Diwali is an important event for Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities all over the world – and in Leicester we like to celebrate it like no other.
Often referred to as the festival of light, Diwali is a time for religious rituals and the sharing of traditional stories. Every region in India has its own traditions, but Diwali itself represents the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and wisdom over ignorance. The festival celebrates the ancient legend of Lord Rama, who was stripped of his kingdom and sent into exile for 14 years by the evil spirit Ravana. Rama eventually defeated Ravana, and returned home triumphantly.
On Diwali night, most Hindus offer prayers to Ganesh and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and the god representing good fortune and wisdom. As the religious ceremony draws close, small clay lamps, known as divas, are arranged inside and outside the home to attract Lakshmi’s attention to bestow blessings for the year ahead. These celebrations have grown into huge festivals across the world, with Leicester hosting its own festival since 1983 that has since grown into the largest celebration of Diwali outside of India.
“For the Asian community, the festival of Diwali is not only of religious significance. It has given a sense of pride, a sense of being able to share with a wider cross section of people the sense of sharing the light. The spirit of Diwali can be shared with everybody” – Rita Patel
This year the University of Leicester is sponsoring the Diwali events in celebration of its own Centenary year and the Asian communities that helped that feat be possible.
You too can join in the Festival of Light! After last year’s online event, Leicester City Council have proudly put the Diwali celebrations back onto the streets, with precautions for everybody’s safety and enjoyment. A main screen will be placed at Belgrave roundabout showing the cultural programme, with a second screen at the junction of Wand Street, and a third located on Cossington Street Recreation Ground. This allows for more space and freedom for everyone to enjoy.
Music, dance, and religious ceremonies will be shown on the screens at 6:30pm, followed by the Diwali lights coming alive with the help of Helter Skelter Arts, a trio of fire performers. A large Fire Garden will be displayed in Cossington Street, alongside the Diwali Village which will feature incredible food, stalls, and funfair rides from 3pm-9pm. Also, keep your eyes sharp during the switch-on to spot giant puppets Hanuman and Ravana, as they roam Belgrave Road in a battle over good and evil.
As with every year, it is sure to be a celebration filled with fun and exciting events for all so make sure you don’t miss out. Happy Diwali!