We are delighted to share with you the amazing news of Gerald Flanagan, one of our volunteers nominated for Brighton & Hove buses ‘Above & Beyond’ campaign.
He has been recognised as ‘Community Champion’ having gone above & beyond in his daily life to make Brighton & Hove an even better place to be.
His face and that of other ‘Community Champions’ will be on Brighton & Hove route 1 buses who go Above & Beyond.
Lets celebrate these wonderful people and organisations that go the extra mile in making a positive impact on the lives of local people.
See Brighton & Hove website for full details:
As Head Park-keeper of Wish Park in Hove, Gerald Flanagan is known for the warm welcome he gives to every single visitor. In fact, Gerald has worked hard to create a strong community spirit by getting to know each regular park user individually. And whatever the weather, he always finds the time to chat, offering a listening ear to anyone who needs it.
He is also very proactive in making the park a better place, giving up his own free time to attend meetings and research ideas. Whatever the problem or challenge, Gerald is always willing to find a solution. In fact, he goes above and beyond with all his duties, whether that’s keeping the space totally shipshape or coming up with the colourful park mural initiative.
Gerald’s endless enthusiasm is contagious, creating positive changes all around him and making Wish Park a better place for all. And although he has faced more than his fair share of challenges in life, he stays focused on bringing a smile to the faces of everybody he meets.
Vaisakhi is one of the major festivals of Sikhs and is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and gaiety in the state of Punjab and all throughout the world where there is a significant Sikh population. For the large farming community of Punjab, Vaisakhi Festival marks the time for harvest of rabi crops and they celebrate the day by performing joyful bhangra and gidda dance. For the Sikh community, Vaisakhi Festival has tremendous religious significance as it was on a Vaisakhi Day in 1699, that Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru laid the foundation of Panth Khalsa-the Order of the Pure Ones.
Date of Vaisakhi
Vaisakhi Festival falls on the first day of Vaisakh month (April-May) according to Nanakshahi or Sikh Calendar. For this reason, Vaisakhi is also popularly known as Vaisakhi. According to English calendar, the date of Vaisakhi corresponds to April 13 every year and April 14 once in every 36 years. This difference in Vaisakhi dates is due to the fact that day of Vaisakhi is reckoned according to solar calendar and not the lunar calendar. The auspicious date of Vaisakhi is celebrated all over India under different names and different set of rituals and celebrations. Vaisakhi date coincides with ‘Rongali Bihu’ in Assam, ‘Naba Barsha’ in Bengal, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu and ‘Pooram Vishu’ in Kerala.
People of Punjab celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi with exuberance and devotion. As the festival has tremendous importance in Sikh religion, major activities of the day are organized in Gurdwaras. People wake up early to prepare for the day. Many also take bath in the holy river to mark the auspicious occasion. After getting ready people pay a visit to their neighbourdood gurdwara and take part in the special prayer meeting organized for the day. At the end of the Vaisakhi ardas, congregates receive specially prepared Kara prasad or sweetened semolina. This is followed by a guru ka langar or community lunch.
Later, during the day people of Sikh faith take out a Vaisakhi procession under the leadership of Panj piaras. The procession moves through the major localities of the city amidst the rendition of devotional songs by the participating men, women and children. Mock duels, bhangra and gidda performances make the procession joyous and colourful.
Celebrations by Farmers
For the large farming community of Punjab and Haryana, Vaisakhi marks a New Year’s time as it is time to harvest rabi crop. On Vaisakhi, farmers thank god for the bountiful crop and pray for good times ahead. People buy new clothes and make merry by singing, dancing and enjoying the best of festive food.
Cries of “Jatta aai Vaisakhi”, rent the skies as gaily men and women break into the bhangra and gidda dance to express their joy. Everyday farming scenes of sowing, harvesting, winnowing and gathering of crops are expressed through zestful movements of the body to the accompaniment of ballads and dhol music.
In several villages of Punjab Vaisakhi Fairs are organized where besides other recreational activities, wrestling bouts are also held.
Diwali “festival of lights”
Deepavali or Diwali, popularly known as the “festival of lights,” is a five-day Hindu festival which starts on Dhanteras, celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) of the Hindu calendar month Ashwin and ends on Bhaubeej, celebrated on second lunar day of Shukla paksha of the Hindu calendar month Kartik. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali falls between mid-October and mid-November.
Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.
For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes. For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of moksha or nirvana by Mahavira in 527 BC. Arya Samajists, celebrate this day as Death Anniversary of Swami Dayanand Saraswati. They also celebrate this day as Shardiya Nav-Shasyeshti.
The name “Diwali” or “Divali” is a contraction of deepavali which translates into “row of lamps”. Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night and one’s house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome. Firecrackers are burst because it is believed that it drives away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.
