Diwali celebrated with full fervour but under lockdown

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LONDON: Members of Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities in Britain celebrated their first ever virtual Diwali on Saturday, as the Covid lockdown has forced the cancellation of almost all normal festivities.  

Despite the usual gatherings of friends and families being impossible because of the pandemic, numerous councils and temples across the UK have instead taken the celebrations online, hosting video streams for the faithful to tune in, the Independent has reported.   

LONDON: Chancellor Rishi Sunak lights a diva at his official residence 11 Downing Street on Saturday.

In Leicester, the city council has encouraged locals to send in video messages which will be broadcast as part of its entertainment, as well as a video of last year’s fireworks display, music and dancing.  

The West Midlands Combined Authority has collaborated with the Indian consulate to host ‘Diwali on the Screen’, which featured traditional singing and dancing from local performers.

London’s main Diwali celebration normally takes place in Trafalgar Square, but this year was forced to also go online. But the event’s organiser, Sister Jayanti, said the message behind the festival could still be heard despite the muted celebrations.  

One of the most popular religious festivals in Britain, Diwali originated as a Hindu event marking the return of the god Lord Rama and his wife Sita to their home in northern India after 13 years in exile.  

Hindus celebrate the day, which this year falls on Saturday 14 November, as a time to renew their faith and rejoice that light has won over darkness and good defeated evil.  

Sikhs celebrate at the same time in memory of the day when the sixth guru Sri Guru Hargobind Ji was released from imprisonment under one of India’s Mughal emperors.  

The chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak – himself a practising Hindu – lit oil lamps on the front steps of his home at No 11 Downing Street on Thursday ahead of Diwali. “For us as Hindus, Diwali is special, and it’s going to be difficult this year,” Mr Sunak told the BBC.   

“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. “We’ll have lots of happy times afterwards. But to keep everyone safe right now, just follow the rules.”