Thakur Ranjit Singh
Auckland, November 1, 2023
For Fiji Indian Hindus and most other Hindus around the world, Diwali is founded in Ram while there may be supposedly other reasons for its origin.
As the basic tenets of Diwali are grounded in Hinduism, it is essential that the advent of Western and commercial influence are not allowed to paint Diwali with the same brush which has metamorphosized religious occasions as an excuse to make money.
The growing commercialisation of Diwali has become a matter of debate in certain parts of New Zealand and the world, where some localities with a large concentration of Hindus miss real community–focused and community-led celebrations.
It is acceptable that Diwali has been a unifying factor in bringing people of all colour, races, culture, and creed together in a better assimilating environment.
However, it is also essential for Hindus to ensure that the celebrations are not hijacked in the name of unity and social cohesion by businesses, local councils and individuals for their personal financial gains or political ambitions.
Religious functions and occasions are certainly not launching pads for egoistic individuals seeking prominence, personal glory, or political exposure.
A community effort
That is the reason Diwali needs to be managed by community organisations and not dictated by commercial or other institutional interests.
One such example is Waitakere Diwali in West Auckland, managed by the Waitakere Indian Association for over two decades continuously.
That is why they still have culturally founded Hawan, Ram Lila, prayers and other traditions that are associated with Diwali that may be missing from other such celebrations.
Despite the temptation to inculcate Western ideas, Waitakere Diwali has diligently fought to retain its evening programme steeped in the true Diwali traditions, but with India-relevant Bollywood musicals.
Waitakere Diwali held on Sunday, 29 October, 2023 at Trusts Stadium in Central Park Drive in Henderson reflected the reason Diwali needs to be managed by community organisations with sensitivities about its religious and cultural significance.
Waitakere Diwali has the essence of religious touch with cultural performances, bringing together the wider communities.
Political and community leaders
The VIP reception in the evening had the presence of The Prime Minister Elect and National Party Leader Christopher Luxon, ACT Party Leader David Seymour Members of Parliament and many others.
Mr Luxon and Seymour spoke about Diwali and their joy of participation at the event, followed by community leaders.
Waitakere Diwali began in 2000 and has grown to be the largest indoor Diwali in New Zealand, and perhaps one of the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. With food stalls, craft stalls, information and commercial stalls, Rangoli and a cultural programme that included the Indian Sub-Continent and the Pacific Islands (with a touch of Fiji Indians and the native Itaukei), it was a multicultural event.
One thing evident from the cultural and Bollywood items was that the young and the old bring that diversity to the cultural landscape. This is the way the future policymakers can learn from Hindus and Indians why their people, especially, youngsters are diverted from the vice of crime and other unsociable activities and use their energy for the wellbeing of the communities.
Preserving Hindu Culture
Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand was delighted to be a partner in the event and its representatives were invited to the event and share similar sentiments for Fiji Indians and Fijians it represents in Aotearoa.
Let this Diwali enlighten us, and the sweets sweeten us. And let Hindus retain the original sacredness, theme, and spirit of Diwali, and not allow it to be diluted or adulterated in the name of integration and westernisation.
I hope that the Diwali festivals managed by commercial, individual businesses or Local Councils do not erode the sacredness of Diwali. Thanks to the Waitakere Indian Association for carrying that banner, that flame of Diwali, showing the way to others, that their event still resonates with its cultural and religious richness.
A very happy and prosperous Diwali to all.
Thakur Ranjit Singh is a community worker and social media commentator. He runs his blog, Fiji Pundit. He is a Founding Trustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation NZ, a former executive of the Waitakere Indian Association and a former Diwali Coordinator of Waitakere Diwali. Email: email@example.com