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Blue Diwali diyas light up Melbourne’s Federation Square

Celebrate India’s annual Diwali at Federation Square drew crowds in the thousands, raising funds for the mental health charity Beyond Blue.

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Over 40,000 revellers flocked to Melbourne’s Federation Square for Australia’s biggest Diwali event on Saturday 4 November, raising over $4000 for Beyond Blue.

Now in its 18th year, Celebrate India’s Victorian Festival of Diwali transformed Federation Square into a thriving Diwali bazaar, with food trucks, stalls and live performances running from 11 am to 10 pm.  

A child gets excited by a man with a big colourful bear.
An inflatable bear was exciting for the children! (Source: Lakshmi Ganapathy)

At the heart of the celebration were official proceedings, pyrotechnics and bubbles exploding as dignitaries lit the diyas. With the ear of the crowd and his esteemed guests, Celebrate India Chairman Arun Sharma boldly proposed making Diwali an optional public holiday for all Victorians, following the example set by several US states.   

Nick Staikos, Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs represented the State Government, commending the Indian diaspora for making the ‘biggest contribution to Victoria’, whilst Leader of the Opposition in Victoria John Pesutto professed Diwali to be ‘as much a part of the Victorian calendar as the [AFL] Grand Final’. Neither commented on Sharma’s suggestion. 

 

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Meanwhile, Federation Square’s main stage dazzled with performances from all regions of the subcontinent, from the Maharashtrian Wari and Lezim dance by Rhythm & Folk, the Kathak dance presented by Vibes of Bollywood and the Cheraw fusion dance from Jollity Bollywood.  

A pagri tying and conch-blowing competition provided some laughs early on, whilst a live band drew crowds with their Bhappi Lahiri tribute, playing old and new tunes alike.

Dancers in red and white coloured traditional clothing and large bamboo sticks prepare for their dance on the Federation Square stage.
Jollity Bollywood blended modern music with Eastern Indian dance styles. (Source: Lakshmi Ganapathy)

The highlight, however, came at roughly 4 pm when a flashmob erupted from the centre of Federation Square, a multicoloured spectacle energetically moving to Bollywood bangers.  

From bubbles and lights to a massive inflatable bear, there was plenty for the children, with queues stretching across the square for a prize wheel in front of the Air India marquee. Mouthwatering Indian food lined the Birrarung Marr walkway, with frozen treats from Melbourne-based Desi Kothi Ice Cream and Chaat items from Kyneton’s Dhaba proving popular.  

Dancers dressed in blue move their arms enthusiastically.
A Diwali flashmob was a surprise addition that was well received. (Source: Lakshmi Ganapathy)

This year’s Blue Diwali program was expanded to run over a week, also including a teaser event at Southgate, a Rangoli competition, a Know Your Culture shloka chanting competition, and the premiere of News Attack – an original comic play by Natyadarpan Indian Theatre Academy held at Doncaster Secondary College.  

Iconic Melbourne landmarks, including the MCG and Old Treasury Building were lit up in the Indian Tricolours on the night of the event. Fireworks capped off the celebrations, bringing bursts of colour to the night sky over the Yarra River. 

READ ALSO: No Diwali lights for Sydney Opera House this year 

Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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