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Religion at Network Rail - Diwali

Category: Employer Focus, Religion, Identity, Diwali

Religion at Network Rail - Diwali

For many of our staff religious belief is a core part of their identity. Having an understanding of these religions, faiths or beliefs as line managers will to help us be safer, more inclusive and provide the right support to our staff so that they can perform at their best.

We recognise the beginning of Diwali (also known as Deepavali), the Festival of Light.  The festival comes at the end of October or early November every year and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

The festival of lights

Diwali is known as the 'festival of lights' because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas. The word Diwali means 'rows of lighted lamps'. In Britain, as in India, the festival is a time for:

  • spring-cleaning the home
  • wearing new clothes
  • exchanging gifts (often sweets and dried fruits) and preparing festive meals
  • decorating buildings with fancy lights
  • huge firework displays.

Recognising Deepavali

Meena Dasigi, principal engineer, has worked for Network Rail for over eight years and within various parts of the rail industry for almost 20 years.

"For me, Deepavali is almost like Christmas in that I get excited, almost like a child. It's a very special celebration.

"Like all Hindu festivals there are three sides to the celebrations: religious, cultural and social. This is one festival that nearly all religions in India recognise, although there will be different nuances in different states.

The festival spans five lunar days. The day with no moon is Deepavali.

"As far as festivals go this is a very open one - you don't have to be Hindu to join in and the ethos of Deepavali is to include all and focus on lightness, sharing and being together.

"One unique thing about Deepavali is that it is the only festival celebrated on the night with no moon - and as the moon rises over the course of several days, you 'bring in the light'.

"To do this everyone lights vegetable-oil candles and keeps them lit from sun set to late into the night. It is a beautiful time, full of glowing homes and fireworks. Even the youngest family members participate: when I was six weeks old my mother apparently held me up to see the fireworks for my first Deepavali. This year my nine-month-old granddaughter will get to hold her own sparklers (inside a plastic protective sleeve for safety).

"Every day, the front doorsteps of our houses are decorated with riceflour 'rangoli' patterns to welcome loved ones.  During festivals, the rangoli patterns are much more elaborate, so even the smallest insects can feast from the celebrations.

"The Hindu community increases their charity donations and everyone shares food, time and experiences together. We offer prayers to Lakshmi - Goddess of Wealth. However, when we talk about wealth it is prosperity, health and happiness and not just in a financial sense.

I don't recall Network Rail recognising this festival in my time here so I'm pleased to see it happening this year. Any team I am part of knows about it as I make sure to bring sweets for everyone to share the celebrations."

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Network Rail

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