Forest Gate celebrates Diwali with East Ham MP

Stephen Timms MP joins Hindus to celebrate Diwali Picture: SKS Swaminarayan Temple

Stephen Timms MP joins Hindus to celebrate Diwali Picture: SKS Swaminarayan Temple - Credit: Archant

Politicians and police joined about 2,500 people for a Hindu celebration of light on Wednesday as Diwali came to SKS Swaminarayan Temple.

Stephen Timms MP joined the Forest Gate temple’s festivities, which marked what organiser Kishore Varsani called the “king of all Hindu festivals”.

“Diwali is the most celebrated Indian festival,” he said. “It’s also celebrated by about 1.5million Indians in the United Kingdom.

“Diwali literally means ‘array of lamps’, which symbolises the removal of spiritual darkness and the entrance of new luminous light for the New Year.”

He said the festival marks Hindu god Lord Rama’s return to his birthplace, Ayodha, after slaying the demon Ravana at Lanka.

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“The people of Ayodha welcomed him with an array of lamps and since then the day has been celebrated as Diwali,” he said. “On this day homes are decorated with divas [candles] and colourful powder called Rangoli to make the New Year glorious and everlasting.”

Joining Stephen Timms in the celebration were Cllr Mukesh Patel and Cllr Unmesh Desai as well as Newham police, with chief inspector Shabnam Choudhri speaking on community cohesion.

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Kishore said this is something he feels strongly about, and is the reason behind the temple’s annual invitation to Hindus and non-Hindus alike to come and celebrate the festival.

“It was great,” he said. “It’s all about community cohesion and family.

“It’s a bit like Christmas and this year was much more encouraging than last year’s because we had much greater numbers.

“This year was bigger because we had support from across the community.”

He said Stephen Timms, who joined in celebrating the religious ceremony of “aarti”, is a particularly strong source of support.

“He’s a regular supporter of us,” he said. “He helps with issues and makes sure he comes along to these events to support us and it was great to see him.”

He also thanked Tesco and Asda, who donated food and sent representatives to the event.

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