Diwali: bringing India to the UK
London’s Diwali festival came underway last Sunday. Diwali is the Indian festival of light. It’s meant to commemorate the return of Lord Rama and his wife Sita from exile after defeating a Demon King. The celebration occurs during the autumn season, but a different day is selected each year depending on the position of the moon. It honors the coming together of four prominent religions in India: Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism.
Trafalgar Square was elaborately decorated for the occasion. Boasting with luminous lights that resembled the ones we westerners use during the Christmas Holidays. Festival goers could be spotted partaking in the festivities. Many were seen taking selfies with a giant statue of the Indian god Ganesh. I’d also noticed a coming together of generations as parents brought their children. Symbolizing that though London is not India there is a determination to not let the influence die.
The main stage was where all the action was taking place throughout the day. With an array of performances featuring traditional Indian dance, music, and comedy that went on well into the night.
There was also a multitude of food stalls open serving up famous Indian favorites. Such as mango lassi, cardamom butter chicken, and all the variations of curry a heart could want. I opted for a vegan biryani from The Indians Next Door. It was fresh, flavorful, and not too spicy. The company also has a location in London’s Southbank Centre for anyone willing to give it a go.
In addition to food, there were also tents set up to promote the traditions of Diwali. There were fabric makers selling saris, artists drawing henna, and even a few tents that explained the principles of Diwali for those like myself who weren’t fortunate enough to grow up with such a holiday.
All in all, as a foreigner in London it was exciting to become exposed to culture so different to my own and to watch this city come together for it.
With such a large Indian population in the UK Diwali provided a way to get to know and understand the culture intimately. Not only was it an occasion for multiple religions to come together but for multiple nationalities. As it was set in a large city center, it gave passersby the spontaneous chance to jump in, see what was going on, and experience it for themselves.