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Festival illuminates cites across the Tasman

Hindus in Australia celebrate Diwali with enthusiasm and excitement like their counterparts all over the world.

They decorate their homes with diyas, candles, colourful electric light bulbs and other fixtures to brighten and beautify their surroundings.

Preparing for Deepavali in Australia is no different to from India or Fiji as Hindus start spring cleaning their homes weeks before the grand religious festival.

Family members often shop for new clothes and accessories to decorate their homes. Friends, relatives and neighbours are invited to share various sweets and savouries prepared specially for the occasion.

The Diwali spirit brings people of different communities closer to mark the vibrant Festival in the most blissful and lively way. Diwali celebrations provide Hindus with a new beginning and direction, promoting forgiveness.

Historic significance

Hindu priests at various temples around Sydney and other metropolitan areas focus their discourses on educating the younger generation on Diwali, which according to Ramayana, is celebrated to mark the return of Lord Rama with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman to Ayodhya, after vanquishing Ravana, the King of Sri Lanka.

The people of Ayodhya decorated their homes as well as the entire city, by lighting tiny diyas to welcome Rama.

He is considered the symbol of good and positive aspects of life, while Ravana represents evil. Diwali therefore symbolises the victory of good over evil.

In maintaining the tradition, Diwali in Australia is a Festival filled with spiritualism and religious activities. Around 6 pm on Diwali day, many Hindus perform Lakshmi Pooja for Her blessings.

According to another legend, during the churning of ocean by the Gods and the demons, Dhanvantari, the Divine Physician emerged with a pot of amrita (nectar) meant for the welfare of the humankind. This day also marks the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi, celebrated by drawing small footprints of the Deity, with rice flour and vermilion powder. Lakshmi Pooja CDs are now available from many Indian outlets.

Sanatan events

The Hindu communities from Fiji and India resident in Australia organise Diwali celebrations with piety and devotion.

Shree Sanatan Dharm Pratinidhi Sabha of Australia has been organising ‘Deepavali Mela’ in Liverpool for the past nine years. This year’s event will held on October 26 and 27, among the highlights of which would be stalls selling food, handcrafts and other items and entertainment by Karaoke Masti Sydney, one of the most talented groups in Australia. The Mela attracts more than 20,000 visitors.

Sanatan Satsang Sabha of New South Wales (NSW) will host its Deepavali Mela on October 19 and 20 at Bigge Park in Liverpool. The event will follow the pattern with food and variety stalls, live band and ‘Theru Koothu’ (Street Performances). Sydney’s popular group KMS will once again be a part of the entertainment programme.

Religious feasts

Temples also organise special prayers, entertainment and vegetarian feast for their patrons and guests. Last year, children from the ‘India Calling Programme Schools’ entertained the public in Sydney with their energetic dance performance at Martin Place in Sydney.

The Hindu Council of Australia (whose committee members are predominantly from India) organises a grand Deepavali Fair at Parramatta Park. This event has been very popular, attended by the diverse Sydney community.

In the past, the organisers have had guests from the Hindi film industry and all the favourite items such as Bhangra and Bollywood dances are among the highlights.

Parliament Diwali

This year commemorates the 10th anniversary of Diwali at the Parliament House of NSW. In 2003, this became the first such Diwali event outside India, focusing on current topics as the theme, including Australia: An Evolving Multicultural Nation,’ and ‘As Many Faiths, So Many Paths.’

Former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally attended the event in a saree to show her solidarity and support to the Hindu community.

The Community Relations Commission of NSW has appointed a Deepavali Festival Committee to organise the annual event in Parliament House.

Capital Scene

In Canberra, illumination of the Federal Parliament building is seen as acceptance of Hinduism as a major religious denomination in Australia.

Indians in Canberra also organise a Deepavali Fair at Glebe Park, which has a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Hindu communities in Melbourne, Brisbane and other large cities also organise Diwali festivities on a grand scale, in partnership with their Governments or with the local Councils.

Melbourne Meeting

In Melbourne, ‘Celebrate India’ invites people to a family event, with five days of free Bollywood movies screened at the Fed Square. The main event on October 26 will showcase the colourful, vibrant culture of India through dance, music and arts and crafts by local and overseas Indian artistes. In addition, artistes from Chinese, Fijian and Chilean communities also participate in the festivities.

There will be activities and workshops for children, multicultural dining and a bazaar. The Festival of Lights’ will culminate in a spectacular fireworks display over the Yarra. Many iconic buildings, including the Victorian Parliament, Melbourne Museum, Federation Square and the Indian Consulate will be illuminated to mark the festival.

While we are lucky to celebrate Diwali with so many choices, it is a time for reflection. We must remember people who are less fortunate and provide them support and assistance.

We should help those in need and support organisations that provide assistance to the wider community.

Arveen Sharma is Senior Procurement/Contract Management Officer at the Treasury Directorate of the Federal Government of Australia based in Canberra.

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