Diwali 2021: How is the festival of lights being celebrated in Leicester?

Celebrations to mark one of the biggest Diwali Day celebrations outside India are set to include a laser rainbow visible for miles around today.

The festivities in Leicester on Thursday come just two weeks after the Diwali lights switch-on event, which was attended by thousands of people.

Diwali, which is also known as the festival of lights, is being celebrated today by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains across the world.

After celebrations were virtual last year - the Belgrave Road, also known as the Golden Mile, has come alive as thousands of people turn out to watch the lights being switched on.

A local business owner told ITV Central "Diwali last year was really sad and down, and the whole street was dead".

Arinder Bhulla, who owns a boutique selling glamorous outfits for men and women, said it was awful.

"The whole street was dead last year," a local business owner says

She said: "We were just sort of devastated really. Business was zero, it was just horrible."

But with celebrations back on the cards, Arinder said this year is looking a lot brighter.

She said: "This year, exciting, wonderful, amazing, we're busy, we've got that buzz in the air of Diwali and Diwali is like Christmas for us, so everyone is excited to get together with family as well."

Unlike other religious festivals, Diwali is not a time for fasting.

Some restaurants in Leicester have been working through the night to prepare for today's festivities.

"Last night we never finished until about half 11, nearly midnight. Just making the fresh masala and everything for tonight", one cafe owner Leicester says

They added: "As you can see, as soon as we opened our doors at 11:30, we have been full up. When the road closes now, it shall be a busy night for us."

But we are being reminded that the covid pandemic hasn't gone away.

There's usually a stage on Belgrave Road with live entertainment. 

This year, there are three large screens showing a pre-recorded cultural programme featuring local artists.

On Brandon Street, a special vaccination drop-in clinic is being held for flu and Covid jabs.

It's part of a local NHS drive to encourage people to get vaccinated during the festive period, as winter sets in.

Visitors to Leicester's Diwali festival are being encouraged to get flu and Covid jabs on offer without an appointment at a drop-in clinic open throughout the afternoon into the evening.

Prominent community figures are backing the drive including Dharmesh Lakhani, ower of Bobby's restaurant and Suleman Nagdi MBE, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations, who have shared video messages encouraging people to celebrate safely and take the time to get jabbed if they are eligible.