The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival is called the Naraka Chaturdasi. Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day of Diwali is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya, and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
While Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the most significant spiritual meaning behind it is “the awareness of the inner light”. Central to Hindu mythology is the belief that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali as the “victory of good over evil”, refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings anand (joy or peace). Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light.
While the story behind Diwali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying Reality of all things (Brahman).
To add to the festivas of Diwali, fairs (or ‘melas‘) are held throughout India. Melas are to be found in many towns and villages. A mela generally becomes a market day in the countryside when farmers buy and sell produce. Girls and women dress attractively during the festival. They wear colourful clothing and new jewellery, and their hands are decorated with henna designs.
Among the many activities that take place at a mela are performances by jugglers, acrobats, snake charmers and fortune tellers. Food stalls are set up, selling sweet and spicy foods. There are a variety of rides at the fair, which include Ferris wheels and rides on animals such as elephants and camels. Activities for children, such as puppet shows, occur throughout the day.
In other parts of the world
Diwali is celebrated in various parts of the world, particularly those with large populations of Hindu and Sikh origin. These include countries such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. With more and more Indians now migrating to various parts of the world, the number of countries where Diwali / Deepavali is celebrated has been gradually increasing. While in some countries it is celebrated mainly by Indian expatriates, in others it has become part of the general local culture. In most of these countries Diwali is celebrated on the same lines as described in this article with some minor variations. Some important variations are worth mentioning.
Diwali is known as “Tihar” or “Swanti”. It is celebrated during the October/November period. Here the festival is celebrated for five days and the traditions vary from those followed in India. On the first day (Kaag tihar), crows are given offerings, considering them to be divine messengers. On the second day (Kukur tihar), dogs are given food for their honesty. On the third day, Laxmi puja is performed. This is the last day according to Nepal Sambat, so many of the businessmen clear their accounts on this day and on finishing it, worship goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day is celebrated as new year. Cultural processions and other celebrations are observed in this day. The Newars celebrate it as “Maha Puja”, a special ritual in which the body is worshipped to keep it fit and healthy for the year ahead on this day. On the fifth and final day called “Bhai Tika”, brothers and sisters meet and exchange gifts.
In Nepal, family gathering is more significant during Diwali. People in the community play “Deusi and Bhailo” which is a kind of singing and dancing forming a group. People go to all the houses in the community and play songs and dance, and give blessings to the visited house, whereas the home owner gives gifts like rice, Roti, fruits and money. After the festival, people donate some part of the collected money and food to the charity or welfare groups and with the rest of the money and food, they go for a picnic. People also play swing called Dore Ping made out of thick ropes and Pirke Ping or Rangate Ping made out of wood.
In Sri Lanka
This festival is also called “Deepavali” and is celebrated by the Tamil community. On this day, it is traditional for people to take an oil bath in the morning, wear new clothes, exchange gifts, performing Poosai (Pūjā), and a visit to the Koil (Hindu temple) is normal.[note 1] Burning of firecrackers in the evening of the festival is a common practice of this festival. Hindus light oil lamps to invite the blessings of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and to banish any evil from the household for once and for all. The festival is marked by illumination, making of toys of enamel and making of figures out of crystal sugar popularly known as Misiri. Sri Lanka’s celebration include many of the traditional aspects of Deepavali such as games, fireworks, singing and dancing, however the tradition of a large meal and fireworks are admirably preserved.
Deepavali is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday throughout Malaysia. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent. ‘Open houses’ are held where Hindu Malaysians (Of all ethnic races like Tamils, Telugus and Malayalees) welcome fellow Malaysians of different races and religions to their house for a scrumptious meal. This is a practice unique to Malaysia and shows the goodwill and friendly ties practised by all Malaysians during any festive occasion.
Deepavali is a gazetted public holiday. Observed primarily by the minority Indian community (Tamils), it is typically marked by a light-up in the Little India district, the heart of the Indian community. Apart from the light-up, other activities such as bazaars, exhibitions, parades and concerts will also take place in Little India. The Hindu Endowment Board of Singapore along with Singapores’ government organises many of these cultural events during this festive period.
In Trinidad and Tobago, communities all over the islands get together and celebrate the festival. One major celebration that stands out is the Diwali Nagar, or Village of the Festival of Lights. It features stage performances by the east Indian cultural practitioners, a folk theatre featuring skits and plays, an exhibition on some aspect of Hinduism, displays by various Hindu religious sects and social organisations, nightly worship of Lakshmi, lighting of deeyas, performances by various schools related to Indian culture, and a food court with Indian and non-Indian vegetarian delicacies. The festival culminates with fireworks displays ushering in Diwali. Thousands of people participate in an atmosphere devoid of alcohol and in a true family environment.
