Having read Anthropology for my undergraduate and masters, studying other cultures has always been a major part of my life and something I am extremely interested in. Many people have a perception that in order to experience another culture you need to travel to far away places, however living in a City as diverse as London makes it easy to observe and even participate in other people’s beliefs, customs and rituals without travelling anywhere.
London is constantly celebrating it’s multiculturalism, with yearly events such as Africa on the square, Diwali in London and Chinese New year celebrations, to name just a few, allowing everyone to experience the religion, arts, music and food of various groups.
What is Diwali?
Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year in autumn (in the northern hemisphere). It celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists to mark different historical events which all symbolise this one key message.
The festival is celebrated by people decorating houses, windows, street, temples and community buildings with lamps, candles and colourful lights over the 5 day period leading up to Diwali. The main night of Diwali changes every year depending on the Hindu lunar calendar – it occurs on the darkest new moon night.
This year the main night of Diwali falls on Sunday October 30th and will be celebrated by fireworks, feasts and the giving of gifts between close family and friends.
Diwali in London
Diwali in London is an event hosted by the Mayor of London and Diwali in London Committee every year in Trafalgar square to celebrate Diwali festival, as well as other aspects of Indian culture. This year Diwali was held on Sunday 16th October and of course I went along to join in the festivities.
A stage was set up in the middle of Trafalgar square which hosted a line up of amazing live music and dance from India. There were street food stalls offering plenty of exotic spices and flavours, as well as craft stalls which sold beautiful jewellery and gifts. There were also lots of interactive activities for everyone to get involved in such as Bollywood classes, yoga sessions, sari tying, lantern making and henna painting.
I loved getting to experience Diwali without even leaving London. Despite some typical rubbish English weather for a lot of the day everyone was in high spirits, whether Hindu or not, people came together to celebrate the festival and embrace Indian culture in Trafalgar Square. I got to learn so much about both the history of India as well as Diwali itself, whilst enjoying tasty food, dance along to some great music with strangers and even get a henna tattoo.
Check out a few of my photos from the day below: