Sydney Opera House smiles in Diwali colours

By Rekha Rajvanshi

Diwali is a festival that is also widely celebrated around the world by people of many other faiths.  Diwali marks the victory of good over evil and enhances peace and harmony in the community. Communities around the world light diyas or ceremonial lamps, which symbolize the lifting out of darkness and starting new beginnings.

This year, on Tuesday, October 30, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Multiculturalism Ray Williams joined members of the South Asian community to celebrate the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali. Dignitaries, community leaders and invited guests gathered together at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, to witness the proud moment of iconic sails of Sydney Opera House being lit up in gold, fifth year in a row.  All the guests were welcomed with an auspicious tika on the forehead. Beautiful ”˜Annakuta’ was displayed by Sri Swami Narayan Temple BAPS and the instrumental musical notes, played by Sarang Vengurlekar and Maharshi Raval, created a perfect festival environment.   Official ceremony started on time and Pt Jatin Bhatt recited traditional shlokas before honoring dignitaries with shawls.

Dr GK Harinath, Chair Multicultural NSW welcomed all and said, “Multicultural NSW is proud to celebrate this significant occasion with the community. Diwali is about light overcoming darkness but before we see the physical light, we need to lighten our soul and mind.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that Diwali is a special time of year for the members of our community with South Asian heritage, “I think the lighting of the Opera House demonstrates not just what a significant festival Diwali is but how much NSW, India, South Asia, all the subcontinental nations feel about one another.” Minister for Multiculturalism Mr. Ray Williams said, “Diwali is a time for all members of our communities to reflect on the rich cultural diversity of our community in New South Wales.  The NSW Government recognizes and values the outstanding contribution of the South Asian community to our State.

Consul General of India Hon Vanlal Vawna thanked Premier for setting up this wonderful tradition of celebrating Diwali and lighting up Opera House to honour one of the biggest festivals. He said NSW has many things to offer to India which is looking to enhance collaboration in many areas. He also invited NRIs to attend Pravasi Bhartiya Divas to be held in Varanasi from January from 21st to 23rd 2019.

Seven seniors from Indian community who are making significant contribution on the night were also honoured by the Premier in presence of guests. Dave Passi President Indian Seniors Hornsby for serving seniors, Bijinder Dugal of AASHA, co-founder and director for Aus-Indian Aged Care Support for serving seniors, Mr Narayan Pradhan for supporting the Nepalese community, Dr Sudha Natarajan-founder and Public Officer of the Resourceful Australian Indian Network. Dr Noor Vellani for his dedicated service to the health and well-being of communities in the lower Blue Mountains and his particular support of the elderly in the area, Dr Mira Vellani for serving and providing counselling support to older migrant women in the area.  Dr Sikander Khan for his work in raising awareness of community perceptions and Islamic perspectives in serving the elderly and specific religious needs of Muslim elderly.

Men and women dressed in traditional attire were seen taking selfies and pictures with Ministers and other dignitaries, with Opera House in orange hues as a backdrop. Diwali celebrations is getting bigger and better in New South Wales, with over 60 Diwali fairs, dinners, official and unofficial celebrations.

Diwali is a moment of joy, family celebration, cleaning up home environment and settling the financial books yet it is also an occasion of goodwill, victory of good over evil and forgiving and forgetting any grudges towards one another, wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous, happy joyous year. Australia has accepted this Indian festival in its true multicultural spirit, one sees the proof everywhere.

Pics by Harmohan Walia

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