Navratri 2015: Highlights from the Hindu Nine Nights Festival in London
Posted on 22nd October 2015
As celebrations come to a close, we take a look at some of the vibrant events held this Navratri just a stone’s throw away from Chakra.
Navratri is a Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil that is dedicated to the goddess Durga. Navratri means ‘nine nights’, and this year’s festival took place from 13th to 22nd October. Customs vary, but Navratri is normally celebrated with chanting, fasting, dance and music.
Hinduism has been present in the UK since the early 19th century, and today there are more British Hindus than ever, representing 1.5% of the population. Almost half of them live in London, making Navratri increasingly popular in the capital.
Popular Bollywood and Garba band Strings performed at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in South Harrow for every night of the festival. On Tuesday 13th October, they had the best turnout ever for a first day.
Children from Little Darling Childcare in Harrow Weald performed a traditional ‘garba’ dance for the Mayor of Harrow Cllr Krishna Suresh. Although embracing the spirit of Navratri, the children’s festival was inclusive of all faiths and backgrounds, and celebrated diversity and British values.
The Mayor, who was born in Sri Lanka and is a key member of the Tamil community in London, said he was ‘delighted’ to attend the event.
“Harrow is one of the most culturally and religiously diverse boroughs in the country. The Hindu community is the second largest community in Harrow, and I am so pleased to see Navratri taking place all over the borough, especially at the event I attended,” said the Mayor.
He added: “It’s especially important to share this with young people; the new generation are the future of Harrow and the future of the UK. I am so pleased to be educating the younger generation and sharing this spiritual occasion with the wider community.”
In East London, hundreds gathered to celebrate Navratri. On Tuesday 20th October they were joined by a number of local politicians, including London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan. East Ham MP Stephen Timms, West Ham MP Lyn Brown, and Newham Councillors Mukesh Patel and Unmesh Desai also attended the festivities.
From left to right: Cllr Mukesh Patel, Cllr Unmesh Desai, MP Stephen Timms and MP Sadiq Khan.
Cllr Unmesh Desai, who is the Cabinet Member for Crime and Anti Social Behaviour and Labour candidate for the City and East London GLA Assembly seat, said that the event was a ‘spectacle’. As Newham Councillor for over 20 years, he has seen the event grow year by year.
“Navratri has gone from strength to strength in Stratford, and up to a thousand people attended on Tuesday night. It is a religious occasion but it is also a community event – no one is excluded.
“The festival has changed; it is much more modern than it was. The music is contemporary, and many young people are involved. Navratri started in India, but there are now many people celebrating it who have grown up in Britain.
“It was colourful, bright, exciting and vibrant. The dancing and the costumes were wonderful. It was a spectacle.”
At Chakra, we’re proud to be a part of British diversity, and the new celebrations it brings – Notting Hill Carnival took place just outside our doors! – so we are thrilled to see so many people celebrating Navratri in London in so many different ways.