Festival of Light Does Not Underwhelm!

The annual Diwali festival of lights came to the Engine Shed on Monday, brought to the University by the Students’ Union.

Diwali celebrates the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good versus evil and the defeat of ignorance with knowledge. It is acknowledged by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists.

The word Diwali originates from the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” which means “rows of lighted lamps”.

Traditional Performer at the Diwali Celebration 2021
Traditional Performer at the Engine Shed, Diwali Celebration 2021
Photo: David Bosworth

Occurring every year after the end of harvest at the same time as the new moon (‘Amavasy’), between October and November on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartik, the festivities were held off last year as a result of Covid restrictions, but this Monday it was back with a bang.

A throng of revelling students filled out the Engine Shed venue, and from the moment I walked in, receiving a red ‘tikka’ spot on my forehead, I knew magic was happening, and greeted by a diverse crowd of merry-makers, I couldn’t help but feel like this was a truly spiritual, affecting, yet fun-filled occasion.

I spoke to Sanjay Nimavet, Hindu Faith Advisor at the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy, who told me that Diwali is one of the biggest events of the year for the East:

“It’s put together by the students and it is really good that they’ve kept the culture and the traditions of Diwali – the things they do such as the sharing of sweets, making and lighting lamps, making decorations and everybody getting together and saying prayers or celebrating in their own way – it’s really good that being away from home, being away from their family, they’ve been able to carry on with this tradition.

Aswini and Devika who were painting red ‘Tikka’ spots.
Photo: David Bosworth

“The significance of Diwali is that it has been celebrated for thousands of years and in the eastern culture represents the creation, preservation and destruction of the whole of creation – just like the sun is a big lamp really, a fireball – usually we light a lamp every day in our homes; but when you do it as a community and when thousands of you, or millions, do it together it literally burns away a lot of negativity and darkness in your community and your home and brings back positivity into your life and the community – and really that is the significance of the celebration – to get everybody together and create a lot of life and a lot of joy.”

I spoke to Vaibhav, University of Lincoln student studying International Business who was attending the celebratory crowd with his friends and who told me:

“Diwali is about celebrating the day the Lord Rama came back to his kingdom after a long journey along with his wife and his little brother. The lights signifies a celebration for us, it signifies prosperity, good over evil, and bringing positive thoughts and togetherness to everything. This is our first time at Diwali in Lincoln.”

Amongst the keynote speakers at the event were Mayor Jackie Kirk and Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln, Neal Juster, who addressed the crowd to laud the celebration of light over darkness and the power of companionship.

Mayor of Lincoln Jackie Kirk spoke to say:

“Diwali is a phenomenal celebration, you can hear the crowd – how much noise there is and how many people are attending this evening’s event – it is absolutely phenomenal. The lights, the entertainment, the celebrations from all different faiths – it is amazing to be here. There are all different areas of cultural diversity for people to get involved with and have a go at. There’s been traditional dress, traditional dance, entertainment; it’s one of those real feel-good events which is what Diwali is really about. It’s about life and love, and for the Students’ Union to organise an event where students can get to know each other ticks all the boxes.”

Aswini was with her friend Devika, who applied the red ‘tikka’ spot to my forehead, and told me:

“Since we are international students Diwali means ‘home’, as it’s all Indians here, family is everything to us. Back in India Diwali is such an occasion, all the family comes together – it brings together the community. It’s just like that.”

Diya candles symbolising goodness and purity.
Photo: David Bosworth

Jasmine Sodhi, Sikh Faith Advisor explained:

“It’s a wonderful celebration to see students from all across the world coming together, curious of other cultures – it’s just wonderful to see diversity here at the University. My little grandson is here, it’s wonderful. There seems to be more people here than last time – everyone is just getting up and dancing, I would love to see more of these events throughout the year, I am very enthusiastic to see more of these occasions.”

I spoke with Amina Akugri, Vice President International at the Students’ Union who told me what the event meant to her and students:

“Diwali celebrates all new things happening over the bad things that have happened before and in an amazing way – that even through all the struggles and challenges we’ve faced, not only in the UK but all over the globe (we have Indians all over the world who celebrate Diwali) – it’s a good start for students who have overcome all the challenges we have come across from last year who are ready to start a new journey and to be part of a room of people excited not just celebrating students from a diverse background – in one way or another this is an opportunity to start afresh – it is the beginning of all good things to come.”

Here’s to the next Festival of Light, and to another ram-packed Engine Shed!