The mayor of London’s Diwali event in Trafalgar Square attracts thousands of people, but this year’s edition on Sunday has raised hackles among a section of the Hindu community because it is being held during ‘shraadha’, considered an inauspicious period.
Several organisations are part of the mayor’s Diwali committee, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (UK), Chinmaya Mission, Brahma Kumaris, Art of Living, BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, ISKCON and the Metropolitan Police Hindu Association.
London mayor Boris Johnson and the Indian high commissioner Ranjan Mathai are scheduled to participate in the event that features a range of activities related to Diwali and Indian culture. The Kerala government is a major partner this year.
However, Rashmikant Joshi, president of the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHTUK) condemned the alleged “lack of sensitivity and respect for ancient Hindu traditions” and criticised the organisers for holding the event on the penultimate day of ‘shraadha’.
“The prayers and atmosphere of reverence which is cultivated over the period of Shraadha has never been adulterated by any festive celebrations and it is truly a tragedy that Diwali, the festival of light and wisdom, should be brought into this sacrosanct period of remembrance”, Joshi said in a statement.
He added: “If this were India, such an action would be unthinkable…That this should have been organised by Hindu organisations…fills me with outrage that the memory of our ancestors should be taken so lightly”.
NCHTUK general secretary Satish Sharma said: “I couldn’t help but note that this year there are even more Bollywood dance elements than last year. I am sure that no-one would wish for the event, which is a wonderful and important part of the British Hindu calendar, to be seen as exploitation of the spiritual and religious message of Diwali, to simply hold a Bollywood Dance extravaganza – balance is everything”.
A display of variety of products from Kerala will be a major attraction of the event. State tourism minister AP Anil Kumar said the participation would be part of Visit Kerala—a joint initiative by the Kerala Tourism and the state’s tourism industry.
“We consider this opportunity as an ideal platform to market our state by exhibiting our unique products including performing arts and culture, cuisine, natural splendour, Ayurveda and backwaters,” he said.