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Defence celebrates Diwali in Portsmouth

17 November 2023
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Military personnel, including the Royal Navy Race Diversity Network and the Defence Hindu Network, alongside partners from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Chat over Chai and Believe in Me CIC came together this week to host a defence wide Diwali celebration on 16 November in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

The event celebrated the key religious-cultural festival in the Hindu calendar, enabling members of the public to learn and gain an insight into Hindu and Indian tradition and culture as well as showcasing the shared heritage between UK Defence and British Hindu and Indian communities, with a focus on maritime.

Schools from the local area and local Hindu and Sikh cadets, together with members of the public, attended the event, enjoying activities such as traditional Hindu ‘Rangoli’ alongside Royal Navy-themed crafts.

The day had something for everyone; children with special educational needs were able to take advantage of a Diwali-themed SEND sensory area with lights and colours through to opportunities for children and adults alike to dive into the rich history of Hindus, Indians and South Asians’ contribution to UK defence over the last 200 years.

Visitors gained an insight into the deep history of Hinduism embedded within the Armed Forces, showcasing the links between Indian and Hindu communities with the Royal Navy and highlighting key contributions in South Asian history such as how the women of the WRINS (Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service) played an important role in the Second World War.

It was fantastic to celebrate Diwali here at the heart of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Surgeon Commander Manish Tayal MBE

Surgeon Commander Manish Tayal MBE said: “It was fantastic to celebrate Diwali here at the heart of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This year’s theme of shared heritage and recognising the important contribution of so many Hindus and Indians to the Royal Navy and wider UK defence was brought to life for the public and it was excellent to see so many engage with this wonderful celebration.”

A special evening event also took place onboard HMS Warrior. Hosted by the Royal Navy, the event celebrated Diwali with community leaders and defence personnel of all faiths. Guests were treated to performances from the Royal Marines Band Service alongside the Bollywood Brass Band and a fireworks display to celebrate the festival.

Diwali, also known as the Hindu Festival of Lights, is the key religious-cultural festival for Hindus across the world. The festival generally symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness”, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance and is celebrated over five days with the main Diwali day itself falling on the night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Kartika (Oct / Nov in the Gregorian calendar) – for 2023, this was Sunday 12 November.

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