Both Hindus and Sikhs celebrate the joyous five-day festival of light. Hindus to remember the “inner light”; deep-seated, higher-knowledge that they believe is within us all, and Sikhs to commemorate the release of Guru Hargobind. Both, among other things, involve the lighting of special candles, and letting off of those impressive fireworks. If you’d like to join in the fun, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, regardless of your religion.
The biggest Hindu temple in London, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden celebrates with a jaw-dropping firework display – it’s an inclusive, welcoming event, and all are welcome, however, there are basic dress codes and rules to respect. (londonmandir.baps.org)
Elsewhere in London, there’s a huge, all-day party in Trafalgar Square on October 16 (diwaliinlondon.com). It’s a chance to take in big name music and dance stars from the Indian continent - try dressingup, watch a very sweet children’s parade, and take part in lots of family-friendly activities.
In Manchester, the Dasher Diwali Mela on October 15 (dashehradiwali.co.uk) has a packed programme of bhangra music, street entertainment and a spectacular fire show. This year, the show is called ‘Cast the Light’, and celebrates the battle of inner light over spiritual darkness with a piece of outdoor, immersive theatre based on the Hindu epic, Ramayana. Expect puppetry, dance, and eye-popping pyrotechnics.
Leicester’s celebrations (visitleicester.info) are some of the biggest outside of India, with over 37,000 people attending the switching on of the lights (October 16), and more on Diwali Day (October 30). The switch-on includes musical performances and dancing, as the town’s Belgrave Road becomes The Golden Mile, swathed in lights, fire sculptures and digital sparklers. The evening climaxes in a spectacular firework display. On Diwali Day, there’s more music and celebrations and another jaw-dropping set of pyrotechnics.
In Glasgow, Diwali is celebrated at The Hindu Temple on La Belle Place (hindumandirglasgow.org), with a blessing ceremony, workshops for school children, yoga sessions and dance lessons. It’s lower key than in other British cities, but there’s a real community feel to the celebrations.
Diwali is often referred to as the ‘Festival of Light’, and is traditionally marked by placing decorated oil lamps (called deepas) in rows (avali) - hence the Sanskrit name, ‘Deepavali’. This practice can be traced to the return of Bhagwan Rama to Ayodhya after vanquishing the evil King Ravana. The people of Ayodhya celebrated his return by lining the streets with oil lamps and decorating their front yards with colourful patterned designs (called a rangolis).
Make your own lamp and put it in your window to celebrate light overcoming darkness.
Use a simple salt dough (one cup of water, two cups of flour, two cups of salt), to create basic tea-light holders, shaped like thick cups. Decorate them with sequins and bake in a 120C oven for three hours.
Then cover with glitter, paint and varnish. A line of them will look cosy and welcoming on the darkest of nights.