Hundreds of Hindus at hall for festival delights
Hundreds of people danced and sang the night away at a celebration to mark the colourful Hindu festival of Navratri.
De Montfort Hall, in Leicester, is the venue for a major celebration of Navratri each year, with other events taking place at temples and in communities around the city.
Leicester City Council is reviewing the £20,000 grant it provides for the De Montfort Hall celebration each year, which could see the grant ending, but that did not dampen the atmosphere at the venue on Friday night.
Prayers and songs marked the third night of the nine-day festival, celebrating the strengths and values of Hindu deities, followed by mass dances involving everyone attending.
In one dance, known as "garba", the participants formed a giant spiral in the middle of the hall.
Another dance, called "dandia", involved smaller groups dancing with sticks.
Pratik Patel, 38, of Oadby, who was at the celebration with family members, said: "It's a religious festival, but it's a fun festival, too.
"The great thing about De Montfort Hall's celebrations is that it's for everyone – all the Hindu communities come here and can be together."
He expressed concern about the possibility of the funding for the celebrations being cut. The cash the organisers receive enables them to hire De Montfort Hall for the annual party.
Pratik said: "If it didn't happen here next year, a lot of people would be cut off from the celebrations. It would be a big blow."
Pratik's brother-in-law, John Wilde, 34, first came to the Navratri celebration at De Montfort Hall six years ago.
"It's very good fun," he said. "It's a bit like English folk dancing and from up in the balcony you get a great view."
Dina Keshvala, 46, of Braunstone, was there with her daughters, Ritika, nine, and Karina, eight.
She said: "It's my first time coming to Navratri at De Montfort Hall but it's a wonderful venue for it."
Kiran Chauhan, 16, of Humberstone, who was there with her friend, Tejal Odedra, 17, said: "It's brilliant to have the dancing in a big hall like this."
Maganbhai Patel, president of the festival council, said he did not think the city council could cut off the funding for something enjoyed by so many people.
"About 10,000 people in Leicester celebrate Navratri each year and if they stop our funding it would be a disaster for the Hindu community," he said.
More than 2,000 people have signed a petition calling on council bosses not to axe the grant.
The city council is to write to the organisers tomorrow to let them know the outcome of the funding review.