With the end of the year rapidly approaching, many cultures are beginning to celebrate joyous and prosperous times with friends and family. Despite the restrictions of COVID-19, families are still determined to make this Diwali memorable.
Diwali is a traditional Indian holiday that typically lasts four to five days and is celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. Kartika typically falls between mid-October and mid-November with some variation. A lunisolar calendar is a one that indicates and is affected by both the moon phase and the time of the solar year, and months are based on the regular lunar cycle.
In a general sense, Diwali is the celebration of good triumphing over evil. Like most cultures, there are many stories, mythologies and traditions surrounding Diwali that can differ based on locational upbringing. Some of the most common festivities include getting together with friends and family, lighting diyas (lamps), creating rangoli designs and worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth.
Sir Maha Lakshmi Temple of Atlanta, a local Hindu temple in Forsyth County, detailed that worship will be like years in the past with little variation. Devotees are asked to wear a mask inside the temple and priests and staff will be limiting how many people can enter at a given time.
“When everybody is safe, we feel internally very happy,” Priest Pavan Kumar said.
Kumar assured that devotees can “come securely and pray their wishes” during Diwali. The staff and priests at the temple are making sure that people are protected and following regulated guidelines for health and safety due to COVID-19.
Sir Maha Lakshmi Temple of Atlanta also encourages and gratefully accepts donations from devotees.
“In this year in the pandemic situation, nonprofit organizations are struggling,” Kumar said. “To maintain this temple and everything, we are heartfully expecting generous donations from the devotees.”
Kumar also wished for everyone to stay safe during celebrations.
“When everybody celebrates, relations become strong in the community,” Kumar said. “And when you are getting the knowledge, you are luminating outside as well as inside you.”
While Diwali is a time for prosperity and joy, the temple staff wishes to remind everyone to stay safe and continue to follow regulation guidelines.
Local Forsyth County resident Trupti Gowkar said she also hopes friends and family stay safe during the holiday.
“I just hope that people will take the proper precautions because I feel the pain and frustration in the community, but at the same time, we have to be very careful with what we do,” Trupti said. “But everyone deserves to celebrate in their own ways as long as we are aware of what we’re doing and keeping things safe.”
Trupti is from Bombay in the state of Maharashtra state of western India. She, along with her family, prepared for Diwali the same way as they have in years past. She cleaned the house and baked sweet and savory foods that could be shared with friends and family during the holiday.
Trupti explained that her family celebrated the start of Diwali by waking up before the sun rose on the first day, and that wearing new clothing was a must. Her family also lit and hung lanterns outside and made rangoli designs outside by their door.
“Many people go to the temple, but it is not a mandatory thing,” Trupti said. “It is a very personal choice, and it differs depending on your traditions.”
Many traditions and festivities are different for each family, all dependent on culture and regional upbringing in India. However, the themes of prosperity, joy and peace are universal.
Celebrating in large groups is a very large and important part of Diwali, and some families have had to revise festivities to fit proper safety guidelines. Trupti’s family was one such family, but she explained that her family is close friends with a few other families, and that they felt safe and comfortable getting together in a smaller group to celebrate the holiday.
“Not as much meeting as we would do otherwise, but a big part of Diwali is meeting friends and family,” Trupti said, “And there will be get-togethers and gatherings to spread the joy and happiness because that’s what Diwali is all about.”
Getting together with loved ones is the most common way to celebrate Diwali. Traditionally, no one celebrates the holiday by sitting at home with their immediate family. Diwali is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated with the community.
“It’s been a long time with everything dragging, and people want to go out and do something good that makes them happy,” Trupti said. “Everybody needs that hope, and everybody deserves that because unfortunately we don’t know how long this will drag on.”
While COVID-19 may continue to persist on a national scale, the community in Forsyth County refuses to allow that to dampen their spirits and separate them from loved ones during festivities. Much like the stories behind Diwali and the spirit of the holiday, residents of Forsyth County will continue to fight against the dark to find bits of light, perseverance and hope.