Mini India at Martin Place

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It’s Diwali at Sydney’s CBD!  KOMAL UTSAV JAGAD reports

Martin Place, the cosmopolitan hub of Sydney’s CBD was decorated flamboyantly once again; but this time it was for a whole new reason! This was thanks to the Hindu Council of Australia (HCA) who was boldly Bolshevik in turning Sydney’s hotspot Martin Place into ‘Mini India’, as part of their campaign to spread awareness of Diwali, the Festival of Lights. The event, held on October 31 from 11am to 4:45pm saw Martin Place transformed into a mini India.

Inaugurated by Nihal Agar, Chairman HCA, the event was a showcase to promote the Diwali Fair 2012, the HCA made an immensely commendable effort to ensure this year’s Diwali not only lit the lives of Indians here, but also mainstream Sydneysiders. The carefully chosen location played its part to ensure that Indians and Australia’s wider multicultural community got a taste of India and its favourite festival.

The event was organised for the first time in such a prestigious location, and was an undoubted success. Through the day, about 3000 people walked through an array of stalls, stopping by the central stage to view a variety of entertainers perform in a riot of dance, colour and music. An action packed entertaining run-order for the day deserves all the credit here.

Part of the program was a staged wedding scenario, with the stage decorated to the theme of a typical Indian wedding with a ‘mandap’ (a four-poster canopy) and elegantly dressed dulha and dulhan (groom and bride) who exchanged garlands and took to the pheras (oaths) with a grand vidaai (farewell to the bride) in a beautiful doli (palanquin), just as per Indian rituals.

Prabhu’s Hang instrumental performance stole the show as he induced the silence of the soul, invoked a connection to nature and kindled the celebration of life using the Hang, a UFO-looking 21st century instrument, tracing its origins in Switzerland.

Other enactments were also a revelation for the first-timers who had never witnessed our spectacular culture and heritage before. Ruchi Sanghi Group performed a mesmerising kathak dance. Poojithaa Padmanaba’s soulful bharathnatyam show was on ‘Januthakita’, which describes Lord Ganapathy’s powers of bringing good luck. A bhangra mix by Bollywood Stars Australia; a unique dance performing group run by Gracy Mosca; and a ‘Medley’ by Rhythmic Squad encompassing hip hop, contemporary, bharatnatyam and bhangra, were must-mention performances.

In the background, stalls for astrology, henna, kurtas and a bookstall selling Indian folklore stories, amongst others, kept many participants captivated and entertained. Children could test their creative skills at the rangoli craft stall, try their hand at diya making or Diwali colouring competitions. They even lent a hand for the ‘Ravana making session’, a novel task for them. After all these efforts, they did not mind queuing up at the HCA stall to get their surprise goodie bag.

Claire Portman, who visited mini-India with her 7-year-old daughter, said, “This is totally new for us and we are glad to be a part of it. My daughter loved the rangoli and the craft stall. We are looking forward to the Diwali Fair too.”

It was gratifying to see so many Australians participate in the event, almost matching the Indian attendees in number. Among these were Arun Kumar Goel, Consul General of India in Sydney; John Robertson (State Opposition Leader); David Clarke MLC; Marie Ficcara MLC; Peter Primrose MLC; and Gurdeep Singh councillor.

Raman Bhalla, Nihal Agar and Sanjeev Bhakri of the HCA commenced work on this project in early 2012, and were delighted with the great and positive response. “The event was a success and we thank all our sponsors, volunteers, performers, media partners and the amazing and supportive audience. We hope to be back next year with an even bigger show,” they said.

Sanjay and Raman were assisted by a team of twenty volunteers.

Indian Link Radio broadcast live from Martin Place, bringing to its listeners the hustle and bustle of it all, and giving them an opportunity to greet the community on the occasion.

Diwali at Martin Place was a wonderfully fresh idea and the HCA’s initiative seems to have made a remarkable impact on those who attended the event. The concept of spreading divine thoughts of health, happiness and prosperity connected with the festival by turning the iconic Martin Place into a mini India was very well received and was a taste of what to expect at the Diwali Fair.

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