The Sydney Opera House will not be putting on its Diwali lights this year.
A shame, because perhaps this year we needed it the most, given the global conflicts that have been dominating. A message of enlightenment would have been comforting.
It was in 2014 that Sydney’s most iconic building, the Opera House, first lit up for Diwali. Sydney had then joined other global cities such as New York, London and Dubai in marking Diwali by lighting up. Images from these landmark spots went on to become widely shared – spreading the message of light overcoming darkness.
A spokesperson for the NSW government has confirmed that while they acknowledge that Diwali is an important and joyous cultural festival for many people in NSW, the Government has consulted with key community groups and agrees that, out of respect for communities who are presently grieving over the human suffering unfolding in Gaza and Israel, the Opera House will not be illuminated for Diwali this year.
He revealed however that “the NSW Government is proud to celebrate Diwali alongside the community at a special event in Sydney on 7 November 2023.”
“We hope the Diwali ceremony this year will instead offer a small ray of hope for peace,” he said
A response to the question of who was consulted from the Indian community, or whether it was the Jewish and Palestinian communities that were consulted, is still awaited.
It is deeply disappointing to local Indian-Australians that after nine years of solidarity celebrations with the community, the government has made this decision. The Opera House lights were the cherry on the top on Diwali nights, like that last bite of mithai. Diwali night always finished on the phone – sending pics from the Opera House to friends and family in India and globally. It was a matter of great pride to see our new hometown join us in lighting up for Diwali, in such a great gesture.
The lighting of the Opera House has been in the news lately after it was lit with the colours of the Israeli flag following the Oct 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. While many supported the gesture, others have called for the government to also light it up in colours of the Palestine flag to remind people of the humanitarian crises in Gaza.
Others have said that rather than national colours, the Opera House sails should be lit for significant cultural events.
Images of the Sydney Opera House glowing in Diwali colours have routinely made it to the front pages of India’s leading newspapers, and have become part of lead stories on Indian television (because let’s face it, our Opera House makes the best pictures of all the world monuments!). These in turn continued to be widely shared on social media in the days following.
The reach and influence of this soft power gesture has been enormous.
For an expected cost of less than $10,000, the value that Sydney gained was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Besides losing this soft power benefit, as a festival that is globally known for peace and harmony, the timing could not have been more appropriate.