Diwali 2020: When is it and how is it celebrated?

This November, millions of people around the world will celebrate light over darkness amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A woman places oil wick lamps to adorn her home with lights on the occasion of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, in Bangalore on November 14, 2020 [Manjunath Kiran/AFP]

Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is the biggest festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists around the world.

Its date changes every year and commemorates different things depending on local tradition and culture.

This year celebrations are likely to subdued as the coronavirus pandemic surges across the globe.

When is Diwali?

  • As per India’s official holiday calendar, Diwali in 2020 will be on Saturday, November 14, coinciding with the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar.
  • In Sri Lanka and Singapore, Diwali will also be observed on November 14, which is an official holiday in Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal and the Sindh province in Pakistan.
  • In the Gregorian calendar, the Diwali festival always falls between mid-October and mid-November.

What does it commemorate?

  • Hindus celebrate the triumph of good over evil – of light over darkness – to mark the return of Ram, the lord of virtue, to his kingdom after 14 years of exile.
  • Followers of Jainism commemorate Mahavira, a venerated ascetic who fundamentally reformed the faith, reaching a state of nirvana after his death.
  • Sikhs use Diwali to mark the anniversary of the release from prison of Guru Hargobind in 1619.
  • For Buddhists, this day represents the time Emperor Ashoka gave up everything and adopted a path of peace after going through bloodshed and death. The day is observed as Ashok Vijayadashami.

How is it celebrated?

  • Traditional earthen diyas or candles are lit, and nowadays, fireworks are set off.
  • Houses are cleaned and decorated with colourful rangoli artworks – patterns created on the floor using coloured rice or powder.
  • Throughout India, and in Indian communities, people wear new clothes, visit friends and family, and exchange sweets and gifts.There is also a strong belief in giving to those in need.
  • A special “puja” prayer is dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi in the evening. She is said to bring good luck and prosperity.
A Hindu man lights a candle on the steps in front of Asyamee, a Hindu temple in Kabul [Ivan Flores/Al Jazeera] 
A Hindu man lights a candle on the steps in front of Asyamee, a Hindu temple in Kabul [Ivan Flores/Al Jazeera]

What will Diwali look like during the pandemic?

  • Diwali celebrations this year will take place under restrictive measures, including mask wearing and physical distancing, as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
  • On Saturday, many temples across India streamed prayer sessions online to avoid large gatherings.
  • In the capital, New Delhi, one of the Indian cities hit the hardest by COVID-19, worried residents opted for low-key celebrations. Some even stayed home and did not visit friends or relatives. India has 8.7 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 129,000 deaths.
A devotee wearing a protective mask lights an oil lamp at a Hindu temple to mark the Diwali festival, amidst the spread of the coronavirus, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on November 14, 2020 [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies