British Asia News Network
Leeds: People thronged, dressed up in their festive best, for the very popular fireworks night at the Leeds Hindu Mandir, and the show didn't disappoint this time either.
Beginning with aarti (veneration) and prayers, the fireworks that went off without a glitch, were followed by light refreshment for all who arrived. The idols of the Gods at the temple, were dressed in brand new clothes and jewellery, in keeping with the centuries old traditions associated with the joyous festival.
The Ram Krishna Bhajan Mandali sang some much loved bhajans and all those who had gathered for prayers, joined their voices in devotion too. Everyone who arrived, made sure that they had their warm coats with them, to keep the cold at bay as they enjoyed the fireworks lighting up the sky.
Umma and Archana Guru, who are residents of Leeds and have been attending the mandir for quite some time said: "The Diwali celebrations at Leeds Hindu Mandir has had increased attendance over the years and is always a great event to attend."
The fireworks show that lasted for close to 35 minutes was carried out by people who had received specific training to do so. Keshav Dangayach from Jaipur Rajasthan and a student at the University of Leeds said "Its great to attend festive celebrations at the Mandir as they do feel like home, but I still miss my family a lot on days like this. The good part is that, attending the functions here, has given me quite a few friends because of whom I don't miss home as much I used to, a year ago, when I had just arrived for my studies."
Kinnari Soni who had brought her son with her to the temple, said "More people are now aware of the events that take place thanks to social media. In the beginning when I used to come, about 13 years ago, we barely knew anyone at all. But now the crowd is larger and we know more people as well. It feels like our own community." She opined that it did feel different from the celebrations that happen back home, as back in India there are holidays during these festivals whereas here, everyone needs to try and get leave from work to participate.
Chiragi Solanki , the Cultural Secretary of the Leeds Hindu Mandir Charitable Trust said, "The various celebrations and festivities that we have organised has, over the past decade, more than doubled the footfalls, coming into the Mandir. More people know, share and bring others to our functions. We post all the information regarding the upcoming functions on the Leeds Hindu Mandir Facebook page. This helps people plan their leave, from work in order to make time to attend as many festivities as possible. And it's really great that many, take the time to volunteer their help and their creativity to make each function better than the last."
Chiragi is instrumental in organising most of the functions that are carried out by the temple. She organised the volunteers, distributed the jobs and made sure everything was in place so that the revels would carry one without a hitch. Mr, Niranjan Vakharia, the Chairman of the Trust, Mrs Usha Bhardwaj the Vice Chairperson and Tresurer Pal Sandhir are all at the core of the successful events that are done at the temple.
With regards to the youth and children, attending the Mandir in all their enthusiasm, Chiragi revealed "We (the trust) try our level best to make the revelry have something interesting so that the younger generation too have something to look forward too. Just like the Fancy Dress competition that we organised on the last day of Navratri and the fireworks today it gives them great exposure to our culture as well as lot of joy as they create amazing memories with their families."
The Ahmedabad-Baroda group of volunteers put in tremendous effort in decorating the temple and in preparing some delicious refreshments. Shruti Patel is gets the credit for the beautiful rangoli decorations. The volunteers stayed back long after all the attendees had gone home, to clear up and to ensure everything was spic and span for the next day.
The Anakut Aarti and Bhojan that were held yesterday, marked the beginning of a New Year for the Hindus. Chappanbhog (40 different dishes) were presented to the Gods for this aarti, and the pedestals near the idols were laden with all of them. The food was later distributed amongst everyone who attended the Aarti.
(Image Credit: Chiragi Solanki)