Diwali lights for 2011 were switched on Belgrave Road in Leicester (United Kingdom) on October 16 and tens of thousands of people reportedly watched. Said to be the largest Diwali celebrations outside India, activities on Golden Mile included songs, music, dancing, laser display and fireworks. Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby attended and commented on Diwali and its message.
Applauding the City and community efforts in sharing the joy of Diwali through various activities in Leicester, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that it was important to pass on traditions of Hindu festivals to the coming generations.
Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that other cities of Europe, many of whom now had a considerable population of India-descent people, should include Diwali as part of their annual days of celebrations and organize various activities.
City of Leicester website says that up to 35,000 people attend the switch on of the lights with higher attendance on Diwali day (October 26) itself. Various city roads are closed for the ceremony.
On October 26, there will be stage entertainment and firework display. Navratri was celebrated at various venues in the city from September 28 to October five, followed by Dashera on October six. Events at Leicester Libraries include Diwali Crafts (October 18), Diwali Stories (October 19); while Museums celebrated “Diwali Railway Day”, “Diwali Clay Event” and “Diwali Card Making”. A “Diwali Workshop” will be organized on October 21.
“History of the Saree” exhibition will be held from October 26 to October 30, which will include a workshop on October 27 “How To Wear A Saree”, where people can learn the traditional technique of wearing the saree, find out the history of the saree and get the chance to try on beautiful sarees.
A comedy show titled “Bachchan Haule Haule” will be held on October 27 poking fun at the famous stars of Bollywood in Hindi and Gujarati and will also include Bollywood dances. Dance performances titled “Indian Classical vs. Contemporary” will be on October 28 which will include Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, etc. A “National South Asian Dance Symposium” supported by Arts Council England will be organized on October 28. There will also be DJ and Dhol Drummers providing Bollywood music and dancing on October 28, followed on October 30 by fusion of contemporary dance, South Asian dance and circus with fire eating, stilts, etc.
City of Leicester has published a print and online “Diwali Guide 2011”, which is available free and “includes everything you need to know about Diwali and the celebrations in Leicester”. Its website also includes safety instructions for Diwali ensuring “your Diwali celebrations are not ruined by the opportunist thief”. It suggests people visiting events to cover-up expensive jewellery. It also lists various “Fire Awareness” pointers on “Candles & Divas” and “Fireworks”, suggesting “think about using electric divas”.
Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.
Belgrave, home of 1969 launched Milans Saree Shop and Golden Mile (with concentration of gold selling shops), is represented by Councilor Rashmikant Joshi.
About 25% population of Leicester, socially and environmentally progressive melting pot founded in 50 CE, is of India descent and about 15% of its residents are Hindus. About 16% residents speak Gujarati and other languages spoken include Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam. It contains about 2000 years old Jewry Wall, St Nicholas’ Church with traces going back to about 880 CE, and Leicester Castle built around 1070. It has various Hindu temples, including BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir, Shree Jalaram Prarthana Mandal, Haveli Shriji Dwar, Shree Ram Mandir, Shri Siva Murugan Temple, and Shree Sanatan Mandir. Deputy Mayors include Manjula Sood, Piara Singh Clair, and Mohammed Dawood. Prominent people associated with Leicester include Quakers founder George Fox, actor-director Richard Attenborough (Gandhi), actor Richard Armitage, travel agency founder Thomas Cook, King of England Richard III, bowls player Tony Allcock, and Olympic medalists John Merricks and John Arthur Jarvis.