I want to send my very best wishes to everyone celebrating Diwali here in Britain and all around the world.
The Festival of Lights is a special time for families and friends to come together, to share wonderful gifts and sweets, and to draw confidence from the knowledge that ultimately good will triumph over evil; hope over despair and light over darkness.
While Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists will all celebrate in their own way this week, the underlying message of Diwali – and its timeless values of duty and service – will resonate with people of all faiths and none.
As Prime Minister, I want to take this opportunity to say a special thank you - on behalf of the whole country - for the immense contributions you all make to every sphere of life in the United Kingdom.
From the doctors and nurses serving in our NHS, to the soldiers, sailors and airmen serving in our armed forces, the entrepreneurs creating jobs across our communities, and the stars of arts and culture inspiring and entertaining us, Britain's Indian communities are a shining example of what makes our country great.
As successful and integrated communities you maintain your unique traditions while contributing fully to our national life. And you help to show the world that our United Kingdom truly is a place where people from all backgrounds and beliefs can live their lives in freedom and achieve their full potential.
So this Diwali let us celebrate the values and freedoms that we share – and let me wish you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous new year.
FUN: First Minister Carwyn Jones joins in the Diwali Celebrations with the Dandiya Raas Dancers
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones really got into the spirit of Diwali celebrations in Cardiff and even joined in with the dancers at the event.
The 50-year-old Labour politician took to the stage to join in with the Dandiya Raas Dance Group that had performed at the event on Monday 16th October to celebrate the high point of the Hindu spiritual year.
The event at the Wales Millennium Centre which was organised by Indian diplomat Raj Aggarwal was a sell out and there were over 300 people in attendance for the night of traditional Indian music and dancing.
There was also a performance by Welsh actress Vicki Bebb, who is playing the lead in Tiger Bay The Musical which is set to open in November at the Wales Millennium Centre.
Honorary Consul to India in Wales Raj Aggarwal said: "It was fantastic to see the First Minister getting involved in the dancing to celebrate Diwali, it was such an amazing event and everyone had a great night."
During speeches at the event Raj Aggarwal announced a new trade deal for small and medium sized (SME) businesses in Wales which has just been implemented by the Indian government.
The Access India pilot scheme is looking for technology firms to manufacture and trade in India and will provide assistance in setting up including cutting through regional and national red-tape, and introducing them to business networks so they can flourish quickly.
Mr Aggarwal said “This programme set out by the High Commissioner Mr Sinha will provide small and medium sized businesses with a free and complete road-map for investment, ranging from legal, taxation, accounting and ministerial advice for companies wishing to take the plunge to trade and work in India.
“Crucially it will allow Welsh companies to bypass EU restrictions by making it easy to trade without a formal Free Trade Agreement. “
Previously the expense of setting up in India with start-up costs, bureaucratic red-tape and initial lack of contacts have prohibited many Welsh firms from setting up satellites there but now the Indian government has now announced this assistance package to help get them started.
Mr Aggarwal added: “India is the fastest growing economy in the world today, and also shares a business language with us, and is a free-market democracy. And they play cricket!
“Welsh companies have a natural advantage over international competitors but we must act now to capitalise on this, and the Access India programme should further help them get a foothold there.”
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The Diwali Festival brings together thousands of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains with people from other communities in celebration of the ‘festival of lights’
Trafalgar Square will be transformed with a colourful and vibrant mix of music, dance and live performance to mark the Mayor of London’s annual Diwali celebrations on 15th October.
Londoners from all communities and visitors to the capital are invited to attend the celebrations, which feature lively music and dance, delicious food and drink, plus activities for the whole family to enjoy.
The free event is being organised to mark Diwali, the 'Festival of Lights', which is observed by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in India and many other countries around the world.
The festivities will kick off with a colourful procession of flags, taken from Kinetika’s ambitious project Silk River, which explored the unique relationship between London and Kolkata through a year’s artistic exchange between communities along the Thames Estuary and Hooghly River.
All are invited to enjoy traditional garba dancing accompanied by a full-scale garba band before a variety of live music and dance performances take to the stage.
