Diwali is the most important festival of the year for millions of Hindus across the world. Each year, a celebration of Diwali is held at the Houses of Parliament in London and this year marked the 11th such event. It was held on Wednesday 31 October 2012 in the Members Dining Room in the House of Commons.
The programme was hosted by Bob Blackman MP, Lord Dholakia, Nigel Dodds MP, Lady Hermon MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Angus Robertson MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Paul Uppal MP, and Keith Vaz MP.
The celebrations were attended by a wide range of Hindu, Sikh and Jain organisations, including Hindu Forum of Britain, Hindu Council of UK, National Council of Hindu Temples, ISKCON, Art of Living, Oshwal Association, Sai School, Arya Samaj, Brahma Kumaris, Jalaram Temple (Leicester), Shree Wanza Community (Leicester), and many other supporting organisations. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London managed the event at the request of the hosts.
The festivities began with the lighting of lamps, symbolic of Diwali, by the hosts and a traditional greeting from children of The Sai School in Harrow to all guests arriving at the venue. Children from the Mandir also sang Vedic prayers for peace.
Diwali is also a time to offer one’s gratitude to God for his providence. This was marked through an Annakut – a ceremonial offering of food to God which was artistically assembled and presented.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Mandir, Mr Jitu Patel, addressed the gathering and spoke of his gratitude to all the parties in the House of Commons for allowing the Hindu community to celebrate the occasion of Diwali. He also passed on His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Diwali greetings to all of the assembled.
Dr Vince Cable MP (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills; Liberal Democrats) shared in his address the reason behind the gathering. He said, “The Hindu and Sikh community in the UK contribute disproportionally to the business success of this country as well as in the professions, in learning, in culture, and increasingly in politics. It is about paying respect to that and the religious traditions that are being celebrated today.”
Eric Pickles MP (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Conservative) also added: “Diwali has now become a civic event in most of our major cities.... Our country has become stronger as we can celebrate each other’s festivals rather than regarding Diwali to be only celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs.”
Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband MP was also present on the occasion. In expressing his gratitude, he said: “It is a very important event for me to attend and come and pay my respects to you all on this festival... It is an all-party event with members from the Conservative, Liberal and Labour parties here, and it shows how we all wish to show our appreciation to the contribution of the Hindu and Sikh communities to our country.”
Keith Vaz MP (Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee; Labour), one of the key hosts of the event, also added: “I would like to thank BAPS for organising this Diwali event in the House of Commons and Arjun Vekaria and the Hindu Forum for all their support over the years.”