HomeIndian AmericanCOVID-19 leads to change in this year's Diwali celebration

COVID-19 leads to change in this year’s Diwali celebration

Photo by Nafiida Zaman via Flickr Creative Commons

From Asia to the Americas, celebrations of Diwali, the five-day-long Festival of Lights, starts on Saturday. But NDTV reports that due to COVID-19 safety precautions, they’re looking different from usual this year: In 2020, Diwali celebrations are going virtual.

Celebrated by billions of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Muslims and Sikhs worldwide, the holiday typically brings crowds of thousands to temples, cities, and other places to celebrate. In the U.S., New York City’s Times Square is also one of these gathering sites for people taking part in the annual festivities. Diwali Times Square announced via Twitter that the events will still be held virtually.

Diwali Times Square via Twitter

“The significance of Diwali is good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance,” Diwali at Times Square’s founder Neeta Bhasin told CBS New York. “We have performers from India, we have renowned singers. And we have one of [India’s] top pianists,” she said, sharing how the event will look online.

Similarly, a Sikh gudwara in Richmond Hill and and Bhakti Center Hindu temple in Manhattan are now hosting virtual services rather than their typical crowds of several hundred.

“With the ongoing situations around the globe, we need the light to fight the darkness on the outside and within,” the Bhakti Center’s Karuna Gauranga told CBS New York.

In Texas, Arya Samaj Greater Houston — a Hindu community in Harris County — is hosting a drive-thru Diwali celebration Friday night, KHOU reports.

“[This event] is very important because people have had hard times,” ASGH coordinator Sanjay Jain told KHOU. “COVID’s not going to stop us from our celebration.”

“Even if you are suffering, you need a little bit of a break, and that break should be joyful,” Priest Acharya Surya Nanda added.

Photo by Krishna Praveen via Flickr Creative Commons

These sentiments seem to be echoed across the world, as a Pinkvilla article published from Mumbai suggests 5 ways to host a virtual Diwali party: “Unprecedented times, call for an unprecedented celebration. This Diwali, go virtual and host the best virtual Diwali party by following these 5 simple tips,” it says. The article has already gained over 350,000 views.

Even in Canada, The Hindustan Times reported Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s participation in a virtual celebration — hosted by Anita Anand, the country’s first Hindu Cabinet member, and Indian Canadian MPs country-wide. Lighting a ceremonial lamp from his office in Parliament Hill, Trudeau tweeted about the significance of Diwali:

“To celebrate [that truth, light, and goodness will always prevail] and mark this important festival, I joined a virtual celebration earlier this evening. Happy Diwali to everyone celebrating!”

Justin Trudeau via Twitter

According to The Hindustan Times, the ceremony marked the 20th year of an annual event started by MP Deepak Obhrai “to bring Diwali to Parliament hill, the seat of power in Canada.”

Ajay Bisaria — India’s High Commissioner to Ottawa — also tweeted that, “Diwali is now so much a Canadian festival!”

Ajay Bisaria via Twitter

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