India might boast the world’s biggest Diwali celebrations but the UK’s very own Little India, Leicester’s Golden Mile, is hot on its heels. There are few better places to experience Diwali’s fireworks, food and festivities than the city’s Belgrave Road.
Celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all over the globe, Diwali is the festival of light. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil, the victory of light over darkness.
With traffic stopped for the evening, tens of thousands of people from all faiths and backgrounds brave the cold and descend on to Leicester’s Belgrave Road to revel in Diwali’s warmth. People young and old stroll up and down, glowing amongst the Diwali illuminations and greeting one another along the way. Children jump in delight at the sparks and pops of ‘bang snap’ fireworks.
No visit to Leicester’s Diwali celebrations would be complete without sampling the exquisite Indian street food. The wonderful aroma of dishes from all over India is truly tantalising. WARNING: Do not go to Belgrave Road having already eaten dinner! Or if you do, be prepared to follow your nose to a second one! Whether it’s chilli paneer (spicy Indian cottage cheese cubed), masala dhosa (Indian pancakes filled with potato and spices) or perfectly shaped samosas, feasting on Belgrave Road is an absolute must.
As you wash down your feast with a cup of masala chai, it’s time to walk over to neighbouring Cossington Park for the evening’s entertainment. Incredible performers take to the stage to provide an amazing display of diverse Indian dance, from the grace and precision of classical Kathak to the hip roles and body pops of modern Bollywood.
The evening comes to its climax with a mesmerising fireworks display. Friends huddle together and kids clamber on to parents’ shoulders, with all eyes on the wondrous night sky. As fireworks illuminate the heavens, it’s impossible to avoid joining the crowd’s collective crescendo of “oohs” and “ahhs.”
The display draws to a close and the crowd begin to meander out of the park. There’s an inescapable sense of community - a feeling that you’ve all shared in the magic, joy and spirit of The Festival of Light.
By Meera Saujani
Photos: Namrata Tanna