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Cross-service Diwali celebrations bring colour and light to a grey November

Date published 10/11/2023
‘Appreciating the Situation’ on display, one of the key objects looked at by Chat Over Chai Credit NMRN

Celebrate Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and find out more about the shared maritime heritage of Indian and Hindu communities with the Royal Navy at a special event on the 16th November.

A collaboration between the Royal Navy Race Diversity Network, the Defence Hindu Network, Chat Over Chai, Believe in me CIC and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, this event offers visitors the chance to take part in exciting Diwali activities, from traditional arts to intriguing history. This celebration of Diwali brings in personnel from across our armed forces and civil service.

Arunima Kumar Dance Company perform at Defence Diwali celebrations hosted by the Royal Navy at HMS President in 2015. Credit Defence Hindu Network.


Mala is one of the committee members of Chat Over Chai, a local community group helping to run the event. Describing the importance of Diwali Mala said:

 “Celebrated over 5 days, Diwali is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu Calendar. It is celebrated by millions of Hindus around the world, and is known as “the Festival of Lights”, the name derived from the Sanskrit term Deepavali, meaning “Row of Lights”. 

The Festival generally symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness”, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. 

Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama, to his kingdom, Ayodhya, after his 14 year long Exile. Diwali also marks the start of the Hindu New Year. During Diwali, people will dress up in their best outfits, Illuminate the exterior and interior of their houses with Diyas and Rangoli patterns, perform religious ceremonies to Goddess Lakshmi & partake in Family Feasts, where Mithai (Indian Sweets) and Gifts are shared & exchanged. 

Chat Over Chai are delighted to be celebrating Diwali at the NMRN and share the findings from our research of the Tidal Teatime Project”

Exploring the National Museum of the Royal Navy galleries, visitors will see stalls and demonstrations around the historic site. Next to HMS Warrior, weather permitting, there will be Hindu Rangoli, using coloured chalk to create beautiful patterns on the Warrior jetty, alongside other craft activities teaching visitors more about the Royal Navy. 

Children with special educational needs can also take advantage of a Diwali-themed SEND sensory area with lights and colours in the Play deck in the Victory Gallery. 

Visitors who want to dive into history can learn about the links between Indian and Hindu communities and the Royal Navy, with presentations, genuine artefacts, and conversations about this important link with experts. Dr Kiran Sahota from Believe in Me CIC, a community interest company empowering young people through education, especially South Asian History, will help visitors discover the contributions of Indian Women and their military service during the Second World War. 

Dr Kiran Sahota said “I’m excited to share the research on how Indian women have contributed to world wars. The story of the WRINS [Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service] and many more Indian women have played a vital role in the war effort.” 

All of the day’s activities are free with a ticket to the valid attraction, they are appropriate for all ages, and taking place between 10:30am and 2:30pm. 

A special evening event will also be taking place onboard HMS Warrior. Hosted by the Royal Navy this event will celebrate Diwali with community leaders and defence personnel of all faiths. Whilst the event is by invite only and not accessible to the public, do watch out for the fireworks display around 7:30pm in the harbour.