First-ever Deepavali at Government House Canberra

Hindu Council of Australia takes Deepavali glow to the Governor General’s home in Canberra. ROHIT ALOK reports

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This past Deepavali, the ‘Festival of Lights’ lit up the residence of Australia’s Head of State, the Governor General David Hurley, in celebratory fashion.

In a first event of its kind, the historic Government House in Canberra, where Prime Ministers and Ministers are sworn into office, housed a Deepavali celebration with members of the Indian community.

Governor General lighting Diwali lamp at Government House Canberra
Governor General David Hurley lights the lamp (Pic: Rob Ayling)

Mr. Hurley and Mrs. Linda Hurley hosted 60 guests for a morning tea that was filled with traditional dances, thought-provoking speeches, festive gifts, sweets, and even two impromptu songs led by Mrs. Hurley.

Governor General, Pics: Rob Ayling

“The Deepavali Festival is one of the great occasions on the multicultural calendar,” Mr Hurley stated in his opening remarks. “And what a privilege it is for Government House to host the commencement of the festival in Australia — a first I believe; we are creating history today.”

He added, “One of the reasons we wanted to host this event is to recognise and celebrate the contribution that the 900,000 Hindu, Sikh and Jain Australians make to our community.”

Struck by the underlying message of the festival – ‘Light over darkness’, which signifies that good will always triumph over evil – the Governor General encouraged all Australians to reflect on this captivating theme.

“Inherent in this message is that characteristics of friendship, tolerance, harmony and hope will make for a more inclusive society. So, regardless of faith or background, I encourage all Australians during the ‘Festival of lights’ to reaffirm their commitment to friendship, tolerance, harmony and hope. These are characteristics that we see reflected in the very best of our community.”

The event was organised in collaboration with the Hindu Council of Australia (HCA), whose mission is to advance community in the country, and a group that His Excellency remarked as special for the positive difference they have on Indians and the wider community. These relate, in particular, to their wide-ranging and influential work in migration; tertiary education; religion and chaplaincy; bushfire and drought relief and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on the privilege of meeting various people and organisations from across Australia, the Governor-General also observed that while the groups might differ on backgrounds and work, yet they are collectively bound by common characteristics of being selfless, hardworking and driven to strengthen our communities.

Governor General David Hurley and Linda Hurley with guests at Deepavali event
Governor General and Mrs Hurley with guests (Pic: Rob Ayling)

“They reflect the values we celebrate during Deepavali and are evidence that Australia’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths. Thank you, all, again for being part of the Australian story and for what you do,” His Excellency shared in his final remarks.

As part of the Deepavali tradition to exchange gifts, our Excellencies also received gifts for their hospitality. An Indian silk scarf was presented to Mrs. Hurley, while the Governor-General received a small sculpture of Lord Krishna on a chariot – the Hindu equivalent to the sermon on the Mount of Christianity.

In a brief speech, Prakash Mehta, National President of HCA, shared what a great honour it was to be marking Deepavali at Government House, and candidly remarked how comfortable the community feels to observe their faith and traditions in Australia.

He noted, “We feel particularly comfortable here  to be able to practice our faith and our numerous festivals. In my view, this perfectly illustrates Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu texts, which means ‘The World Is One Family’.”

READ ALSO: Diwali will be a public school holiday in New York City from 2023

Rohit Alok
Rohit Alok
An experienced journalist and content development specialist, who is currently based in Canberra.

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