To mark the festival of Diwali this year, our regular Great British Indian Survey series sought the views of British Indians on whether it was time to mark this major Indian, and now global, festival as a Bank Holiday in the UK. The significance of Diwali as the Festival of Lights, celebrated across all parts of India, coincides with the daylight-saving clock change in the UK in October-November. It marks a welcome spiritual uplift as the days start to get shorter and colder.
Over the years, Diwali festivities have taken on a wide spectrum, from Downing Street and the mayors of different parts of the UK to several businesses including a Diwali event in their calendar.
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And now, the results of the Great British Indian Survey of around 800 voters have a very definitive view on its significance in British life:
1. Should Diwali be declared a Bank Holiday in the UK? Yes = 94% No = 6%
2. Is the significance of Diwali as the Festival of Lights well-known enough UK-wide? Yes = 67% No = 33%
3. Is Diwali well recognised in Britain’s annual festivals calendar? Yes = 49% No = 51%
While there are clearly no doubts among British Indians about the central outcome, the close result on the recognition of the festival in the UK’s festivals calendar represents the need for more to be done to acknowledge Diwali as one of the major UK festivals now.
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Diwali is observed on the 15th day of Karthik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar, and it is believed that on this day Lord Rama returned from a 14-year-long exile during which he fought and won a battle against the demon king Ravana – hence the central message of victory of good over evil. With it coinciding with Bandi Chhor Divas for the Sikhs and celebrated across all Indian communities with lights and festivities, it is surely time to make it more official with a Bank Holiday.
"Greetings to the countrymen on the auspicious occasion of Diwali. I wish that this festival of lights brings happiness, prosperity and good fortune in your life. Wishing everyone a very Happy Diwali," said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his Diwali message.
Now, for the results of the Great British Indian Survey to be taken forward towards a new Bank Holiday for the festival.