Diwali (also referred to as Deepavali) is the five-day festival of lights observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists around the world. Celebrating the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, it falls on Thursday, November 4 this year.
What Is Diwali?On this day, Hindus pay tribute to Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Laxman’s return to their kingdom after 14 years in exile as told in the Ramayana story. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas, which means Prisoner Release Day and it marks the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind’s release from India’s Gwalior Prison in 1619 along with 52 princes. Jains refer to the occasion as Mahavira Nirvana Divas, celebrating spiritual leader Mahavira and his teachings.
Celebrating Diwali In AustraliaHaving grown up in a Hindu household in Sydney's west, I've always celebrated Diwali with my family, along with many others in the South Asian diaspora. While I've only truly understood its religious significance in more recent years, I've always enjoyed the cultural customs and festivities that go with it, such as lighting sparklers in the backyard, lining our lounge room with candles and devouring crispy vada (deep-fried fritters) and hot jalebis (orange sweets).
This year is different as my family and I mark a more low-key Diwali following the death of a close loved one. We won't be gathering with extended family or visiting Indian sweet shops, but will still treasure our time together and enjoy a traditional vegetarian meal.
No doubt it'll be different for many Australians who celebrate Diwali too – many of whom haven't seen their family due to border restrictions, may have lost a loved one during the pandemic, or have perhaps welcomed a new member into their family, changed jobs, or are spending their first Diwali in a new home. Despite the varied circumstances, what remains is a strong sense of community and connection with our roots.
Here we speak to five Australian women about what Diwali means to them and how they will be observing the day.