Diwali on Trafalgar Square (DOTS) is an annual celebration of the Hindu festival of Diwali in the heart of London. The event, which is now in its thirteenth year, is presented by the Mayor of London with the Diwali in London (DIL) Committee as organising partner.
The event kicked off with a Rama Yatra led by local community children dressed as Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman, followed by their army of monkeys and villagers. The parade symbolised their journey from Lanka (in this case, London’s Southbank) and represented the return of hope and happiness (in the form of Lord Rama) to Ayodhaya (in this case, Trafalgar Square). Thousands of Londoners gathered to witness the return of Rama rajya to the modern-day Ayodhya.
The opening ceremony of DOTS 2014 saw young children from Chinmaya Balvihar chanting opening prayers to an audience of over 20,000 attendees, and Swamini Supriyananda of Chinmaya Mission Hong Kong addressed the crowd with a Vedantic Diwali message.
Attendees at the event were kept entertained throughout the day with a mass garba dancing session in the Square, and a range of folk, classical and modern musical and dance stage performances. The Kids’ Zone on the Square provided an arena for children to partake in a diverse range of activities including story-telling sessions on a tourist bus, face-painting as characters from Hindu mythology, arts and crafts activities such as diya decoration and Ravana shooting to represent the destruction of evil.
Other attractions included a Diwali Zone with a traditional annakut display, a range of stalls by spiritual and community organisations, including Chinmaya Mission UK, a Wellness Zone which offered free health advice and head massages, and a bazaar selling ethnic clothes, jewellery and artefacts.
Enthusiastic youth from CHYK UK offered seva at the Square in various forms, including management of the prestigious guest marquee which hosted spiritual, community and political leaders from the Hindu community, running the extremely busy Chinmaya Mission UK bookstall, provision of information about Hinduism and Diwali by wearing bright orange ‘Ask Me About Diwali T-shirts’ and dressing up as the Rama parivar to present a photo opportunity for visitors to the Square.
An estimated 40,000 people attended the celebrations during the course of the day, with visitors braving the autumn chill and refusing to let the rain dampen their Diwali spirit. DOTS 2014 concluded with bhajans and the closing aarti performed by talented musicians from Chinmaya Swaranjali UK, amidst colourful Rangoli-patterned light displays across the Square and the glistening of splashing raindrops.