By: Pramod Thomas
By Pam Gosal MSP
LIGHT overcoming the darkness is not something we Scots have the luxury of experiencing at this time of year; rather, we’re used to the darkness dominating our autumn days.
The festival of Diwali however, which falls on November 4, celebrates the idea that light will eventually overcome the dark. The celebration has traditionally been important to Sikhs, Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. For each religion it holds different meanings and is celebrated in different ways, but, at its core, Diwali celebrates positive triumphs – good over evil, wisdom over ignorance, and light over darkness.
Having grown up in a Sikh family, I have many memories of Diwali. Traditions would include dressing up in colourful clothes and preparing and eating my mother’s delicious Indian dishes.
We decorated our home with lit candles and, when we lived in a tenement flat on Argyle Street, we lit sparklers on the pavement outside. After moving to a house with a garden we were allowed to light fireworks, which truly brightened the celebrations.
I can remember our non-Sikh neighbours being unaware of what we were celebrating. Some thought we were doing Guy Fawkes Night at a different time from everybody else.
I would like to think there is more awareness of the holiday now than there was then, and likewise for the other cultural traditions that came from minorities in Scotland. The visibility of less well-known cultural traditions within Scotland is something I hope my own status as a Member of the Scottish Parliament can increase. I am the first Sikh MSP and one of the first women of colour elected to the Scottish Parliament.
Something I believe is fundamental to Diwali is inclusion. It isn’t anyone faith’s festival; it can belong to anyone. My father would celebrate it with his friends – Sikh or Hindu – and he’d make the point it was all about people coming together.
Now, when I go to the local gurdwara during the festival, to light candles and make wishes for friends and family, I see lots of people from all kinds of communities in attendance.
Very much like Christmas, last year’s festivities had to be limited. A lot of the celebratory aspects that make Diwali so joyous and uplifting couldn’t happen because of the pandemic.
This year we will hopefully see a more familiar festival with warm meetings between friends and family, exciting firework displays, and great traditional cooking being shared around. The central message of Diwali – that the good will ultimately overcome the bad – is something that people still need to hear after enduring more than one year of the pandemic.
As we’re beginning to come out the other side of this difficult period, there probably isn’t a more appropriate time to hold on to the belief that no matter how dark or grim things can become, there will always be hope and there will always be light.
Pam Gosal has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament for West Scotland since May 2021.