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The theme of hope over despair was appropriate at Wyndham Diwali
The pall of the Paris attacks hung heavy as people gathered a day after to mark Wyndham Council’s Diwali event at Presidents Park.
Councillor and Acting Mayor of Wyndham City Council Gautam Gupta at the very outset requested a minute’s silence for the victims.
“When we talk about Diwali, we talk about victory of good over evil,” he said. “I could not start the festivities without acknowledging the evil that is still present in our society.”
Indeed Diwali seemed like the perfect opportunity to encourage people to come together and fight against all forms of evil.
The theme ‘Victorian Multicultural Festival of Lights’ could not have been more appropriate in sending the message out that Diwali was intended here to bring people together.
The spirit of sharing, an essential element of Diwali, went a long way in breaking down barriers between people.
“The theme is Diwali – the triumph of good over evil – but it’s actually a multicultural festival that is open to everyone,” organiser Raghu Koorthy of Wyndham Diwali Inc. said.
Some 20,000 people of all backgrounds poured in on a regular basis all day, friends, family groups, kiddies, seniors, all out for a bit of Diwali masti.
They enjoyed a fun-filled day with entertainment, fun, food, friends, and to finish off, some superb pyrotechnics.
Other aspects also seemed symbolic, even if serendipitously. One of the highlight entertainment acts, Shakthi Thandavam had as its underlying message the ultimate defeat of evil forces in the world.
For many, this presentation by the Rachana Natyalaya was the stand-out item of the day.
Commanding and dramatic in its choreography and executed to perfection, the power-packed performance brought home loud and clear that in the end, the righteous will win over the oppressive. Kudos to Archana Kuncha Koorthy, head of Rachana Natyalaya.
And as if to rejoice at the vanquishing of all evil, Natyalaya’s dancers broke into a peppy Shaam Shaandaar, another superb high-octane presentation.
Many more beautiful cultural presentations by some 300 performers thrilled the crowds too. The Nesian Peral Dance Group and the Karen community joined in the Diwali spirit from Samoa and Burma respectively.
Nesian Peral Dance Group
Music group The Fifths, with their particular blend of classical, modern, alternative and experimental Indian and international beats, did their bit to show the beauty in fusion.
Meanwhile, given that Diwali is the “Festival of Eats” as well, the stalls boasted food from different parts of the world.
Just as Gautam Gupta indicated, the day’s offerings captured “Wyndham in its totality”, showcasing its multiculturalism.
Elsewhere, with the homeware, fashion, jewellery and henna stalls, there was some fun shopping to be had as usual.
And if you can’t have India without its song and dance, how can you have Australia without its sport?!
Cricket Australia and AFL were very prominent at Wyndham Diwali, both making good inroads into the Indian community.
There were some lucky draw contests as well, such as a joint one by Jet airways and Indian Link which gave away a free ticket to India.
There is a growing tendency these days to add a social cause to our celebrations. At Wyndham Diwali, the call went out to “Say No To Family Violence”.
Community organisation Jagriti, which aims to provide culturally appropriate responses to family violence, initiated a social media campaign to get people to pledge allegiance to fight the scourge of domestic violence.
Wyndham Diwali Inc. was supported by Wyndham City Council and the state government for the third year in a row to organise the Festival.
Joining the Acting Mayor on stage were Member for Werribee and Treasurer of Victoria Tim Pallas; Minister of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Robin Scott; Member for Tarneit Telmo Languiller, and Councillor Heather Marcus.
Gautam Gupta complimented the hard work and planning that went into organising this event and congratulated the Wyndham Diwali Inc. team and their mentor, Councillor Heather Marcus.
He went on to say, “People of Indian origin form one of the fastest growing communities not only in Wyndham but also in Australia. We are also the second highest tax paying community in the country. Because of the events we do, the culture that we bring, we are creating a community of nation builders.”
Tim Pallas also sent out his Diwali greetings.
“Diwali is, the festival that demonstrates the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. In many ways on a day like today, we are reminded how we should cherish our multicultural heritage.”
Referring to Mr Gupta’s comment regarding the Indian community being the second highest tax paying community in Australia, Mr Pallas could not help remarking, “Let me tell you all, as the Treasurer of Victoria, you should strive to become the first highest tax paying community of Australia!”
Robin Scott, Minister of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, said, “One of the most important elements in a free society is that people have the ability to cherish, to develop, and to preserve their cultural heritage.
In Victoria, we are building an identity where people can bring their culture, and most importantly, share it with others.”
And indeed, while the prevailing mood in the mainstream might well have been one of distrust or even fear against migrant communities, at Wyndham Diwali, the disposition was largely towards the strengths that multiculturalism entails.
Perhaps it was Joanne Ryan MP who said it best, later: “In our hearts we carried the shock and sadness of events in Paris and Beirut but as a community we came together for the joy of Wyndham Diwali. Light over darkness. Knowledge over ignorance. Hope over despair. We learn so much about the world when we share our history and our stories.”
Neha Nagpal, Nisha Chaman reporting