Hindus celebrate Diwali ‘festival of lights’ in Forest Gate
- Credit: photo: Arnaud Stephenson
Thousands of Hindus celebrated Diwali this week with ceremonies, fireworks and family fun.
SKS Swaminarayan Temple in Shaftesbury Road, Forest Gate, hosted around 2,500 people from Newham and beyond to mark the Hindu new year.
Diwali, known as the festival of lights, falls on the eve of the new year, which this year was Friday, October 24.
There were fireworks displays in the skies of the borough last Thursday, and some schools closed as Hindus reflected on the past year and looked forward to the new one.
“It’s probably the biggest celebration of the Hindu calendar,” said Devshi Varsani, who visits schools to teach about religion.
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“It’s a five day celebration with each day representing a different aspect of life, from business to family.
“The main day is Diwali, which is the last day of the Hindu calendar.
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“We cook all sorts of dishes of food, light candles called Divas, gather the family for a large meal.”
Devshi, who lives in Monega Road, East Ham, said 108 dishes were presented in an offering, or Prasad, to the temple’s deity, Shree Kutsh Satsang, before being consumed by the worshippers in the evening.
There were prayers and a candle ceremony held every hour on the Friday, when councillors Mukesh Patel, Unmesh Desai and Jose Alexander attended the temple.
“It went extremely well,” said Kishorbhai Varsani, a spokesman for the temple, which celebrated it’s jubilee anniversary last year after opening 26 years ago.
“It was very colourful,” he said. “The place was fully packed and people had to stand outside.
“There were people from Newham, from Redbridge, but mainly from Newham.”
When asked why Hindus feel it is important to mark Diwali, Kishorbhai said: “I think it’s the heritage and the religion, a bit like Christmas.
“We need to look behind to what we’ve done in the last year and then look ahead as well, hoping for happiness and prosperity long-lived.”
Devshi added: “There are many Hindu families living in Newham.
“If there is any bad things within the families, we all get together, have a meal, and say let’s forget any bad thoughts throughout the year.
“It’s all about forgive and forget.”
For more information visit shreeswaminarayan.org.uk