Dīpāvalī for the most part, has been a Utsava (celebration/festival) that I have celebrated with close family, unless of course fireworks are involved; witnessing thousands of people congregate in Trafalgar Square on the 29th of October, in celebration of one of the most widely celebrated Utsavas, is a memory that I will hold very dear to me. Not only due to the sheer size of the event, but also the significance such an event holds for the future of our community, the potential that we have to grow our other Utsavas, and how we can utilise them in the transformation of our presence in the United Kingdom.
As part of the organising committee, we set up our table and exhibition within the “Unity Zone” Marquee, alongside the Jain Students’ Association (JSA). Our aim for the day, apart from engaging in festivities, was to interact with the public and inform them about NHSF (UK), what purpose it serves, and, through the exhibition, the history of Hindus in the country, how we are making history, as well as how other Dharmic faiths celebrate Diwali.
From all my conversations, one in particular stood out to me the most – a sixth-form student from Durham: “My family arrived here recently from the Netherlands, once I exit the house, I feel as if I lose my identity, there is no one but my parents and sister that I can relate to, but seeing all of this I feel like I am a child celebrating Diwali in India again”.
The day lasted six hours, and it was rather difficult to not do something, on the main stage there were performances, such as Tasha Dhol, a Ramayana play, Bharatnatyam, Kathak etc., dotted around were food stalls selling delicious Indian street food, dance workshops, mehndi, comedy shows, and meditation & yoga sessions. I was pleased to see and interact with the many Hindu/Dharmic organisations that were present, such as the Dhyan Foundation, Art of Living Foundation, and ISKCON – who provided us with possibly the best barfi I have ever had, which we distributed to the public.
Towards the end of the day, we made it down near the stage for the Ārati and Kīrtana, the most magical aspect of the day. As soon as it started, the talking amongst the crowds stopped, the singing of the praises of Bhagavān began, and from the stage, you could see a sea of lights in the crowd – bringing a modern twist to the traditional Dīpams. Hearing thousands of people singing the praises of Rāma, and seeing that sea of lights, reminded me of verses in the Laṅkā and Uttara Kāṃḍā of Rāmacaritamānasa, composed by Tulasīdāsa, where Rāma returns to Ayodhyā after defeating Rāvaṇa:
“The gods and sages rained down flowers, shouting “Glory glory to the all-merciful, glory to our liberator!!”
“The mansions were illuminated by many lamps, with thresholds made of coral, pillars of jewels and walls of gold inlaid with emeralds, as lovely as though they had been built by Brahmā himself.”
Upon reflection, I realised how important such grandeur is, it serves as a reminder that a Utsava that has been celebrated for thousands of years in Bhārata, picking up mention in texts such as the Skanda Purāṇa and epigraphs commissioned by the rulers of Empires, Kingdoms, and Dynasties that now only exist in books and collective civilisational memory, has now made its way over to lands nearly five-thousand miles away. It is a testament to the dynamism of the Hindu community in the UK, and is a guiding principle for our youth, as we head into the future.
-Aman Vyas, London Zone Team Member
Diwali on Trafalgar Square, or DOTS, on October 29, 2023, was a transformative event that brought our NHSF parivaar (family) and samaj (community) together, transcending borders and offering a day of interconnectedness, sewa (selfless service), and joy. The day began with an enchanting opening ceremony and diverse dance performances. Extended Navaratri festivities culminated in a public Garba performance, creating a perfect follow-up to our nationwide Navaratri events.
Despite the downpour, the day was brimmed with activity, with the Unity Zone stall showcasing Dharmic contributions to the UK and fostering meaningful conversations with the samaj. As a British-born Hindu to Indian-heritage parents, I deepened my appreciation for my cultural legacy and the significance of being a young Hindu in the UK.
Connecting with the samaj and sharing knowledge about the work done by NHSF enriched my experience, fortifying my Hindu identity and highlighting our broader societal impact. The day was further enhanced by an assortment of diverse Indian cuisine stalls, including an unforgettable serving of samosa chaat.
As the day drew to a close, some our National Committee members ventured into the midst of the crowd, affording them a closer vantage point from which to witness in the remaining performances. The subsequent live Bhajans and Kirtan performances including a chanting of the Mahā Mantra, with their ethereal elegance, provided a necessary spiritual touch to the day, evoking the timeless Dharmic essence of Diwali. In retrospect, this unique event has allowed me to cherish the profound impact of our collective endeavours and connect the dots in my mind, deepening my appreciation for my role in our NHSF(UK) parivaar.
-Sid Mohanty, National Sanskaar Team Member