A gathering of the clan for Diwali

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Sydney’s Indian community comes out in large numbers for the Hindu Council of Australia’s Diwali Mela

It was by far the biggest Diwali Mela Sydney’s Indian community has ever seen.
People poured in on a regular basis all day, friends, family groups, kiddies, seniors, all out to have a bit of Diwali fun.
HCA Diwali.Indian Link
The Parramatta Park Trust made available to the organisers Hindu Council of Australia a completely revamped section of the park specially earmarked for open-air events. The Diwali Mela was the inaugural event to be held in the new arena.
A record 120-plus stalls snaked around and away from the main stage, many of them food-based so that the visitors were spoiled for choice (and no one had to queue for long!).
The food stalls lay towards the back of the arena, on top of a hillock that sloped down to the stage, so that patrons could stretch out on the greens and still enjoy the goings-on on stage.
Elsewhere, rangoli, diya stalls and the temple stall joined homewares, fashion, jewellery, dress-ups, puja samagri stalls, and there was some fun shopping to be had as usual.
HCA Diwali.Indian Link
Not so usual, however, were the new elements that went down superbly, among them Ashraya Asmy, a kirtan band that weaves sacred mantras with indie rock. Singing their own tunes off of centrestage, they were simply outstanding, and did not stop all day!
Also attracting attention was the exquisitely designed Worli art decorated hut, which formed a great backdrop for photographs.
On stage meanwhile, the cultural presentations went on for nearly ten hours. No less than 68 items were presented, with some 600 participants moving on and off the stage in back-to-back numbers.
HCA Diwali.Indian Link
The Parramatta Kirtan Club kicked off the cultural presentation. The Prakash Kala Prashikshan Sansthan from Rajasthan were advertised as a drawcard, and they delivered as promised. Many of Sydney’s Indian dance schools, classical as well as folk and Bollywood style, participated.
HCA Diwali.Indian Link
HCA Diwali.Indian Link
No doubt the performers enjoyed the stage, which in itself was a novelty. Never before has the Indian community seen such a large stage, event coordinator Ajoy Ghosh told Indian Link later.
“Measuring 180 square metres, with a sound system of 100,000 watt output and the biggest-to-date screen measuring 18 square metres, our cultural presentation was able to reach the far corners of the vast enclosure,” Ajoy described.

HCA Diwali.Indian Link
Photo by Niradh Photography

HCA Diwali.Indian Link
Keeping it all closely coordinated on stage all day long, were a team of MCs.
All under 30 and many with professional entertainment backgrounds from India, they were handpicked for their youthful vigour, Ajoy revealed, as a change from the usual style of MCing at community events.
“It’s over to Gen Next now, and there’s quite a talent pool out there,” he observed.
Shekhar Vijayan and Manit Kumar were particularly good, and we hope to see more of them in the future.
In keeping with custom, the dignitaries were ushered on to stage after a traditional tilak welcome and flower shower, amidst the garjan of the Marathi Shivagarjana drummers.
The formal welcome was in the form of Sanskrit shlokas, chanted by young students of the Sydney Sanskrit School.
HCA Diwali.Indian Link
The chief guests’ messages of Diwali wishes were heart-felt and joyous, and they were able to reach out to the mases appreciably.
The invited dignitaries seemed to take in the Diwali spirit with noticeable enjoyment.
Geoff Lee wore his forehead tilak deep red and very long, posed happily with dandiya dancers like a kanhaiya among the gopis, took selfies with the Marathi drummers, and referred to Hindu Council Chairman Prof. Nihal Agar as ‘Nihal Uncle’.
HCA Diwali.Indian Link
Michelle Rowland brought out her pinkest salwar kameez and memorised to perfection Indian greetings in some seven different languages.
Sam Dastyari looked like a Bollywood star – or a young cousin of Rahul Gandhi’s – in his crisp white khadi churidars and black Modi-style jacket. Loved those matching jootis, Sam!
Julie Owens turned up looking like everyone’s favourite mausi as always, this time in a blue salwar suit with matching paisley jewellery. (The Indian-origin politicos, on the other hand, did their best to look as mainstream as possible: Gurdip Singh, Raj Datta, Reena Jethi, Raman Bhalla, all decided to stay safely away from ethnic wear.)
Gazing at them all unwaveringly, stood the giant Raavan effigy, awaiting his pyrotechnic end.
He looked a bit comical with his ten heads, but to the Hindus gathered there, he was symbolic of all the evil in the world.
HCA Diwali.Indian Link
As he came down in flames later on in the night, they cheered wildly, as good had conquered all evil, and their world was pure once again. To rejoice, the much-awaited fireworks came on.
In the end, an estimated 30,000 people had enjoyed a Diwali filled with entertainment, fun, food, friends, Raavan dehan, and to finish off, some superb pyrotechnics.
They owe their thanks to volunteers of the Hindu Council, who worked for some 12 weeks to pull off the best ever Diwali Mela we’ve ever had.
More photos on https://www.facebook.com/IndianLinkAustralia/ 

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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