Due to the ongoing lockdown, Newcastle University's Hindu and Sikh Society (HASS) were forced to hold their Diwali celebrations over Zoom last Saturday 14 November. Members of the Hindu and Sikh communities from Durham and across the country were also in attendance.
The event was facilitated by the provision of 50 ‘Diwali at Home' boxes which contained various Diwali-themed supplies.
The box equipped members to make rangoli, which are designs painted on the front of houses in the hope of welcoming the goddess Lakshmi. HASS provided coloured powders and stencils to help create the works. Sandra Jinny, one of HASS' members, commented: "My housemates absolutely loved the rangoli even though it was super messy!"
Other contents of the boxes included traditional sweets, paints, flowers, pooja supplies, a diva, a henna cone and sparklers.
For many Hindus and Sikhs, Diwali is the most important and auspicious time of the year. Members told The Courier that the announcement of lockdown and its implications - that Diwali would not be the reunion that many had been expecting - was disheartening.
Traditionally Diwali is a celebration of good over evil and light within darkness; the society took pains to emulate this in their organising. HASS attempted to replicate the annual sense of fun and connection with God at a time of social deprivation.
Hindus celebrate the return of the god Rama to his kingdom after 14 years of exile, to which he was welcomed home with rows of thousands of small candles (diyas). They also pray to the goddess Lakshmi who is said to grant good fortune and wealth for the coming year. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas which celebrates the release of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji from prison while rescuing 52 innocent princes. For both communities, it is a time to celebrate with family, eat, light fireworks and diyas and pray.
The event aimed to provide everyone with the opportunity to learn more about Diwali and engage in the festivities - irrespective of where they live or what religion they belong to.
Amy Kaur, a member of HASS, told The Courier she is "so glad" to have participated.
"The pooja, the Diwali bag, the diyas; everyone and everything made me feel a lot happier being away from home on such an important festival.”
The group Zoom call started out with a pooja, a Diwali prayer. A priest was present to come and explain and guide participants through a traditional Diwali prayer, with assisting resources provided in the package. The pooja took Ux Kapdee, Media Officer, by surprise: "[It] was so much more fun than I thought it would be!"
Recipients have taken to social media to share their henna designs, and the HASS committee will judge the best design. As the celebration concluded, the group lit their sparklers to share in the titular and most famous feature of the "festival of light". One member described it as "the perfect end to a rather different Diwali," adding that it "was filled with the same joy and happiness as ever despite the lockdown blues."
Featured Image: Shalayna Sakaria