Diwali, one of the most vibrant festivals filled with light and sparkles, will be celebrated somewhat differently from its usual large gatherings and visits to the homes of friends and family to share mithai (sweets) due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
‘iGlobal’ itself has taken this changed landscape on board to organise the biggest-ever virtual festival of lights celebration, . And, as temples and gurdwaras up and down the UK take to similar online platforms to keep the festive spirit alive, there are a whole host of other innovative ways in which is being marked this year – from creative concepts, fun family activities to drives for a good cause.
For over 10 years, the Akshaya Patra UK Foundation UK () has been fulfilling its mission of serving in the UK and India.
In the build up to Diwali this year, the organisation launched a Colours of Giving – Diwali 2020 Painting Fundraiser, where children in the UK are encouraged to paint their Diwali memories as a way to raise funds to gift light and happiness to at least 1,000 disadvantaged children in both India and the UK.
Bhawani Shekhawat, CEO of TAPF UK, said: “For Diwali, this year we wanted to do something more meaningful than what we already do; which is to try and engage children, because we serve children, and our beneficiaries are children both in the UK and India.
“We wanted to engage children across the UK in a meaningful way to pull them into the concept of giving.”
The response to the fundraiser has been tremendous, with close to 50 registrations within the first two weeks of launching the fundraiser.
Shekhawat adds: “We hope to have raised a small amount of £7,000 by November 14 (Diwali Day), which is to be used to serve people both in UK and India.
“This year has been so reflective for all us which is why we thought about doing something more human. This is the ethos of our organisation, getting the community involved. We wanted to engage children and get them involved in giving, to connect with the community and children their age, and realise how much food poverty there is.”
Based in Surrey, Prabhsharan Bedi came up with the concept of after the birth of her son. The former teacher creates fun and educational activities for two-to-six-years-olds which are designed to both engage and stimulate learning through play.
Since 2018, she has been creating unique Diwali collections for children. Originally from Mumbai and growing up in India, Bedi had fond memories of celebrating the festival with friends and family. After moving to the UK, she realised it was not celebrated as grandly as in India.
“I wanted to create something that would have a festive atmosphere for my son. So, he has some idea about his roots and gets to learn the rich cultural heritage as well as traditions associated with the festival,” explains Bedi.
Her for Diwali this year covers a larger range of products than previous years, including activity booklets for three-to-five-year-olds (little learners) and five-to-seven-year-olds (young learners).
She says: “It’s not just about colouring or counting; it includes Diwali stories and information on why Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrate it. As well as talking about the five days of Diwali, with colouring sheets, word-search and posters.”
“This year, I went a bit further and have infused rangoli rice with scents – each one of them has been carefully selected and is symbolic of something which is deeply rooted in Indian culture – masala tea, desi ghee sweets, jasmine flowers, Indian spices and rose garlands.”
The purpose of the collection, which includes a range of activities from arts and crafts to cooking and games, is to help children understand their heritage and learn about the festival.
“For parents, it helps take that pressure off them, and it is a great way to engage with the children and build a sense of festive atmosphere,” notes Bedi.
Abu Dhabi based author and creative artist Kinshoo Agrawal has opted for unique Diwali-inspired prints for children to enjoy in the build up to Diwali 2020. The free downloadable prints on her blog include diyas, kandils (traditional part of home décor on Diwali) and lanterns as well as Diwali activity sheets encouraging literacy and numeracy.
Children can create their own Diwali greeting cards and can take a printout and colour it to their taste and decorate with glitter. Along with this, Agrawal is currently in the process of making paper lanterns and DIY diyas.
Agrawal explains: “It is very important to teach our kids about the relevance and traditions of the festivals, and the best way to do that is by involving them in the festival preparations, telling them stories behind the festivities and importance of rituals, making sweets and snacks, decorating the house, doing some crafts and activities or making hand-made gifts and cards for friends and family.”
The founder of Mom Learning with Baby began by blogging in April 2018 and created the website as a way to create engaging activities for her son.
“I used to design some learning activities and then started sharing it as a blog. And now, I design and sell prints suitable for birthday parties and children activities."
Based in Manchester, 32-year-old designer reflects her creativity on designing Diwali-themed clothing and cards.
“The idea first came back in August when a friend suggested I work on some designs for Diwali. I am heavily influenced by India, so the designs have an Indian touch to it, which is also inspired by designs I have seen on Indian wear like saris,” she reflects.
The designs, which are all hand-drawn, include clothing such as baby-grows incorporating Diwali themes such as diyas and intricate designs, as well as face masks and tee-shirts.
She notes: “They are the perfect gifts you can give friends and family. With Diwali most of us will sadly be stuck inside our homes, so I thought jumpers and tee-shirts with Diwali designs on them would be perfect to wear in the house and incorporate the spirit of Diwali.
“I’ve also created a jigsaw puzzle and have used different colours and designs for children and families to choose from.”
* for the ‘iGlobal’ DiwaliFest 2020 for similar fun-filled activities and more in the lead up to Diwali day.