London lights up for Indian gods and German princes



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This Sunday (27.10.13) will see thousands of people on Trafalgar Square for London's take on the annual Diwali celebrations, the 'festival of light' observed by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

London itself was once a place of pilgrimage for light-seekers. Two-hundred years ago it was the first major city to launch a street-light system, with the first official oil lamps appearing on Golden Lane in the City in 1807.

Such was the sparkly spectacle that people came from around the world to marvel at London's lights. Here's an extract from the journal of an early 19th century traveller from Berlin:

"Even on the most ordinary and common nights, the city has the appearance of a festive illumination… a German prince who came to London for the first time, seriously believed it to have been particularly ordered on account of his arrival."

These days the street lights put up for Diwali double up as Christmas lights so we get three months of "festival illuminations" fit for any German prince and once they're gone, new generations of LED lighting - like the ones on Tower Bridge - keep the flames burning.