Colorful dances, multicultural extravaganza, classical music, spiritual teachings, mouthwatering street food of aamchi Mumbai and dilwalon ki Dilli, puppet shows depicting stories from the Ramayana, Bollywood music, and loads of enthusiastic people enjoying the revelry – that’s what Diwali in London at Trafalgar Square (also known as DOTS for Diwali on Trafalgar Square) offers and more.
On 28 October this year, the otherwise-busy Trafalgar Square gently morphed into a grand and colorful celebration of the Hindu festival of Diwali (also known as Deepavali – the festival of lights). The credit for this august festivity goes to many organizations and groups, primarily to the Diwali in London (DIL) committee and the Mayor of London. Many multicultural groups and associations come together to present this spectacular annual event to celebrate the festival of Diwali – which, according to the Ramayana, is the returning of Lord Shri Ram to his kingdom of Ayodhya, after defeating the demon king Ravana and living in exile for 14 years.
It was an absolute feast to the eyes to see so many different dance schools come together to perform an introductory medley on the famous Bollywood song Ghoomar, followed by the popular garbha dancing from Gujarat, which was open to everyone to take part in. There were Indian classical dances and performances, folk dances, yoga and meditation awareness, and enactments of stories from the Ramayana. What I particularly enjoyed, and all the children did too, was a puppet show depicting the heroic tales of Lord Rama.
The atmosphere was delightfully charged and buzzing with families (not just the Indian community or Hindus but also many native English people and those of other origins) and children, who immensely enjoyed activities like clay making, diya (lamp) painting, dance workshops, and puppet shows. Food stalls with lip-smacking delicacies and street food of Mumbai and Delhi and vegan stalls saw people flock in large numbers. Apart from spreading cultural awareness, there were programs and talks on spirituality with many spiritual organizations such as the ISKCON participating.
There was a Lakshmi pujan where the panditji (priest) explained the significance of invoking and inviting Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, into our homes on the occasion of Diwali. It piqued interest and curiosity among people of varied backgrounds and I enjoyed talking to two native English girls, who were extremely keen to learn more about Hinduism and showed me a picture of Goddess Lakshmi that they prayed to.
Diwali in London is a wonderful way to promote cultural harmony and spiritual awareness. It is being run for 17 years now, spreading the message of love and cultural harmony. Diwali is not just an occasion to light firecrackers and lamps, but it is a time to go within and discover your true self. It is about imbibing the ideals of Lord Shri Ram in our lives, ideals that have lived for a million years and more. Lord Ram is known as Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram – the perfect man who abides by his duties and the upholder of dharma. The true spirit of Diwali is a reminder of the virtuous qualities of Lord Ram, of duty and righteousness, of love, harmony, peace, and justice, which bind together the entire human race.