Prayers for peace and candles in UK Parliament to celebrate Diwali
London, Oct 18: Prayers for peace recited by priests from the Hare Krishna Temple and the lighting of candles marked this year’s Diwali celebrations in the Houses of Parliament complex in London.
The celebration was held in the State Rooms of the Speaker’s House, described as the grandest residence within the Palace of Westminster, on Monday evening. It marked the largest Diwali event of its kind in the Parliament complex, which brought together cross-party parliamentarians, diplomats, community leaders and International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) representatives.
“I would like to wish all communities celebrating Diwali peace and joy, both here and across the world,” said Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Opposition Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer joined Bhaktivedanta Manor ISKCON Temple President Visakha Dasi, veteran Indian-origin Labour MP Virendra Sharma and Liberal Democrat House of Lords peer Navnit Dholakia to light the candles following prayers concluding with 'Om Shanti’.
“It’s fantastic to be in the State Rooms of the Speaker and what this demonstrates is the true diversity of the United Kingdom, that we are able to celebrate Diwali, one of the most important celebrations in the Hindu calendar, in the Palace of Westminster,” said Indian-origin Conservative Party MP and event co-host Shailesh Vara.
“It is a loud message to the 1.6 million British Indian people who live here. It’s also a message to the rest of the world about our diversity,” he said. Last year marked the first time that Diwali prayers were recited in the State Rooms of the Speaker’s House, a tradition Indian-origin Labour Party MP and event co-host Navendu Mishra hopes would become an annual one in the parliamentary calendar going forward.
“The British Hindu community is an important part of Britain and makes a positive contribution to our nation,” said Mishra. “A parliamentarian quoted a recent figure to say that British Indians make up around 2 per cent of the population, however, they contribute almost 8 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). I think most would agree that this is an impressive figure,” he said.
Mishra also referenced the UK government negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with India and said that as parliamentarians from different sides of the political spectrum, the event reflects their hope to be able to make a positive contribution to the bilateral relationship.
With reference to the missed Diwali timeline for completing a draft India-UK FTA, the member of Parliament for Stockport in north-west England added: “The trade deal will most likely happen. What we need to make sure is that it delivers for all constituencies that we MPs represent.
And, to ensure that it’s not just London-centric, but delivers for all parts of the UK.” The diplomatic presence at the Diwali celebration included Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK Sujit Ghosh, High Commissioner of Nepal Gyan Chandra Acharya, and Ugandan High Commissioner Nimisha Madhvani.