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Hindu festival Diwali lights up Whitechapel

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 November 2010 | UPDATED: 11:50 09 November 2010

Soma Goswani, 1, at Diwali celebrations at Toynbee Hall on 5th Nov 2010

Soma Goswani, 1, at Diwali celebrations at Toynbee Hall on 5th Nov 2010

Olivia Harris, (+44) 7881 810 878, www.oliviaharrisphotos.com

HINDUS from across Tower Hamlets joined together to celebrate Diwali in Whitechapel on November 5 and used the occasion to press for their own permanent temple.

Around 500 Hindus lit candles, said prayers and watched fireworks as part of the festivities at Toynbee Hall in Commercial Street.

Organiser Mrinal Kamti Sarkar, 45, of Arbery Road, said: “A lot of people from neighbouring boroughs such as Newham and Camden came as well and from all over London.”

Mayor Lutfur Rahman made a surprise visit to the event, organised by the Sanaton Association who are based in Patriot Square, Bethnal Green and made a short speech.

Members of the association, who organise religious events for Bengali Hindus in the borough, used the opportunity to ask the mayor, who stayed for 15 minutes, to help them in finding their own temple.

They would like to buy a council building to use for religious and cultural events.

Mr Kamti Sarkar said: “There isn’t a temple in the borough for us at the moment.

“If we want to put on an event, we have to use Toynbee Hall or York Hall, which can be expensive.

“We have previously gone to the council to ask for help in finding our own temple and we had a few meetings with Lutfur Rahman when he was leader of the council.

“He wished everyone a happy Diwali and said he would try to help us.”

Visitors also joined a priest in a Kali Puja service, a Bengali Hindu festival dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali.

There was chanting and traditional dance accompanied by live drums, a firework display and guests enjoyed food including khichuris, an Indian dish of rice and lentils and vegetable curries.

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