Major towns across Britain such as London, Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester sparked off Diwali festivities on Sunday evening, with the Indian festival increasingly becoming a mainstream event joined by people of different ethnicities and religions.
London’s Trafalgar Square was transformed into an Indian square, with a riot of colours, cuisine, music and dance providing the backdrop as mayor Sadiq Khan lit a lamp to launch the annual event that attracts thousands. Pattering rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm.
More than 30,000 people gathered in Leicester’s arterial Belgrave Road, the home of Indian and Asian business and culture, as the lights switch-on ceremony supported by the local council marked a new high for a town that was historically uneasy with immigration.
Jodeen Kaur, 11, a pupil at a Leicester school, won a competition to press the button to switch on thousands of lights and launch a fireworks display. Diwali in Leicester is reputed to be the largest outside India.
Besides setting up a Diwali Village, a highlight of the festivities in Leicester was the participation of Leicester City Football Club, which won this year’s Premier League. Manager Claudio Ranieri brought the trophy to the switch-on ceremony.
Ranieri said: “It’s fantastic and I’m proud to be here. Diwali is a huge festival and I am enjoying learning about the new culture. I’m very proud to bring the Premier League trophy here and also very proud to be able to help switch on the lights at this fantastic festival.”
The Trafalgar Square event, organised by the London mayor’s office, featured traditional dances from several Indian states. Besides Khan, the gathering was addressed by London’s Indore-born deputy mayor for business, Rajesh Agrawal.
Besides Bollywood music and garba, an Indian street food market offered an array of food and non-alcoholic drinks. Revellers had the chance to don a sari, learn a Bollywood dance, and participate in yoga and meditation sessions for beginners.
Similar events were organised in towns such as Manchester and Birmingham, which have large minorities of Indian origin.