Happy Diwali: The real joy is in community partnership and goodwill

 

(Design Courtesy: PInterest)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, October 24, 2022

Indian Newslink wishes all its Readers, Advertisers, Contributors, Sponsors, Friends and Well-Wishers Happy Diwali (Deepavali) and for those marking a new beginning, a Happy and Prosperous New Year. We hope and pray that the Festival of Lights will bring joy and plenty to your homes and keen all of you healthy and happy.

Diwali has different connotations for different people.

Religious scholars and pundits would say that it is a day to spend in praise of God (again differing from state to state in India) and many men and women would agree.

Businesspersons, notably textile and jewellery dealers, would say that it is a day to wear new clothes and jewellery (again differing between states and regions in India) and many men and women would agree.

Community and social workers would say that it is a day to give new clothes, money and blood to the poor and needy and a few may agree.

Most men and women would say it is a day to visit Temples, families and friends and some would agree and follow.

Younger members of society would say that it is a day to go out and enjoy with friends and colleagues watching a movie or dancing in a club and some parents and elders would not agree.

Cultural Performances were the highlight of Auckland Diwali 2021 (Asia NZ Foundation Photo)

Changing lifestyle

The method of celebration also varies from country to country.

Whatever the mode, Diwali is a day to rejoice.

Indubitably, lifestyles have changed over the past 50 years and with that how festivals such as Diwali are celebrated.

Since 2003, the event has grown bigger and more commercial after the Wellington-based Asia 2000 (later renamed Asia NZ Foundation) took the initiative to organise an annual festival. The programme, held as an annual event in Auckland, is now held in Wellington and Christchurch as well, bringing together more than 200,000 in the three cities over two days.

Diwali 2022 was held in Auckland on October 8 and 9, 2022 and in Wellington and Christchurch on October 16 and 17, 2022.

Festivities are now organised by independent organisations in Waitakere and Manukau, with support from the respective city councils and other bodies.

The Festival is also held in Hamilton, Tauranga, Invercargill, Dunedin and other cities, organised by Indian and other community associations.

It is a matter of gratification that some of the traditions practised in India have been preserved and promoted by people in India and those of Indian origin elsewhere.

The Indian Diaspora in New Zealand has been celebrating the festival of lights for a long (perhaps dating back to the late 19th century when the first settlement of Gujaratis arrived) and the verve and devotion with which they marked the occasion was a source of inspiration and emulation for the ensuing generations and migrants.

A performer helps another with a finishing touch at Auckland Diwali 2021 (Asia NZ Foundation Photo)

An early start

Diwali is perhaps the only occasion when Hindus rise long before the Sun does and prepare for the day. There is significance to each of the activities that they undertake during the day, each meant to make the body and mind fit (but given a religious tinge for larger acceptance).

Men, women and children (especially in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu) soak themselves in oil and enjoy a long bath.

Says a senior member of the community: “Oil bath taken regularly is better than any therapeutic massage that one would go for at some considerable expense. You feel not only fresh but physically rejuvenated – an essential factor to enjoy a long Diwali day.”

Children, including teenagers, prepare for the day with excitement and anxiety. Long before dawning it would be time for them to take to fireworks, burning crackers and lighting up the sky. The more adventurous would resort to hazardous items, with a deafening sound.

While firecrackers of all varieties are freely available in India, their use is restricted in many parts of the world including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

An early visit to the Temple (most Temples would open as early as 5 am in Tamil Nadu) is considered a prime duty by most families. Temples usually organise special poojas and archanas on the day, with many devotees offering sweets to worshippers and visitors.

Almost all temples in New Zealand follow the routine.

Rangoli (floral designs) were seen at Aotea Centre at Auckland Diwali 2022 (Asia NZ Foundation Photo)

A day of feasting

One of the most important aspects of Diwali is the preparation of sweets and savouries at home on Diwali eve. The type of sweets and the variety would depend on affordability and family taste. It is now common to purchase them from popular outlets. Thousands of retail shops dealing in sweets have sprung up throughout India. A few ‘branded’ companies operate in Auckland and Wellington.

Diwali lunch would be usually a five or six-course meal, with the members of the extended family gathering at one family home. In the Hindu homes of Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, it is customary for the newlywed groom to spend the first Diwali at the residence of his parents-in-law with his bride, joined by other close relatives.

Men and women of today conscious of maintaining a slim figure may not be tempted by extensive banquets laid out at home but Diwali lunch is an event to remember for many.

Magazine & TV Specials

Long before the advent of television, newspapers and magazines in India considered Diwali the ‘best crop of the year.’ Almost all of them would produce a ‘Diwali Bumper Special,’ some running to hundreds of pages and selling at a higher cost along with the daily newspapers or periodicals. Featuring advertising and photographs, the Diwali specials evince wide reader interest.

But the proliferation of television has changed the marketplace. With more than 100 independent TV channels available, the viewer’s choice is unlimited. Almost all of them offer special Diwali programmes, complete with music, dance and competitions.

New Movies

Diwali Day invariably sees dozens of new films in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada released in theatres. Producers consider the ‘Diwali Release’ a good omen and hope for box-office success. It is not uncommon for producers to gamble on the release of their multi-star films on Diwali day.

Cinema is still considered to be the cheapest form of entertainment and movies with appeal generally do well.

As per the Gregorian calendar, Diwali is generally during October or November.

This year, October 24, 2022, has been determined as the day of the festival.

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