Throughout the day, an Indian street food market will sell a variety of tasty vegetarian food and non-alcoholic drinks. There will also be plenty of chances to stock up on Indian essentials including jewellery, spices, rangoli and ayurvedic products.
Revellers will have the chance to don a sari, learn a Bollywood dance, participate in yoga and meditation sessions for beginners, get a henna tattoo, pick up top health tips, find out more about Diwali and the faiths behind it, or simply enjoy this year’s illuminations.
A comedy line-up featuring Aditi Mittal, one of the first women to do stand-up comedy in India, will also entertain on the day.
Children can take part in a range of activities at the festival, including story-telling sessions, games, and arts and crafts all linked to Diwali traditions.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As Mayor of London, I want to send my warmest wishes to everyone celebrating Diwali in London and around the world.
“During this wonderful festival of lights, we come together to share the story of Rama and Sita, to light candles in our homes, and to pay tribute to the warmth and generosity of our Hindu, Sikh and Jain brothers and sisters. Friends and families reflect on the past year together, and mark the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and friendship over enmity.
“Diwali’s central message of peace and mutual respect is one that we can all learn from. It reminds us that London succeeds when London is open to all.
“From my family to yours, Happy Diwali and a prosperous new year.”
FUSION OF CULTURES: Indian Honorary Consul to Wales Raj Aggarwal with Carwyn Jones and dancers at the Diwali event last year
Eleven arts projects will get funding to take Welsh culture to India as part of the UK-India 2017 cultural season.
Welsh and Indian creative professionals will travel to each other's countries to work together and produce new works including books, music and dance.
The projects will get a share of the £450,000 India Wales Fund.
It is a joint Wales Arts International and British Council scheme, which aims to help build relationships between the two countries.
Performances will take place in India and Wales and some of the work will be available online, with artists and audiences in both countries benefiting from workshops, tours and talks.
Indian Honorary Consul to Wales, Raj Aggarwal, said: "Wales and India share a love of music, dancing, theatre and literature so this cultural exchange is a fantastic opportunity for each country to share the heritage of each other's performing arts.
"A collaboration of Welsh, English and Bengali writers will bring together the works of six writers with live performance and the publication of a new tri-lingual work.
"This is an amazing opportunity not just to see and enjoy the other country's culture and talent, but to actually work together to create a hybrid from the two that fuse our nation's cultures in the future."
The projects include: Theatr Iolo will work with ThinkArts, an Indian company that produces arts events for children, to develop new theatre for babies and youngsters
Parthian Books will work with India's Bee Books on their project Through the Valley, City, Village, which will see Indian and Welsh writers working together in Bengal and Wales to produce a new book
Welsh theatre company Living Pictures will tour India with their production Diary of a Madman, working with Indian company QTP Entertainment to provide technical skills workshops - a performance will take place at the Tata Steel-sponsored Literature Live event in Mumbai.
The full list of selected projects will be announced at the Wales Millennium Centre by Economy Secretary Ken Skates.
He said: "The UK-India Year of Culture 2017 offers an important opportunity for Wales and India to refresh and strengthen these links and also to create new dynamic connections and creative collaborations.”
TRADITIONAL CELEBRATIONS: Crowds enjoyed the rhythmic drumming in the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Temple
Diwali, the Festival of Light, rolled around once again in all its candlelit glory last weekend as the people of Yorkshire have been swapping gifts, setting off fireworks and sharing food and drink in celebration.
Commemorated every year by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains, the date is one which sees families come together for a day of celebration, and is known as the Festival of Light.
CANDELIT FESTIVITIES: Families love lighting candles together to mark this special time of the year (Photo credit: B.S. Dev)
The word ‘Diwali’ translates into ‘row of lights’ and celebrants decorate the indoors and outdoors with beautiful rows of flickering candles, lanterns and electric lights.
Families also light up the night with bonfires and create beautiful flower displays.
Those who attended the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Hindu temple on Leeds Road in Bradford were treated to a play explaining the meaning of Diwali, performed by youngsters.
Ravinder Dharni was amongst those in attendance and praised the young actors for their ‘exceptional performance’.
