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Diwali DownUnder PDF Print E-mail

 

© Neena Bhandari , India Abroad Newspaper , USA

Image October, the festive month in the Hindu calendar, heralds the flowering of jacarandas and ripening of mangoes in Australia. Most of the earlier Indian migrants, who came after the `White Australia’ policy ended in 1971, celebrated Deepavali with few friends at home, a game of cards and sparklers thrown in, and going to one of the temples.

Things changed in 2000, the year of Sydney Olympics, when a Deepavali fair was organised by the Hindu Council of Australia, attracting 10,000 people. Today, as people of Indian origin cross the 200,000 mark, Deepavali is being added to the annual cultural calendar with celebrations galore. 

In the 2001 census, over 95000 people in Australia claimed affiliation to Hinduism. Not surprisingly, the 2006 Deepavali fair in Sydney attracted over 20,000 people. It is an occasion, not just for the people from the sub-continent, but Hindu migrants from South Africa, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Fiji, Singapore and the United Kingdom. 

Australia today is encouraging new migrants to hold their festivals publicly and get the community involved. Deepavali functions are held in large public spaces like the Sydney Olympic Park and Flemington Racecourse of Melbourne Cup fame. As education and tourism links grow, Deepavali is being celebrated in the state and federal parliaments with illuminations and cultural events throwing light on the strength of Australian Indian community in the country’s multicultural fabric.

The illumination of the Federal Parliament in Canberra is seen as an acceptance of Hinduism as a major religious denomination in Australia. However, the elders in the community feel the festival has lost its grandeur for the generation growing up here. Despite the yearning for home at this time of the year, some would rather be here. As Shilpa Ganatra says, “I wouldn't like to be in India at this time. Most of my relatives and friends in Mumbai go away to avoid the social pressures that are now attached with Deepavali. Infact, I believe we preserve and celebrate our culture better overseas”. The growing Indian community has been urging the Australian Government to declare Deepavali a public holiday, but there is still a long way to go before the festival gets the recognition it deserves Down Under. The end.

 
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