Celebrating Diwali During the Pandemic

Diwali, the five-day occasion also known as the “Festival of Lights,” is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in Metro Detroit, India and around the world. The festival peaks with the new moon on Saturday, November 14th.

We’re in the midst of Diwali, a holiday celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in Metro Detroit, India and around the world. The five-day occasion is also known as the festival of lights.

“Diwali is the festival of new beginnings, which symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, and good over evil.” — Ramesh Gudapuri, chariman of the India League of America — Michigan

“Diwali is the most important festival for Hindus around the world,” says Ramesh Gudapuri, chairman of the India League of America – Michigan, a Farmington Hills-based group that works to share Indian culture with the broader community. “Diwali is the festival of new beginnings, which symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, and good over evil.”

Saturday is the most significant day, the day of the new moon when the ancient deity Rama and his wife Sita are said to have returned from exile, finding their city lit up with lamps to help guide them home.

“So we light up lights all over the house and a temple, like Christmas,” says Ram Garg, the religious chairman of the Hindu Temple of Canton.  

Hindus also celebrate the holiday by paying tribute to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, by lighting clay oil lamps and sometimes gambling.

Madhukar Kumar/Unsplash
Madhukar Kumar/Unsplash

Diwali During the Pandemic

COVID-19 is changing the way Diwali will be celebrated this year. Many people will skip temple and worship from home.

Garg says if people do visit the Hindu Temple of Canton, they will need to wash their hands, wear a mask, and stay six feet apart. He says capacity will be limited and when it is reached, other visitors will need to wait in their car.

Some type of service (virtual or otherwise) are also being offered at Durga Temple in Detroit, Michigan Kalibari in Warren, Sri Venkateswara Temple in Novi, The Bharatiya Temple in Troy, Sri Balaji Temple of Great Lakes in West Bloomfield, SVBF North – Sri Sharadamba Temple of Farmington Hills, Devi Parashakthi Matha of Pontiac, and Hindu Temple of Windsor, ON.

In addition to going to the temple, the holiday typically involves dressing up and feasting with family. Gudapuri says many people will skip visiting relatives outside their household, and instead connect with them virtually.

But he says there’s a bright side to that, “This year, honestly speaking, we plan on meeting up with more people than we usually meet up with physically,” says Gudapuri. “So we are making use of the technology and making use of the situation and trying to be as safe as possible and at the same time want to cheer up our family and all of our friends over the virtual world.”

Gudapuri says the timing of Diwali during the pandemic is actually fitting.

“For many people, this is the beginning, considered the beginning of the new year,” explains Gudapuri. “It’s perfect timing for Diwali as we recently heard that the vaccine is coming.”

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.