CELEBRATING new beginnings, victory of good over evil and the triumph of light over dark, about 600 people gathered in Woking town centre for the borough’s annual Diwali Parade on Thursday last week.
For the 10th year running, the lantern procession provided a vibrant focal point for the community to come together for the festival celebrated by Jains, Sikhs and Hindus across the globe.
Bejewelled with twinkling, colourful handmade lanterns, the parade was led by 12 performers from the MA UK Chenda Team – a traditional Chenda Melam group – and accompanied by the lively sounds of Keralan percussion.
Children from 11 local schools and community groups joined in with their handmade lanterns, including the Liaise Women’s Centre which proudly displayed designs made from paper plates and upcycled materials, and the York Road project which had crafted a large star lantern.
Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Cultural & Community Development, David Bittleston, said: “Diwali is a free, inclusive event for all ages and cultures. Bringing the community together for this celebratory festival encourages cohesion, understanding and a sense of pride of place.”
Starting at Gloucester Square, the procession travelled through Jubilee Square and Peacocks Shopping Centre, before pausing for a majestic display of traditional dances back in the town square.
Ram Leela, a form of popular street theatre, also told 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 of becoming a human being. It is a tale of courage, moral conviction and commitment in the face of adversity.
Back on the move, the parade journeyed through Market Walk, Cawsey Way, and Commercial Way, before finishing at the HG Wells Conference & Events Centre for a party providing traditional entertainment for 450 people.
The event was organised by Woking Malayalee Association, Surrey Hindu Cultural Association and The Art of Living Foundation.
It included Bollywood, Bharatanatyam and Punjabi dance and musical performances from violin and Hindustani classical vocal recitals. Visitors also enjoyed traditional cuisine served by local Indian restaurant chain Chennai Dosa.
Earlier in the day, four schools had taken part in various workshops, from Bollywood and traditional Indian dance at West Byfleet Junior, Kingfield and Hoe Valley Schools, to yoga at St John’s Primary.
On behalf of the organisers, Ritesh Aswaney from the Art of Living Foundation and Surrey Hindu Cultural Association, said: “Woking’s community, especially members from India and Nepal, cherish this opportunity to showcase their talents to mark this beautiful festival with colour, light, song and dance.”