Diwali celebrations light up Woking town centre

4 November 2016

Celebrating new beginnings, the victory of good over evil and the triumph of light over dark, an estimated 600 people gathered in Woking Town Centre last night (Thursday 3 November) to take part in the town's annual Diwali Parade, followed by a celebratory after party at the H.G. Wells Conference & Events Centre which attracted over 450 revellers.

For the tenth year running, the lantern parade provided a colourful focal point for the local community to come together to celebrate this popular festival celebrated by Jains, Sikhs and Hindus from across the globe.

Bejewelled with twinkling, vibrant handmade lanterns, the parade was headed by twelve performers from the MA UK Chenda Team, a traditional Chenda Melam group, and accompanied by the lively sounds of Keralan drumming and percussion.

Amongst the procession were children from 11 schools and community groups who had created handmade lanterns especially for the event, including the Liaise Women's Centre which proudly displayed an array of unique lantern designs made from paper plates and upcycled materials, and the York Road project which had crafted a large creative lantern in the shape of a star using willow and tissue paper.

Starting at Gloucester Square, the vibrant procession travelled through Jubilee Square and Peacocks Shopping Centre before pausing for a majestic display of traditional dances in Jubilee Square, depicting Ram Leela a form of street theatre popular in India which tells the story of how Lord Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu (one of the three principal deities in Hinduism) was subjected to the trials and tribulations associated with becoming a human being. It is a tale of his courage, moral conviction and commitment to principles in the face of adversity, and his life is a guiding light in today's world.

Talking about the importance of Diwali, Cllr David Bittleston, Woking Borough Councils Portfolio Holder for Cultural and Community Development, said: "Diwali is a free inclusive event for all ages and cultures. Bringing the community together for this celebratory event encourages community cohesion, understanding and a sense of pride of place. Woking is one of the only boroughs and districts in Surrey to celebrate Diwali."

Back on the move, the parade journeyed through Market Walk, Cawsey Way, and Commercial Way, before moving on to the H.G. Wells Conference & Events Centre for the second part of the evening, the Diwali after party which hosted an exciting array of traditional dance and musical performances by local community groups.

Organised by the Woking Malayalee Association, Surrey Hindu Cultural Association, and The Art of Living Foundation, the exciting programme of performances featured traditional Bollywood, Bharatanatyam and Punjabi dance, plus a range of musical performances from violin, Hindustani Classical Vocal Recitals and various popular and traditional dance performances. Adding extra flavour, visitors also enjoyed traditional Indian cuisine served by local Indian restaurant chain, Chennai Dosa, which served up a delicious mixture of fresh sweets and savoury snacks.

Representing the organisers of the after party, Ritesh Aswaney from The Art of Living Foundation, said: "Along side the philosophical aspect, Diwali is a time when the community comes together to celebrate, forget past differences and turn over a new leaf. The next day marks the beginning of a new year in several parts of India.

"Woking's community, especially members from Indian and Nepali communities, cherish this opportunity to showcase their cultures and talents by coming together to mark this beautiful festival with colour, light, song and dance!"

Earlier in the day, four local schools took part in a variety of educational workshops, from Bollywood and traditional Indian dance at West Byfleet Junior, Kingfield and Hoe Valley School, to yoga at St Johns Primary school. These workshops offered young people an exciting insight into different cultural experiences and traditions and taught them about Ramayana, the story behind the Diwali festival.

 View the parade official photographs here.