Diwali takes place virtually as Covid forces alternative celebrations

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Stacey Foster

Thousands of Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs have celebrated a restricted version of Diwali this year, after coronavirus regulations forced events off the streets and onto the internet.

With a nationwide lockdown in place in England to halt the spread of Covid-19, the festival of lights was unable create the same party atmosphere which normally overtakes much of the UK at this time of year.

Instead of dancing and lighting lamps in places like London's Trafalgar Square, revellers have used videos, video calls and photos to celebrate this year.

In Wolverhampton brothers Rana and San took their Bhangra dance performances to TikTok, instead of performing at Diwali celebrations as they usually would - watch below.

Himanshi Upadhyaya, a student at the University of Derby, told the PA news agency that she and her family will be celebrating over Zoom.

“Usually, I have friends over for a Diwali feast and games but this year I am preparing a feast for myself because I live alone and we’re in a lockdown,” she said.

“I will be celebrating over Zoom calls with family and friends.”

Leicester City Council asked revellers to send in video messages to be featured in its entertainment, while the West Midlands Combined Authority and Indian Consulate will be hosting an online event called Diwali on the Screen.

Leicester’s celebrations, which it claims are the “biggest celebrations of the festival of light outside of India”, include footage of last year’s fireworks, as well as music, dance and the traditional lighting of the diva lamp.

  • The deputy mayor of Leicester City Council discusses this years Diwali

“We all need to find different ways to celebrate important festivals like Diwali and Christmas this year,” deputy city mayor Councillor Piara Singh Clair said.

“Although we can’t meet up with our extended families in person this year, our virtual Diwali celebration will help bring people together for an experience they can share with a family member or a friend – wherever they are in the world.”

Similar outdoor celebrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff have been cancelled this year due to restrictions in Scotland and Wales, though digital events including performances and other cultural activities will also be held in their place.

Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs traditionally illuminate their homes and work spaces with candles and lanterns during Diwali.

One of the most popular festivals in the Hindu calendar, Diwali is celebrated to symbolise the victory of light over darkness, and good over evil.

Canary Wharf in London has celebrated the festival with a Rangoli-inspired installation made of floating flowers unveiled in the Jubilee Park fountains on Monday.

London’s main Diwali celebration, which takes place in Trafalgar Square annually, has been cancelled with its celebration instead taking place online.

The estimated 30,000 people who attend each year will be invited to a free online event instead.

A Diwali 2020 cancelled sign on Belgrave Road, Leicester. Credit: PA

Sister Jayanti, the chair of Diwali in London Committee 2020, said: “This Diwali is going to be very different from all the others we have ever experienced. Yet I’m sure the spirit of Diwali will definitely be well and strong!

“Diwali is the celebration of light and so, coming at a time of darkness, when there seem to be many sad stories of bereavement, sickness and financial hardship all caused by a virus, we need to ensure that our inner light stays ignited.”

On Thursday evening Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak lit candles outside 11 Downing Street to mark the festival.