Jitesh and Roopam Kumar of Marsden Park and Roneel and Shiristi Kumar of Prospect have become joint winners in Blacktown’s Diwali Lights competition this year.
The annual contest has seen homes across the Blacktown region all adazzle this past week, bringing joy to entire streets and much sharing of the Diwali spirit, not only amongst those within but also those outside the area’s Indian community.
Deepavali (as Diwali is also known) literally means ‘rows of lamps’, but in its contemporary version, it might well be ‘strings of light’.
And there were plenty of these out at Blacktown – covering entire facades of homes.
Of course the rows of lamps (diyas) made their appearance too, as did other traditional elements of the celebration such as rangolis (floor decorations). Splashed across thresholds and driveways, the elaborate rangolis were created both with powder and flowers, with diyas within them bringing an added sparkle.
Also popular this year – real marigold flowers, typical in Hindu rituals.
“I’m truly thrilled to have won,” Jitesh Kumar told Indian Link. “But really, it’s not about the prize. It’s a family tradition in which our young kids are very excited to be involved, and my wife Roopam and I are pleased to know that they will carry it on.”
A giant arc covered in lights stands at the entrance to their home, inviting you in on a pathway that is rangoli-lined and diya-lit. The rest of the fence is lined with smaller arcs. Amidst the hanging string lights that bathe their home in Diwali glow, you can spot diya motifs and the Om symbol, all created by hand.
In the driveway sits the piece de resistance – an entire Ram Darbar (a tableau of the family of the god of the occasion, Lord Ram).
“We took pains to create it in authentic style, with focus lights on the deities, background lighting, rangolis in front, and of course, music.”
The IT professional, clearly an electronics geek, has the controls of his entire lighting decoration on his mobile phone.
The artistic Ganesh is a novelty item.
“Our Ganesh sits in a flowerpot, under an umbrella of lights,” Jitesh described. “I used an old umbrella stripped of the fabric, and re-created with strings of light.”
The entire decoration took four weeks to plan and execute.
For joint winners Roneel and Srishti Kumar, it was much longer – six months from start to finish.
“We have a 34-metre frontage, so there’s plenty of area to cover,” laughed Shiristi, a repeat participant in the Blacktown’s Diwali Lights contest, as she described their design to Indian Link.
A stand-out here is the ‘Happy Diwali’ messaging in light, created in Devnagri-inspired script. The marigold flower strands are beautifully created and hung. The giant Om symbols, swastikas and diyas, as well as the peacock and lotus motifs, serve not only as decorations but also teaching points to those interested. (Why lotus? Why peacock? The Kumar kids – Reyna, 12 and Reyaansh, 10 – will be happy to explain).
“We got some of our design custom-made in China,” Srishti described. “Roneel purchased some bits in India.”
Their kids have always been fascinated with Diwali lights, Srishti revealed. “We went home to Fiji when Reyaansh was one. It was Diwali time and there were lights and lamps and firecrackers all around. As a slightly older child he saw the pics and said why don’t we have these at our Diwali? And so our Diwali decorations began.”
Sandeep Punia of Marsden Park, second place winner, is going to keep his lights on until Christmas. Besides the gentle fairy lights in his design, the most festive thoran (door decoration) ever and the neat traditional motifs draw attention. (Don’t miss the ‘Shubh Laabh’ motif – ‘May there be good business’.)
“Every night we have people driving past, or walking past, even knocking on the door to tell us they’re liking our lights,” Sandeep revealed.
Driving out to see the Diwali lights has become a fad in the region, and looks set to become a city-wide trend in coming years. (Looking at you, Schofields, to become ‘Diwali Lights Central’.)
The Blacktown contest has gained popularity – as well as mainstream attention – in the last five years.
“It’s wonderful to see how the event has grown and the manner in which our residents have taken it on board,” Blacktown Councillor Moninder Singh told Indian Link. “I was particularly happy to welcome new participants this year. The community support on judging night especially was pleasing to observe.”
Such support, we are sure, will come from other sources. Bunnings, nurseries, grab the opportunity – we’re hoping to see entire aisles dedicated to Diwali in your stores next October.
Here’s hoping also, that following on from Blacktown’s Diwali Lights contest, another local council or two will announce their own competitions.