Fellow Citizens, today is Divali, the festival of lights. As members of the Hindu and wider national community gather to pray, light deyas, exchange gifts, and consume traditional delicacies, they will also gain hope and inspiration from Divali’s universal message of the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.

For Divali is much more than the dazzling array of lights which festoon driveways and bamboo frames each year, the re-enactment of the Ramayana or even the staging of the much-loved Divali Nagar. Such is the vibrancy and significance of this annual celebration, that the absence, postponement and modification of traditional activities as a result of the long arm of the Covid-19 pandemic have not dimmed its resplendent light.

This evening, as citizens of every creed and race bask in the glow of thousands of deyas illuminating homes and public spaces, they will once again be reminded of the story at the core of Divali—the triumphant return of Lord Rama and his wife Sita to the village of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. The jubilation of the villagers who lit earthen vessels to welcome them home is mirrored by devotees today, who celebrate by lighting not only physical lamps, but also spiritual ones which shine brightly in the face of fear, ignorance and despair.

Divali motivates us to find confidence and strength to face and overcome our challenges with the knowledge that good always triumphs over ill-will. The powerful and enduring imagery of the light of the deyas piercing the surrounding darkness brings us hope and confidence that we, by our actions and attitudes, can uplift and add value to the lives of our friends, relatives, colleagues and even complete strangers. At Divali we have a golden opportunity to strive for self-improvement and engage in critical self-analysis and reflection, even as we make meticulous preparations for the arrival of Sri Lakshmi, the principal deity of Divali, into our homes.

So, as the nation comes together to commemorate Divali, let us offer ourselves for the common good and search out ways in which we can contribute joy to adversity, hope to despair, wisdom to ignorance, tolerance to prejudice and stability to chaos.

May the spirit of Divali fill your hearts and homes. I wish the nation a safe, holy and happy Divali.

Shubh Divali!