“The children performed on Saturday in front of over 1,200 people,” he said. “The play portrayed the meaning of Diwali.
“The children who performed were from the summer club and they now attend our drama club that teaches children all our important dates and festivals in our Hindu calendar.”
He added: “The costumes were even imported from India to give it a more realistic feel and the children were incredible and loved every moment. The fireworks were fantastic too.”
Following the performances, a cheque was also handed over to the temple by members of the summer club for £500.
Elsewhere in Leeds, The Sikh Temple Gurdwara on Chapeltown Road was a sight to behold, with the exterior decorated in glimmering lights.
Bhupinder Singh Dev, a north Leeds resident, said: “I love celebrating Bhandi Chhor Divas and Diwali with my family by lighting candles at The Sikh Temple Gurdwara, which looks even more beautiful when illuminated at night.”
The Indian festival, which falls on a different date every year but this year was on 30th October, was attended by millions in Sikh and Hindu temples across the UK.
Also known as Deepavali, the event is a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil.
It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The date of the festival is calculated according to the position of the moon. It is based on the Hindu lunar calendar, called Tithi, which calculates events on the moon's rotation around Earth.
FESTIVITIES: Diwali was celebrated by both young and old throughout the UK
The origin of Diwali in Hinduism
Diwali -the celebration of light - traditionally relates to the legend of Prince Rama and his wife Princess Sita.
According to folklore, the pair were banished from their kingdom for 14 years by Rama's stepmother.
The couple went to live in the forest not knowing that a feared king with 20 arms and 10 heads lived there.
The king called Ravana kidnapped the princess, but Sita left a trail of her jewellery for Rama to find her. The prince enlisted the help of the monkey king Hanuman to find his beloved wife, with messages sent to all the monkeys in the kingdom and passed on to the bears too.
After a long search Rama found Sita and killed Ravana. The couple travelled back to their homeland and everyone lit up oil lamps to guide them along the way and welcome them home.
Diwali also honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
ILLUMINATED: The Sikh Temple Gurdwara on Chapeltown Road looked resplendent with its display mesmerising lights (Photo credit: B.S. Dev)
The origin of Diwali in Sikhism
For Sikhs, Diwali is particularly important because it celebrates the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, and 52 other princes with him, in 1619.
The Sikh tradition believes that the Emperor Jahangir had imprisoned Guru Hargobind and 52 princes. The Emperor was asked to release Guru Hargobind which he agreed to do.
However, Guru Hargobind asked that the princes should be realeased, too.
The Emperor agreed, but said only those who could hold onto the tail of his cloak would be allowed to leave the prison, drastically limiting the number of prisoners that could escape.
Luckily, Guru Hargobind was ‘ahead of the game’ and had a cloak made with 52 pieces of string and so each prince was able to hold onto one string and leave prison.
Sikhs celebrated the return of Guru Hargobind by lighting the Golden Temple and this tradition continues today.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Diwali Message:
“I am delighted to send my very best wishes to everyone celebrating Diwali, a festival which holds such significance for so many people.
“Indeed, right across the world, lights decorate the streets, flowers adorn homes, treats are served and presents exchanged – all marking the triumph of light over darkness.
“But the festival of lights isn’t just relevant for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. It is relevant to all of us, those of all faiths and none. We can all learn from the example set by Lord Rama, whose return from exile is marked by these 5 holy days.
“That epic story teaches us about building strong families and communities, shunning wrongdoing and evil, and choosing the right path. It promotes the values of service, responsibility, unity and tolerance.
“We need those values more than ever as we build a country that works for everyone – a country where no matter what your faith, your beliefs or your background, you can reach your full potential.
“In Britain’s Indian communities, we can see the good that can be done when people’s talents are unleashed.
“I think of all those running their own businesses, taking risks and working hard so that they can provide for their families and take on staff.
“I think of all those public servants whose hard work and dedication makes our hospitals, schools, police forces and armed forces what they are today.
“I think of the volunteers who give up their own time to look after elderly neighbours or help provide food for families who are less well off. These people are the backbone of our communities.
