A giant Ferris wheel named the ‘Wheel of Light’ was the highlight of the annual Diwali lights switching-on ceremony on Monday evening in the east Midlands town of Leicester, which is called ‘Little India’ due to a large minority of Indian origin.
The arterial Belgrave Road was taken over by nearly 35,000 people to mark the beginning of the Diwali period. Diwali in Leicester is reputed to be the largest outside India, a reputation the local council and people strive to carry forward every year.
Diwali celebrations in Leicester reflect a complex history of migration of Indian-origin people (mostly of Gujarati origin) from Idi Amin’s Uganda in the early 1970s. The town has since become a ‘poster-town’ of multiculturalism in Britain and Europe.
The local council, which advised the Indian immigrants from Uganda not to move to Leicester, is now a major contributor and organiser of the Diwali events that attract people of Indian and non-Indian origin.
Describing this year’s Diwali events, the council said: “It’s a far cry from the scene of 32 years ago, when a rather more modest display heralded the beginning of Leicester’s Diwali display”. Nearly 5,000 coloured lamps were switched on.
The 100-feet ‘Wheel of Light’ was a first in the history of officially-sponsored Diwali events in the town. The celebrations have expanded this year due to the demolition of the Belgrave Flyover.
Diwali celebrations in Leicester are among the oldest in Britain. The mayor of London’s Diwali event in Trafalgar Square attracts thousands of people every year; Kerala Tourism was a major partner this year.
Several events related to Indian culture have been organised in Leicester until November 15.