Diwali is India’s biggest and most significant festival – celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists. It is widely known as the festival of lights and celebrated in over 40 countries of the world. But it goes beyond the usual religious observance and encourages people to come together regardless of their background.
As Indian community grew in Victoria, customs like Diwali are gradually becoming mainstream and Victorian community is truly reflecting the multiculturalism with the respect towards diverse cultures, beliefs, values, traditions, and its demographic make-up, which is an essential ingredient for the prosperity and growth of the community at large.
It’s that time of the year again, when Hindus celebrate their biggest festival in a grand manner only this time it’s even more grandeur as Parliament of Victoria hosted a 4-day long celebration for Diwali. This time the united Indian community stood together to put forth a splendid event that will be cherished for long. BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir (Melbourne) in association with various Indian organisations celebrated Diwali at Victorian Parliament from 19th October 2015 to 22nd October 2015.
A formal launch to the 2015 Diwali Annakut celebrations at Parliament of Victoria materialized on 19th October 2015 through an inauguration event, which was exclusively for invited guests that included The Hon. Daniel Andrews MP, Premier of Victoria; The Hon. Matthew Guy MP, Leader of Opposition; The Hon. Bruce Atkinson, President of the Legislative Council, The Hon. Telmo Languiller, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Nirmal Kumar Chawdhary, representing Consul-General of India for Indian Embassy in Victoria and various distinguished members of the parliament along with the community leaders and members of various participating associations.
An inauguration event led by BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in association with various participating Indian organisations, began by traditional welcome of all the guests and attendees by tying a sacred thread on their hands and applying a kumkum on their forehead. The 4-day long festive gala was formally launched through performing 3 traditional rituals as explained brilliantly by the master of ceremonies, Mr. Sitesh Bhojani, as Deep Pragatya – lighting of traditional lamp, singing of Thaal – an act of consecrating the offerings to God, and Arti – the ceremonial clockwise circling of lighted flames.
The event later culminated into a vibrant demonstration of Indian culture through chanting of devotional songs, traditional dance performances, video presentations on the rich heritage of Indian culture, and an insight into Diwali – the festival of lights, all wonderfully depicted by various Indian organisations.
The Hon. Liliana (Lily) D’Ambrosio MP, represented Premier of Victoria and addressed the gathering on behalf of The Hon Daniel Andrews MP. She acknowledged the contribution of Indian community in Victoria and wished all a Happy Diwali and best wishes for the festive season.
The Hon. Matthew Guy MP, Leader of Opposition also addressed the gathering and passed on the best wishes for the Diwali festival to all Victorians.
The Hon. Telmo Languiller MP, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly said in his address to the Indian community: “If there is one thing that I would like you to insist on is to make sure you take the very important message. This is our home, this is our Parliament, this is the people’s house and I look forward to see you and members of this community many times coming back to your home.”
Mr. Nirmal Kumar Chawdhary, Head of Chancery & Vice Consul- Representing Consul General of India for Indian Embassy in Victoria shared his thoughts by saying: “It is a matter of great honour for India that Diwali, a prominent festival of India has got a prominent identity of Indian culture and value in Melbourne”.
Mr. Makarand Bhagwat, representing Hindu Council of Australia, in his speech said: “Diwali reminds us to eliminate the darkness of negativity, negativity of thoughts, actions, bahaviour, speech, and every other thing associated with it”.
The inauguration event concluded with Mr. Sitesh Bhojani, the master of ceremonies for this inauguration event, speaking of his gratitude to the Premier of Victoria, Hon Daniel Andrews, and to all the Members of Victorian Parliament for allowing the Hindu community to celebrate the occasion of Diwali at Parliament of Victoria House. Mr. Bhojani then offered his gratitude to various Hindu community leaders, associations, and organisations, whose representatives attended the celebrations. He also passed on His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s blessings and greetings to the people assembled.
For the next 3 days, the Queen Victoria Hall at the Parliament of Victoria House witnessed marvelous exhibitions by various Indian organisations each depicting the wealth of heritage that Indian culture holds through an insight into the festivals, rituals, traditions, and essence of the Indian culture.
However, the limelight of this 4-day long celebration was the offering of “Annakut” (literal meaning, ‘the mountain of food’) to the deities as Diwali is also a time to offer one’s gratitude to God for his providence. The Annakut, in which a vast array of vegetarian foods items were traditionally arranged in tiers or steps in front of the altar, resulted in a spectacular display of ceremonial offering of food to God on a magnificent four-tier display set up by volunteers of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Mill Park, Melbourne). In total, 99 vegetarian delicacies were artistically assembled and presented in the form of Annakut to the God.
Through this grand Diwali celebration at Parliament of Victoria, the Indian community as a whole portrayed lighting the lamp of love in heart, the lamp of abundance in the world, the lamp of compassion to serve others, the lamp of knowledge to dispel the darkness of ignorance and the lamp of gratitude for the abundance that the Divine has bestowed on us.
Victorian community, truly multicultural, has once again proved why it houses “the world’s most livable city – Melbourne”. Today, Victoria is more proud and stronger than ever on its “Unity in diversity” aspect.