“And I will be so proud to highlight the achievements of British Indians next month when I make my first official visit to India as Prime Minister at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, celebrating the relations between our countries and our shared ambitions for the future.
“As we start the Hindu New Year, it is an occasion for people to reflect on the 12 months that have passed and look to the opportunities ahead.
“So as friends and families come together, in reflection and celebration, let me wish you all a Shubh Deepawali and send my good wishes to Sikhs celebrating Bandi Chhor Diwas too.”
THE BACHCHANS: Aishwarya Rai and husband Abhishek Bachchan welcomed their guests to the party at their home
Tinsel town’s hottest celebs at big festive bash!
Amitabh Bachchan held his annual Diwali party at the most-famous Bachchan residence in Mumbai, last week.
With legends from every corner of tinsel town being spotted, the guest list included Shah Rukh Khan, Gauri Khan, Salman Khan, Deepika Padukone and her beau Ranveer Singh making an appearance in the same car looking rather royal, Bajrao Mastani was written all over the duos outfits!
While Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif also kept it low key on their arrival together, but still managed to smile at the paparazzi in style.
The grand affair brought together every bollywoodian’s dream of all the stars that we admire in one big bash!
With Deepika and Kareena Kapoor wearing the same designer Sabyasachi, Deepika attended the Bachchan bash in a black and gold sari accessorising with trendy Amrapali jewels. Kareena decided to celebrate the occasion with her family and friends, in a private affair, possibly in a ‘Nawab’ style.
The highlight of the night was Sonakshi Sinha’s selfie that went viral on social media, after it was posted on Instagram by Shilpa Shetty. With Sonakshi posing like a true ‘selfie queen’ and photo bombing the selfie that included, Preity Zinta, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty and well known designer Manish Malhotra. We have to say it looks like they all had a blast!
PHOTOBOMB: Sonakshi Sinha photobombed Shilpa Shetty's pic with Preity Zinta, Aishwarya Rai, Manish Malhotra and Hrithik Roshan
CELEBRATIONS: On the third day of Diwali, Hindus mark the festival of Lakshmi Puja with celebrations in the temple
Millions of people around the world marked the annual festival of Diwali last week as celebrations were seen across different countries, different continents and different faith groups.
Commemorated every year by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains, the date is one which sees families come together for a day of celebration, and is known as the Festival of Light.
For Hindus, Diwali represents the day that Lord Rama brought his wife, Sita, and brother, Lakshmana, back to the kingdom after spending 14 years in exile in the forest.
For Sikhs, it is an occasion celebrated to mark the release of Guru Hargobind, the sixth guru, who was wrongfully imprisoned by an emperor.
In a message to all celebrating the occasion, British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the contribution different religious groups made to the nation and wished them ‘Shubh Diwali’.
In a statement he said: “Families are coming together, lights are being strung up, the food is going in the oven, Diwali is upon us once again.
“As the celebrations get underway, from London to Leicester, Glasgow to Gwent, Bristol to Birmingham, I want to send out my very best wishes to everyone celebrating the Festival of Lights.
RELIGION: Crowds gathered at temples across the world to mark the Festival of Lights
“This is a great moment in our national calendar and an opportunity to shine a light on the communities who do so much to make Britain great.
“In every walk of life, in every corner of our country, you can see the immense contribution of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.
“Treating patients in our NHS, teaching children in our schools, building the businesses that boost our economy, keeping our streets safe in the police and armed forces and all the while helping to make Britain what we are so proud to be: the greatest multi-racial democracy on earth.
LIGHTS: An important part of the Diwali celebrations are the candles
“Day in day out, these communities put into practice the very best of British values like generosity, responsibility, enterprise, family. Nowhere are those values more evident than in people’s religious beliefs.
“I think of the people of Neasden Mandir or those at Gurdwara Sahib Leamington and Warwick, demonstrating every day the devotion and dedication they derive from their faith by helping others.
“I want to thank all of them for their incredible contribution to Britain. We are better and stronger for it.
“And to everyone celebrating, let me wish you a happy and peaceful Diwali and a prosperous New Year. Shubh Diwali.”