Diwali, the festival of lights is a special time of year for all Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world. It celebrates new beginnings and the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.
Diwali celebrations in London
When my siblings and I were younger we used to call it our ‘Indian’ Christmas. Not dissimilar really from a child’s perspective as it revolves around delicious feasts, gifts, eating your own body weight in sweets and wearing your new and flashy threads. The fond memories of helping my mum ‘autumn’ clean the house and the aromas of special Diwali food being whipped up in kitchen always puts a smile on face.
The festival coincides with the Hindu New Year too and is one of the most significant in the Indian culture. This year we joined the Restaurant group Dishoom, famous for bringing the Mumbai Irani café culture to London, at their annual Dishoom Diwali Party in the Camden Centre.
Guests were welcomed with a namaste and traditional red chandlo to the forehead. The homely smell of masala chai was too good to refuse, so too were the generous tubs of sweet mithai.
The girls dashed straight for the Indian fizzy pop stall. Thums Up or Limca anyone? And let’s not forget the delectable Dishoom snacks – Samosas, bhel puri, pau bhaji and farfar were all free-flowing.
The children’s entertainment on offer was great. Whilst they busied themselves with the colouring in giant deity posters, making beautiful diva plates, having a spot of face painting and henna artistry, the parents were able to kick back and relax with another cup of piping hot masala chai!
The annual event is for people from all backgrounds and faiths to join in the celebration of Diwali. The tales that go with the festival vary from region to region in India. Everyone celebrates Rama’s return from 14 years of exile to Ayodhya after the defeat of demon king Ravana and his subsequent coronation as king. However, in Gujarat for example the festival also honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Nepal remembers the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakaasura and in Bengal its associated with the goddess Kali.
Inspired by the fabulous dancers, everyone had the opportunity at the end to get their own jig on by joining in with a mass dandiya (traditional stick dance) workshop.
Dishoom run a similar event for Eid too and in 2015 during the period of Ramadan they supported two charities: The Akshaya Patra Foundation in India and Magic Breakfast in the UK by donating two school meals for every meal served in their restaurants. They have now made the ‘meal for a meal’ permanent and two years later have donated an impressive 3 million meals.
Trust me, don’t miss out on this amazing event next year. It’s a real feel good factor and a fabulous way of bringing together communities in a world now where division is prevalent. This year they’ll also be hosting a Christmas Carol event. Who’s coming with me to exercise those lungs and spread some Christmas cheer?
Have you ever been to a Dishoom festival gathering? Let me know in the comments section below.
Wishing all celebrating a Happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year!