We are living through a few months with festivals which centre around light, marked by some of the world’s religions: Hanukah, Kwanzaa and Christmas, for example. Perhaps we need light - a symbol of hope - more than ever at this point in 2020. The Hindu Festival of Light, Diwali, is on 14 November. This festival is partly in honour of the Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Good Fortune. It is also a remembrance for the return of Rama, Sita and Lakshman to the Kingdom of Ayodhya, after years of banishment in a forest, dealing with insecurity, hardship, wild animals, and then a violent clash with King Ravana. The citizens of Ayodhya lit candles in their windows to usher them home. This story is told in the key Hindu epic, The Ramayana.
Hindu temples all over the world become busier than ever around Diwali, in more usual times. Our local Hindu temple in St George is currently temporarily closed, like other places of worship. Not being able to worship alongside others, following traditional rituals, may be lowering mood levels for some people of faith. Connecting with a friend from your usual place of worship through a telephone call or sending a card could help lift spirits - both yours and theirs. Connecting with others is one of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, proven to improve and support our emotional wellbeing.
Some Hindus have a small shrine area in their homes. These are likely to become more significant this year. I can remember gathering fresh flowers early in the mornings for my grandmother’s shrine, back home in Sri Lanka, before the heat made them wilt. Whether of Hindu, another, or no faith, you could still light a candle, then take 3 whole minutes to sit quietly and watch the flame. Giving your full attention- being mindful - like this is another of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing.
Hindus tend to not eat beef as the cow is considered sacred. She is a mother-figure and sustains life through her milk. Some Hindus choose to be vegetarian on holy days. Why not have a go at making dhal - a vegetarian dish originating from the Indian subcontinent. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the spices; give it a go, anyway.
Many people find having a faith is a positive support for their mental health/emotional wellbeing. CASS has a range of booklets on this theme from different faith perspectives: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Whether you follow a certain faith, or have no faith, you could have a look at these short booklets to learn a little about different faiths. Learning something new is also one of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing.
Subitha Baghirathan, CASS Networker
Subitha has shared a poem remembering recent Diwali celebrations at Felix Road Adventure Playground, which you can listen to here,