Manchester prepares to celebrate the festival of Diwali

Thousands of Sikhs and Hindus in Manchester are set to celebrate Diwali on October 24.

Diwali, meaning row of lights, is celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs each year between October and November – coinciding with the new moon.

In Manchester thousands of people are expected to take part in the five-day festival period – which runs from October 22 to 26 – with activities ranging from community meals to Bollywood dancing lessons.

The Manchester Hindu Cultural Society, based at the Gita Bhavan Hindu Temple in Manchester, has been organising Diwali celebrations for the past 50 years.

President and trustee Shashi Mohandas said: “Diwali is the one occasion when everyone comes together to visit the temple and share a meal.”

More than 600 people will be welcomed into the temple over the Diwali period after celebrations were paused during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Volunteers will be preparing hundreds of dishes for the occasion – as well as creating thousands of paper diyas, or oil lamps, as decoration for the temple.

For many children, the fireworks are the highlight of diwali – but the passing on of traditions and teachings is at the heart of the religious festival.

“My favourite part of Diwali is talking to the community and informing the children on the importance of the festival,” said Mohandas.

The purpose of Diwali for both Hindus and Sikhs is celebrating light over darkness and good over evil – shown by endless lit candles and the sounds of fireworks.

Annual traditions include exchanging gifts, worship services, spring-cleaning the home, feasts and dressing in traditional clothing.

For Hindus, Diwali is a celebration of the return of Rama after 14 years of exile – as well as honouring Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

For Sikhs, celebrations are for ‘Bandi Chhor Divas’, which translates to ‘prisoner release day’.

The festival commemorates the release of Guru Hargobind Singh and 52 kings from prison after being jailed by brute force in 1619 without trial or legal proceedings. 

Sikhs will celebrate by taking part in sewa, meaning selfless service, and visiting the local Gurdwara with family and friends.

Gurnoor Singh, sewa coordinator for the Manchester Sikh Society, said: “It is important to celebrate for Sikhs as a celebration of humbleness, that we are all equal under the eyes of God.

“It’s about the fight against injustice.”

Worshippers can expect kirtan, meaning the reciting of scripture, as well as langar, meaning free kitchen – with free meals offered to everyone regardless of caste, gender or wealth.

Charities across the city such as the Sikh Sewa Organisation deliver food to those in need not only during Diwali but across the year – with the support of Sri Guru Harkrishan Gurdwara in Manchester.

Other events taking place across Manchester for Diwali include lantern-making workshops operated by arts group Walk the Plank, Diwali on the square hosted at Victoria Square and Bollywood dance workshops.

Main image: Diwali at the Gita Bhavan Hindu Temple; photo by Shashi Mohandas

Related Articles