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Commercialism erodes sanctity of Diwali

Migrants enrich their adopted country with not only their professional skills but also traditions and culture.

People of Indian origin have proved this precept across the globe. They have also remained connected to their roots, bringing a unique Indian flavour to their new environments.

Festivals act as mirrors of a community’s identity.

Diwali, the biggest event on the world calendar, has become a showcase for Indian culture and customs. It is not surprising to witness the appeal of Diwali now spreading to people from all ethnicities.

The spirit of Diwali is all-encompassing, welcoming people to its fold.

Unmatched scale

The Festival is celebrated with fervour by Indians throughout New Zealand. The scale and relevance remains unmatched by any other Indian observance.

Festivities are organised by local Governments and Government agencies in many cities. The Indian Diaspora makes it a point to invite their friends from other cultures to join in the celebrations.

Stories behind celebrating Diwali are shared, traditional Indian clothes worn and delicious Indian food cooked; all adding to the charm of this day for people who experience it for the first time.

The legend

The message Diwali emanates of hope, cheer and bringing light in our lives is universal. The legend of Lord Rama going to exile for 14 years, at his father’s command summarises the intrinsic part that families play in Indian culture.

It was His return from exile that sparked celebrations called Diwali.

In an increasingly commercialised and fast-paced world, Diwali gives people an opportunity to connect with their inner self, and emphasises the importance of being and doing good. Other features of Diwali like sharing with the less fortunate and getting rid of negativity resonate with everyone. Bursting firecrackers and fireworks display add magic to a beautiful day.

Ministers, politicians, commercial entities, community organisations and the media acknowledge the importance of Diwali, provide avenues to further its reach, and make its message better heard.

Impact diluted

Indian organisations and people behind holding of Diwali Melas in cities like Auckland and Wellington should look at the big picture.

In the past we have had instances of factions behind these festivities washing their dirty linen in public. Diwali events in Aotearoa should compete with similar events organised across the world, instead of belittling each other.

This dilutes the impact of the festivities, and paints the Indian community as being egoistic and power hungry.

There are also accusations that Diwali is increasingly being commercialised.

It is a fine line to tread in meeting economic obligations and original meaning and purpose. It is important that Diwali Melas are well organised, and no one loses money. But the primary motive of holding these Festivals should be to allow the Indian community to celebrate the Festival with the wider New Zealand community.

Bollywood degrades

These events cannot be reduced to Bollywood-centric song and dance routines, blatantly flogging commercial products. A platform should be provided to exhibit classical Indian art and dance forms.

It is also important to examine if these events are overtly loud and boisterous, transcending acceptable norms in Kiwi society.

Diwali is a once in a year opportunity for us to celebrate with our family and friends from all walks of life.

The onus lies on us to make this a memorable day, and utilise the opportunity to enhance the image and importance of Indians in mainstream New Zealand society.

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