For the first time ever, the iconic Sydney Opera House was lit up in celebration of Diwali, the Festival of Lights on the evening of October 21, 2014.
In a unique move that has been applauded by the Indian and wider sub-continent community, NSW Premier Mike Baird made the decision to light up the sails of the Sydney Opera House in acknowledgement of Deepavali or Diwali, the most significant festival of Hindus across the world. “This will be the first time the Opera House has been lit up in celebration of Deepavali, the festival of light celebrated by the global Hindu community,”
Mr Baird said when announcing the event. “Deepavali is celebrated across the world. This special event will be held for the Hindu community of NSW, which makes a valuable contribution to our multicultural society.
This festival has been embraced by Australians of all backgrounds and is one of many cultural and religious celebrations that take place every year across NSW,” he added. When asked the reason behind the gesture, Premier Baird responded to The Indian Telegraph by saying, “Deepavali is a very important festival. Lighting up both the Sydney Opera House and NSW Parliament
for this important festival will create attention and send a great message to people in Sydney and NSW. It will also ensure better understanding, create awareness of multicultural festivities and result in better appreciation of our various cultures.”
Against the backdrop of a darkening Sydney skyline, the sails of the Sydney Opera House lit up at precisely 8:15 pm, in tandem with Premier Baird lighting a traditional lamp. The sails, resplendent with a gentle orange, tinged with a greenish hue lit up the horizon to a resounding cheer from the gathered audience.
Also attending the event was Victor Dominello, Minister for Citizenship and Communities; Dr Hari Harinath, Multicultural NSW Chair and prominent member of the Indian community; Hakan Harman, CEO of CRC; Sunjay Sudhir, Consul General of India in Sydney; Abdul Aziz Uqaili, Consul General of Pakistan; Deepak Kumar Khadka, Consul General of Nepal and various other parliamentarians.
A well-choreographed Kuchipudi classical dance performance followed, adding an extra touch of colour to an eventful evening, which concluded with admiration from bystanders on the effect of the lights adorning the Sydney Opera House. The NSW Parliament was lit up simultaneously with the Sydney Opera House and will remain lit until November 5, when the Premier hosts a Deepavali event at Parliament House.
There has always been a degree of awareness about Diwali in Australia, given the vast number of sub-continent origin people settled here. The festival has been celebrated for years, albeit via low key public events and more enthusiastically by the diaspora through parties, melas or pujas in clubs, associations or within the family. However, Diwali is now taking on a role of greater significance as the Indian community makes a stronger impact in the areas of commerce, trade, business and economics of corporate Australia.
It is a promising start for the Baird government in publicly acknowledging of not just one of the most significant festivals of the subcontinent, but also being reassuringly familiar with the spiritual concept behind Diwali. It is certainly unusual in political circles, but perhaps a harbinger of hope for better understanding, interpretation and promotion of true multiculturalism •