Ahead of the Festival of Lights and Manchester Met’s Student Union’s Roshni – Diwali Celebration, International student and SU event organiser Supraja R. Srinivasan shares what Diwali means to them.
“Wake up! It’s almost time, you don’t want to be late!”
Every year back home, Diwali or Deepavali, began with my parents trying to get me out of bed before sunrise, so I don’t miss the’muhurtam’ (auspicious time).
After I’d wake up, I would have to sit on a small wooden plank, after which either my grandmother would apply ‘kumkumam'(vermillion) on my feet and then massage oil onto my hair. This was then washed off in the shower using herbs and ‘shikakai’. This ritual is called the ‘Gangasnanam’ (holy bath) and is performed in the southern parts of India. It symbolises the washing away of jealousy, ego, and fights but for a healthier and well-being purpose, it was used to reduce body heat, moisturise and nourish the scalp.
Once the ritual was complete, I’d wear my new clothes and run out of the house to be the first to burst firecrackers in the lane. It was always a competition, there was a certain joy and thrill in being the family that kick starts that year’s Diwali celebrations. Once the firecrackers start, there’s no stopping them for a good two hours at least. They would be a wake-up call for everyone in the lane and once they joined in, it would go on for hours.
Around noon, once the first round of bursting crackers stopped, my parents and I would go visit our neighbours and relatives to take their blessings and distribute hampers containing sweets and savouries. A typical hamper at my house would consist of all the sweets and savouries made by my parents and grandmother, so you’d find ‘rava-ladoo’, ‘shakarpaara’, ‘mixture’, ‘murukku’, ‘sheedai’ and the most delicious ‘7-cupcake’ (a type of sweet made of condensed milk) in the little hamper bag.Once we’d distribute them, we’d get back home.
The spectacle of a true Diwali celebration is in the night. So, when we are up from our midday nap, we’d wear our new clothes and start to arrange ‘diyas’ (oil lamps) inside the house and in our balconies. Apart from the traditional ‘diyas’ many people also light lanterns and put up ‘fairy lights’ to decorate their houses.
According to the Hindu Mythology, Lord Ram returned from his 14-year exile along with his wife, Sita and brother Lakshman and to celebrate his return, people in his kingdom lit ‘diyas’ and celebrated with fireworks. This is how the tradition of Diwali or the ‘Festival of Lights’ began. It also symbolised the victory of good over evil or light over darkness.
In the evening, everyone would gather in the communal areas or their terraces, to view the dazzling fireworks lit up the night sky. Golden, red, blue, pink one after another the fireworks would leave everyone mesmerised. Families would gather to light the firecrackers together. This would go on until midnight, rather, until they were told to stop.
Although Diwali is a Hindu festival, it has never just been a Hindu festival. People from different religious faiths would come together and celebrate. After all, festivals were always meant to tie people together, to make sure everyone takes a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and gets quality time to be with their family and loved ones at least once a year.
That to me, is the most memorable part of Diwali, spending time with my family and all my friends. It is one of my favourite Indian festivals. This is why I have the absolute joy of inviting all Manchester Met students to ‘Roshni’ (meaning light in Hindi), our very own Diwali Celebration at the Student Union. ‘Roshni’ will be organised by the International Students Group on Friday 5th November, 2021 and will take place in the Main Hall of the SU building.
The event is planned to make you experience Indian culture, share the experience with your friends and also for you to have a great evening. There will be food, music, dance performances, and Mehendi (henna) artists for you to get your own Mehendi too! Come, share the experience with us.
Roshni – Diwali Celebration
Friday 5th November, 2021 at 7:30pm
The Union, 21 Higher Cambridge Street
Supraja R. Srinivasan is the International event organiser at the Manchester Met Student Union. She is from India, and is now studying for an MSc in Advanced Physiotherapy.