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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 22:12 GMT
Thousands celebrate Diwali
Crowds of people at Diwali celebrations in Leicester
Leicester has the largest Diwali celebration in the UK
Thousands of people gathered in Leicester to mark the festival of Diwali at an event featuring one of the largest displays of lights outside Bombay.

Belgrave Road in Leicester, also known as the Golden Mile, has been decorated with more than 6,000 coloured light bulbs to mark the festival of light.

A crowd of 60,000 arrived for the Diwali celebration, which marks the first day of the five-day religious festival, one of the most important of the year for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.

"There are loads of kids with fireworks, people chatting and milling about, and plenty of food to eat," BBC Asian Network reporter Deepak Patel told BBC News Online.

Golden Temple in Amritsar
Both Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Diwali

It is estimated that one billion Hindus and millions of Sikhs around the world will be celebrating Diwali during the festival.

The legend behind Diwali, or Deepaavali, is that Lord Rama returned to the capital of his kingdom Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years.

He came back in triumph after eliminating the demon Ravana, who had captured his wife Sita.

Barfi and ghoogra

The victory is celebrated by firecrackers and lights to signify the triumph of good over evil.

It is also a time for the community to light candles, dress in their best clothes, invite friends for parties and eat traditional foods, including Indian sweets such as barfi, a milk-based candy, and ghoogra, a pastry made of cereal and sugar.

Families often light clay lamps with wicks, called divas, which they place in their houses and gardens.

The Jains mark the attainment of nirvana by one of their great leaders, Mahaaveera, while the Sikhs celebrate the return of guru Hargovindji to Amritsar after his release from imprisonment by Moghul ruler Jehangir.

Businesses also open new account books at Diwali, as it is the start of the Hindu new year.

Diwali is also a time to pray to the goddess of wealth, Laxmi, for good fortune.

Communities across the UK are marking the festival with celebrations.

  • In Birmingham, the Hindu Council of Birmingham have organised a Diwali event with prayers, music, food and dancing in Centenary Square on 25 November from 1400 until 1900 GMT
  • In London, Diwali was marked by a ceremony at Trafalgar Square on Wednesday, led by members of the Swaminarayan Temple of north London
  • In Hove, East Sussex, celebrations at the Hindu temple are on Thursday until 2030 GMT with bell-ringing, food and other activities.

Click here to go to Leicester

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online
See also:

25 Oct 00 | South Asia
Festival of lights without fireworks
27 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Ramayana hits UK stage
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