Hundreds of thousands of Britons will mark Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, this week with celebrations up and down the country.

Diwali decorations.

Diwali decorations. Image by David Sifry / CC BY 2.0

The colourful festival marks the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated with fireworks, the lighting of lamps, gifts and prayers.

Tens of thousands of people flock to Leicester to celebrate Diwali Day, while huge crowds from all over Europe are expected to enjoy the festivities at Neasden Temple in north-west London.

Tarun Patel, a spokesman for Neasden Temple, the first Hindu temple in Europe to be built using traditional methods and materials, said Diwali is a time for people to reconnect with their loved ones.

He said: “It’s a time for you to reflect on the year that has just gone and what you want to do for the year ahead. It is a time of reflection and celebration.

“This year is the temple’s 20th anniversary so it is doubly important for us.

“Light always brings a sense of hope, the temple serves as a beacon of hope, and it is fitting that we get the opportunity to celebrate this festival under the umbrella of Neasden Temple.

“People come in their thousands and from all over Europe to celebrate Diwali at the temple.

“It goes beyond gender or age – whether you are a 10 year-old or a 90-year-old or someone in between, everyone enjoys this festival.”

The mammoth task of organising the celebrations at the temple began three months ago, and several hundred volunteers help out during the celebrations themselves. But as Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists prepare for five days of celebrations, police have warned they could be targeted by criminal gangs stealing gold.

The Met Police revealed that £45 million worth of gold and jewellery has been stolen from Asian families in London in the past financial year.

The force urged those celebrating Diwali to guard against gangs of thieves taking advantage of the busy streets during festivities to snatch gold.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the festival is a “joyous” time.

He said: “Diwali is a wonderful celebration whose underlying themes of peace, renewal and cooperation are relevant to people of all faiths.

“In London, this joyous festival of lights brings together Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, as well as many of the capital’s other communities, symbolising our city’s optimistic spirit.

“I wish everyone celebrating in London and beyond a happy and prosperous Diwali.”

(Press Association)