human history, with its impact felt all over Asia.
Numerous TV shows have been made on the Ramayana, the most popular one being the 1987 series that ran for 78 episodes. Broadcast through the national network, it was said that the streets used to be empty when the Ramayana was shown on television. The series was retelecast during this COVID-19 lockdown and broke world records by becoming one of the most-watched TV shows in the world, with 77 million viewers.