November usually brings thoughts of darker nights for people in the UK, but for Hindus around the world, this is the time to celebrate the festival of lights.
Today is the highlight of Diwali, a massive festival which traditionally takes place over five days to mark Indian New Year and the triumph of good over evil and light over dark.
Hindus in East London started their festivities yesterday evening, with a night dedicated to prayer, gifts and lighting candles.
Worshippers at the York Hall, in Tower Hamlets, were in a jubilant mood, as they congregated for delicious foods, dramatic musical performances and to give thanks in an event organised by volunteers from the Sanaton Association.
“It’s a time for everyone to get together” said Ranjita San, an NHS worker from Upminster.
She explained the significance of the festival for her: “There’s a multiple importance. It’s a celebration of good over evil, it’s an opportunity to get together with everybody, and it’s also known as the festival of light so it’s about bringing light and energy into everybody’s lives.”
Diwali is a time for new beginnings and positive outlooks. The traditional lighting of candles symbolises wisdom and peace among people from all walks of life, not just Hindus.
“We believe that we remove all our darkness from inside our hearts and the goddess brings light into our lives.” said Pushpita Gupta, 40, a school co-ordinator from Redbridge.
London is home to approximately 400,000 Hindus, who have brought their vibrant culture to the capital’s melting pot.
“We get most of the people from the area here, nearly 2,000 people come down every year.” said Baplob Datta, a 36-year-old businessman, from Newham.
For some, the annual event is their chance to connect with their culture and understand their religious heritage.
Rajen Paul, a 21-year-old student said: “It’s about maintaining a link with one’s culture and identity. One of the best things is being able to pray with every one and having blessed food which you can’t have every day.”
In the Hindu tradition, Diwali celebrates the victorious return of God Lord Ram, who defeated Ravana to end years of pain and suffering. Prayers are made to the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, who brings prosperity and good fortune for the new year ahead.
Colourful highlights from the York Hall event in Tower Hamlets and an interview with Manash Chowdhury from the Sanaton Association.
By Alex Jackson and Khanim Javadova