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Come October and it is that time of the year which literally heralds the start of the festival season till the year comes to a close. It begins with Diwali, the festival of lights. In Melbourne, Celebrate India’s annual Diwali festival, which entered its 12th year, saw over 50,000 people gather at Federation Square over the weekend to attend an array of cultural events, dances, exhibition and the grand firework display at the end. Diwali is celebrated for a variety of reasons, the main theme which runs throughout is the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
On Saturday, October 14, the penultimate day of the week-long festival, Federation Square turned into a sea of people right from noon itself. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Indian High Commissioner to Australia Dr. A. M. Gondane were among the dignitaries attending the event. Premier Andrews said Diwali is an occasion of great spiritual significance and showcases how we value and celebrate diversity in a country that cherishes multiculturalism. Dr Gondane too expressed his awe and admiration particularly of the Indian diaspora by sharing a rich culture that not only enhances friendship, love and peace but “is a living embodiment of our cultural heritage”.
But if there was one thing that stood out for Celebrate India, it was the fact that people from all backgrounds showed up to embrace Diwali. “It was not just the Indians but people from different backgrounds who showed us massive love and interest in the celebration. We were flooded with enquires about the programs,” says Arun Sharma, founder of Celebrate India, adding, “This time there was hardly any place to move, it seemed like an assembly of the biggest crowd ever even hours before the main programs began.”
Indeed each year the Diwali festival has been reaching large, enthusiastic audiences from all over. Take Chyrl, a resident of Brisbane. For the past few years, she has been attending the festival at Federation Square and spreading the word to her friends there. For sisters Minaz and Minarsh, who have been visiting the festival every year as kids, Diwali celebration is truly special and both take a day’s off from their work to be a part of something ‘incredible and amazing’. For a visiting Indian parent on his third day in Melbourne, to be a part of the Diwali celebration was overwhelming. He remarked, “I can’t believe you guys celebrate Diwali better than in India.”
Also worthy of mention is that Celebrate India’s first ever exhibition ‘Colors of India’ curated at the Fracture gallery at Federation Square received rave reviews. Incidentally it also provided the backdrop to a function organised on behalf of International Girl’s Day, an event largely covered by the media.
Arun and Jaya Sharma, the brains behind Celebrate India, say this year’s success, as the other years’, can be attributed to the dedication and tireless work of the entire team. “Everything finished on time and the fireworks went off at 9:15 pm bang on schedule,” says Arun.
But most importantly, what they are taking home is the heart-warming response from everyone including the wider Australian community for whom Diwali is now synonymous with the word love and light.
(TIW Team)

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