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Gujarati Diwali and New Year’s celebrations

Pratish Patel joined BGF’s Portfolio Finance team in Birmingham in 2017. Here, Pratish shares the history of Diwali and how he celebrates the festival with his family each year.

Diwali is one of the biggest and most important celebrations in Hinduism, and is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs across the world. The word Diwali literally means ‘rows of lighted lamps’, which is why the celebration is often referred to as the festival of lights. My family are from a region of India called Gujarat, which has its own calendar and Diwali traditions.

Navratri

In Gujarat, the lead up to Diwali starts during the Navratri festival. Navratri translates as ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit (as the festival lasts nine nights and 10 days) and it is an annual celebration of good over evil. The festival marks the moment when the goddess Durga descended onto Earth from her heavenly abode to defeat the demon king Mahishasura.

During the Navratri festival, we all go to the temple for nine nights to celebrate. The tenth day, Dusherra, coincides with the day in the ancient text Ramayana where Prince Rama defeated the demon king Ravana, freeing his wife Sita and ridding the Earth of evil.

Diwali

After his victory over Ravana, and 14 years of exile, the return of Prince Rama to his kingdom of Ayodhya is what Hindus now celebrate as Diwali. On this day, Hindu households are decorated with diyas (oil lamps) and rangoli (colourful patterned artwork).

We all try to spend as much time together as possible during Diwali. I make rangoli with my children and we decorate the house together. It’s also a time that we get together as a family to make and eat lots of food, including sweets and savouries.

New Year’s Day

For Gujaratis, the day after Diwali marks the start of the New Year. In the Gujarati Hindu calendar, this is the day that we seek the blessings of our elders, so that we may start the year on the right foot and achieve our aspirations.

For me, Diwali and the New Year are a time to take stock of both mine and my family’s achievements from the past 12 months. I use this moment to reset and to set myself new goals for the year ahead, much like the New Year’s resolutions that people set on the first day of January.

When you think about it, Gujarati Diwali and New Year’s celebrations are like that of many other religions and countries: spending time with loved ones, acknowledging our achievements together, and celebrating our culture as one.

Happy Diwali everyone!

BGF Insights 11.09.2023
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