Diwali is one of the most vibrant and meaningful festivals of the year for millions of Hindus around the world. The dispelling of darkness with light symbolises the triumph of good over evil. As the world continues to grapple with the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, Diwali’s enlightening messages of faith, hope, goodness and community were needed more than ever this year.
After last year’s celebrations were moved exclusively online, this year, it was a relief and joy to many that BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London was able to allow devotees and visitors to attend in-person in a Covid-safe manner over a four-day festive period.
In addition, certain celebrations were streamed live from the Mandir via a webcast service with thousands of families participating from home. This included the ‘Sharda Pujan’ ceremony on the evening of Diwali, when Saraswati, the Hindu deity of knowledge, learning, the arts and wisdom, was honoured.
The day following Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. The first arti of the new year was webcast at 5.30am, followed by prayers for world peace, harmony, protection and well-being. The shangar arti followed at 7.00am, and then the ceremonial offering of the annakut, Govardhan puja, and rajbhog arti at 9.15am.
Usually, the Mandir in London hosts one of the largest community festivals for Diwali and Annakut in the UK, when thousands from around the country come to celebrate and enjoy the colourful traditions of the Hindu faith.
This year, however, the annakut was on a much smaller scale, displayed only inside the shrines of the Mandir. It was also held across four days to allow a wider spread of crowds. To add to the festive experience, delicious vegetarian sweet and savoury snacks and various souvenirs were available on the grounds opposite the Mandir during all four days.
Pooja Patel, visiting the Mandir with her family, shared, “It was wonderful to return to the Mandir for Diwali. The atmosphere at the Mandir is always uplifting – and during Diwali, there’s simply nothing quite like it!”