Diwali should invigorate Gandhian values

Gandhian values of Ahimsa (Non-Violence), peace, harmony, friendship and goodwill are more relevant to today’s world of increasing strife and terrorism, India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand Ravi Thapar said.

He was speaking at the Massey University Library on October 2, marking Gandhi Jayanti, the 145th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, who was the First Runner-Up of Time Magazine’s Man of the Century in 1999.

“Mahatma Gandhi fought not just for the freedom of India but for entire humanity. While he could have pursued his lucrative legal profession, he chose to fight for the freedom of his people from alien rule. He led India to independence through a peaceful revolution. He was a gift to humanity,” Mr Thapar said.

He later opened an exhibition of photographs relating to the Mahatma.

In his concluding remarks, Editor of this newspaper said that it was not uncommon for a majority of senior Indians to feel that the younger generation, especially those born, raised and educated outside India do not know enough about Mr Gandhi.

“It is also not uncommon for them to urge Indian associations, teachers and others to make our young men and women understand how a successful barrister-at-law gave up his profession to lead a country towards political freedom through non-violence,” he said.

Earlier, Ngāti Whatua kaumatua Haahi Walker performed the Powhiri followed by a briefing by Professor Shaista Shameem, Director of Migrants at Massey University on the concept of the Exhibition and its contents.

National Member of Parliament Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and College of Health Dean Professor Paul McDonald, Albany Campus Registrar Andrea Davies and a number of University officials and community leaders were present at the Ceremony.

The photographs, taken by D R D Wadia, portray Gandhi in quiet villages, mass public gatherings and formal political meetings. These photographs have been loaned to Massey University by Professor Kevin P Clements, Chair and Director, The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago.

The Mahatma on Diwali

Following is an extract of a speech delivered by Mr Gandhi on November 12, 1947, the day on which Indians in India marked their first Diwali as citizens of a free country:

Today is Diwali and I congratulate all of you on the occasion. It is a great day in the Hindu calendar. You must understand why Diwali is celebrated every year with illuminations. In the great battle between Rama and Ravana, Rama symbolised the forces of good and Ravana the forces of evil.

Rama conquered Ravana and this victory established Ramarajya in India. But alas! Today there is no Ramarajya in India. So how can we celebrate Diwali?

Only those who have Rama within can celebrate this victory. For, God alone can illumine our souls and only that light is real light. The Bhajan that was sung today emphasises the poet’s desire to see God. Crowds of people go to see artificial illumination but what we need today is the light of love in our hearts. We must kindle the light of love within. Then only would we deserve congratulations. Today thousands are in acute distress. Can you, every one of you, lay your hand on your heart and say that every sufferer, whether Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, is your own brother or sister? This is the test for you. Rama and Ravana are symbols of the unending struggle between the forces of good and evil. True light comes from within.

With what a sad heart has Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru returned after seeing wounded Kashmir! He was unable to attend the Working Committee meeting yesterday and also this afternoon. He has brought some flowers from Baramula for me. I always cherish such gifts of nature. But today loot, arson and bloodshed have spoiled the beauty of that lovely land. Jawaharlal had been to Jammu also. There too all is not well.

It is the duty of everyone to banish hatred and suspicion from his heart in order to establish peace and goodwill in the country. If you do not feel the presence of God within you and do not forget your petty internal quarrels, success in Kashmir or Junagadh would prove futile.

Diwali cannot be celebrated till you bring back all the Muslims who have fled in fear. Pakistan also would not survive if it does not do likewise with the Hindus and Sikhs who have run away from there.

At the Massey University Exhibition (from left) kaumatua Haahi Walker, Andrea Davies, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Ravi Thapar and Professor Paul McDonald

A view of the Exhibition

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