In Britain, Hindus celebrate Diwali with great enthusiasm. People clean and decorate their homes with lamps and candles. A popular type of candle is a diya. People also give each other sweets such as laddoo and barfi, and the different communities may gather for a religious ceremony and get-together. It is also an important time to contact family in India and perhaps exchange gifts. Diwali is becoming well known in Britain and some non-Indians join in. Leicester plays hosts to some of the biggest celebrations outside of India. Diwali also coincides with British Bonfire Night traditions on 5 November. In the East End of London, a kind of joint festival has evolved where everyone enjoys the same fire and fireworks for their own diverse reasons.
In Fiji, Diwali is a Public Holiday and is a religious event celebrated together by Hindus (who constitute close to a third of Fiji’s population), and culturally amongst members of Fiji’s various races and is a time in the year that is greatly looked forward to. Originally celebrated by imported indentured labourers from the Indian Subcontinent during British Rule in the then Colony of Fiji during the 19th Century, it was set as a holiday at independence in 1970 as the government wished to set aside one religious public holiday each for Fiji’s three largest religions i.e., Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.
Diwali in Fiji is often remarked by people from India as being observed on a larger scale then Diwali celebrations in India, as fireworks and Diwali related events begin at least a week before the actual day. Another unique feature is the cultural celebration of Diwali (aside from its traditionally religious celebration) where Fijians of Indian origin or Indo-Fijians, whether Hindu, Christian, Sikh or even Muslim along with the other cultural groups in Fiji celebrate Diwali as a time for sharing with friends and family as well as signalling the beginning of the Holiday season in Fiji. On the commercial side, Diwali is a time for many retail sales and giveaways. Diwali celebrations in Fiji have taken on a flair of its own, markedly different from celebrations on the Subcontinent.
Diwali marks a time for cleaning and buying new and special clothes for the celebrations amongst various cultural groups along with dressing up in Sari‘s and other Indian clothing, to work the day before. Homes are cleaned and Oil lamps or diyas are lit. Decorations are made around the home with an array of coloured lights, candles and paper lanterns, as well as the use of religious symbols formed out of coloured rice and chalk. Invitations are made to family, friends and neighbours and houses are opened. Gifts are made and prayers or pooja are made by Hindus. Sweets and vegetable dishes are often eaten during this time and fireworks are fired for days before and after Diwali.
In the United States, with increasing Indian population, Diwali is assuming significant importance year after year. Diwali was first celebrated in the White House in 2003 and was given official status by the United States Congress in 2007 by the former president George W. Bush. Barack Obama became the first president to personally attend Diwali at the White House in 2009. On the eve of his first visit to India as the President of United States, Obama released an official statement sharing best wishes with “those celebrating Diwali”. Indians in the US celebrate Diwali in different parts of the US, just as in India. The Diwali Mela in Cowboys Stadium boasted an attendance of 100,000 people in 2009. In 2011, The Pierre in New York City, now operated by Tata Group‘s Taj Hotels, hosted its first Diwali celebration.
Australia and New Zealand
In Australia, Diwali is celebrated publicly among the people of Indian origin and the local Australians in Melbﺁourne. On 21 July 2002 an organisation “The Australian Indian Innovations Incorporated” (AIII) consisting of a conglomerate of independent organisations and individuals was formed to celebrate Indian Festivals in Melbourne. AIII facilitated opportunities to depict the cultural kaleidoscope of India and assist Indians in Melbourne to showcase Indian art, culture, style, traditions and food via various activities, seminars, festivals, fairs and events. The first Inaugural Diwali Festival-2002”, was held at Sandown Race Course on Sunday 13 October 2002. Since then until October 2008, about 140000 people visited this Australian Indian Cultural Extravaganza filled with culture, fun and cuisine. This 10 Hour Festival is depicting India through 50 Stalls, 10 Food stalls and an 8-hour cultural programme with DJ, Children’s rides and spectacular fire works over the last 7 years.
Other place where Diwali is celebrated in Melbourne is Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple, Carrum Downs. Food stalls are present and children fun rides. Later on in the evening a spectacular fireworks show is displayed.
In New Zealand, Diwali is celebrated publicly among many of the South Asian diaspora cultural groups. A large group that celebrates Diwali in New Zealand are members of the Indo-Fijian communities who have migrated and settled there.There are main public festivals in Auckland and Wellington, with other events around the country becoming more popular and visible. An official reception has been held at the New Zealand Parliament since 2003. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus. The festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, justice over injustice, good over evil and intelligence over ignorance. Lakshmi Mata is worshipped at this festival. Lakshmi Mata is the goddess of light, wealth and beauty. Special Divali foods are barfi and Prasad.it also became a very important festival even in that country.