WORLD CELEBRATES DIWALI with prayers, bright lights and fireworks

    WASHINGTON (TIP): The five-day Indian festival – Diwali – symbolic of victory of good over evil was celebrated , from October 22 , the world over with great enthusiasm Amid chanting of Vedic mantras and lighting of the traditional ‘diya’ by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Diwali was celebrated for the first time at the State Department. “As the days grow shorter, the Diwali reminds us that spring always returns – that knowledge triumphs over ignorance, hope outlasts despair, and light replaces darkness.

    Diwali is a time for the revitalization of mind and spirit,” said Kerry who was joined by India’s Ambassador S Jaishankar. “It affords a chance to reflect on how we can bring light to others. It is an opportunity for us all, regardless of our own traditions, to renew a shared commitment to human dignity, compassion, and service – and it is a commitment, I think, at the heart of all great faiths,” he said. Some 300 guests, including a large number of eminent Indian-Americans and envoys from other South Asian countries, were present to celebrate Diwali for the first time at the State Department’s historic Benjamin Franklin room, which was lit with many small diyas and candles.

    The top Indian-American US officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal and USAID Administrator Raj Shah, were also present. “We worked hard to prove that we were, in fact, natural partners, which I believe we are. We are two optimistic nations who believe that history doesn’t shape us, but that we have the power to shape history. And that spirit of hope and optimism is really at the center of the Diwali celebration,” Kerry said and greeted people with Saal Mubarak. The guests were served the traditional Indian dishes – including sweet dishes like Jalebi, Gulab Jamun, different varieties of burfi, kaju katli and kheer. Some of the dishes were in fact were made inside the State Department kitchen, while other dishes were procured from a popular Indian restaurant in Washington DC.

    It was also one of the rarest occasions that no alcohol was served. It was all soft drinks, juices and not to miss the traditional mango ‘lassi’. In Birmingham, UK, Bhangra music filled the air as hundreds of people flocked to Diwali celebrations in Birmingham. Food stalls and dancing also entertained families as they turned out in their droves for Soho’s Festival of Lights.

    It was the first time the event had been staged after being organized by the newly-formed Soho Road BID. The BID is home to 560 predominantly independent businesses stretching from Holyhead Road to Soho Hill – with an estimated local population of 250,000. BID manager Craig Bucky said: “We were so excited to be able to run our first community event. “It’s been a lot of hard work and determination but it was a great celebration that the community can be proud of.” BID chairman Dipak Patel said that more events were in the pipeline in a bid to improve the area.

    “The long-term strategy is to make Soho Road an exciting place to work and live,” he said. Diwali was celebrated with enthusiasm and vigor in Sri Lanka, the land where the epic happened. Distribution of misri and lighting a lamp was a traditional fix. Locals offer prayers along the beach. In Thailand, Diyas or lamps made of banana leaves with candles and incense were placed in the river to float. People greeted each other and distributed sweets. Diwali was celebrated with full aplomb in Malaysia. Even the locals indulged in the festivities wholeheartedly. Diwali is an official holiday in Malaysia. People invite each other to their homes and celebrate it with their friends and family.

    The Hindu community of Malaysia constitutes about 8% of its total population. The community celebrates it under the name of Hari Diwali. Nepal is a multi ethnic land with diversity in culture. Nepal celebrated Diwali with bright lights, gift exchanges, fireworks, and elaborate feasts to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of light and wealth. Diwali in Nepal is known as Tihar. In Australia, Diwali was celebrated publicly amongst the people of Indian origin and the local Australians in Melbourne.

    The cultural kaleidoscope of India was depicted as Indians in Melbourne showcased Indian art, culture, style, traditions and food via various activities, seminars, festivals, fairs and events. Diwali was also celebrated in Guyana, Fiji, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Trinidad & Tobago, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and Africa, among the Hindus across the world.

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