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  • Writer's pictureAayushi Sharma

A very Australian Diwali

How Australia has adopted the Indian festival of lights and made Diwali its very own.

Australia's most famous landmark the Sydney Opera House bathed in light for Diwali.

Glimmering images of a lit up Sydney Opera House made headlines this Diwali. Lighting up the prestigious Opera House was a direct show of cultural support and friendship between India and Australia. For decades, the Indian communities residing in Australia have been celebrating the festival. However, the engagement of the Australian communities has increased even further over the past few years. Acknowledging and celebrating festivals together is one of the most effective ways to strengthen the cultural links as this cultural exchange brings forth the feeling of camaraderie and companionship among people from different communities. As the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese released a detailed statement wishing the Indians across the world, he made a point to link the meaning of Diwali to the essence of the multicultural society in Australia. The official statement was a reflection of the importance that Australia attaches to the cultural diversity of the country and acknowledgement of the contribution of the Indian communities within Australia.

Diversity of celebrations

The Festival of Lights is the most auspicious Hindu festival celebrated across religious and cultural lines. As different communities within and outside India observe the festivities in different ways, the lights, the sweets and the festive vigour remains constant throughout. This was also true for the Indian diaspora in Australia. While the Indian communities celebrating Diwali adds to the cultural diversity of the country, it also provides a space for the Indian diaspora to assimilate in Australia without losing their own cultural heritage.

The Parramatta Park is a significant space for Diwali celebrations in Sydney. It was only in 1998 however, that the Hindu Council in Australia started celebrating Diwali in the park. Decades later, the Parramatta Park is a common space for the Indian and Australian communities to celebrate the occasion together. Over the period, many Members of Australian Parliament and Prime Ministers have graced the Diwali celebrations with their presence, some even dressed in traditional Indian attire of Sarees, Kurtas or Salwar Kameez.

Not just the massive celebrations, Diwali has also now found a place in popular and mainstream radio shows in Australia such as the ABC Sydney Radio Breakfast which hosted shows related to the meaning of Diwali and the political power of the celebration of such festivals. Events like these are a testament to the fact that the festival now occupies an important place in not just the cultural exchange but also as a tool for positive diplomacy among the nations.

A boon for business

Apart from the engagement of the Australian communities in Diwali celebrations, the Indian diaspora is also actively involved in making the festival more accessible and engaging for the people in the country. Finding new and creative ways of diversifying the market for sweets, gold coins and other festive accessories is the most visible way that the Indian diaspora is contributing to the festival.

Foodie Wok, a gifting service started by Indian couple Sanjeev Arora and Shweeta Tangri Arora tried to fill the gap of Indian sweets in the Australian Market through their unconventional grazing boxes. When the couple migrated to Australia, they struggled to find essentials for Diwali celebrations and now two decades later they are diversifying the Australian Market with creative Indian fusion sweets. One of the most interesting ones of their menu is the 'gulabaroon' which is a fusion between a gulab jamun and a macaroon. They have coupled the modern twists with the traditional sweets and this led to their huge popularity this Diwali among the Indians and Australians alike.

Not just sweets, small business owners of the Indian diaspora have been creating decorative lamps and colourful lanterns. Handmade acrylic rangoli designs by Indian artisans in Australia have also acquired immense popularity this Diwali season. Thai indicates that the Indian diaspora has themselves been filling the gap existing in the Australian market by resorting to creating cost effective Diwali and puja (prayer) essentials. This, in turn, contributes to the multicultural economy of the country as well.

Diwali is likened with prosperity, wealth and peace. This is the reason why gifting and buying gold is considered to be very auspicious in the week of Diwali. ABC Bullion, the largest precious metal dealer in Australia even launched a special edition gold and silver coin collection carved with the image of Goddess Lakshmi, the Indian Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. The special edition coins have received a huge buyer base not only from the Indian origin people celebrating Diwali but also from the people who want to collect and invest in the coins.

Events across the country

The lighting up of the Sydney Opera House was one of the highlights of this year's Diwali celebrations in Australia. With the rapidly increasing Indian diaspora in the country, the festival has emerged as an important cultural event. Apart from the Sydney Deepawali Festival in Parramatta that also organises the live display of the Ramayana, the great Hindu epic from India, along with Diwali celebrations, the Victorian Festival of Diwali is also very prominent. The colourful and extravagant cultural celebrations continue across Australia through the Diwali mela or fest organised in New South Wales and the Diwali Family Balls in Brunswick East. Harris Park in Sydney also became an important destination for Diwali festivities this year, with streets lit up with bright lights and the smell of fresh sweets in the air.

As the Indian community has grown in number and influence within the Australian society, the celebration of Diwali has also become more elaborate. Diwali has not just remained a Festival of Light but has become the symbol of brotherhood, unity, peace and prosperity among the communities and nations celebrating it.

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