While Diwali is a happy occasion which includes the participation of all ethnic groups, the spirit of the festival is lost if commercial organisations do not observe the culture and tradition that are intrinsically associated with it, Hindu Council of New Zealand President Vinod Kumar has said.
He said that a brochure, just issued by the Council, provides guidelines for private companies including commercial banks in New Zealand marking Diwali as a multicultural festival.
“While this is a welcome development, it is important to observe the norms associated with Diwali. The brochure provides essential and authentic information on the culturally appropriate way of celebrating Diwali,” he said.
Indian High Commission Second Secretary and Head of Chancery Sanjay Verma released the Brochure at a Diwali function held at the Police Head Quarters in Wellington on October 14 (see separate story in this Special Report).
Among those present were Wellington Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon, National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, other New Zealand Police officials and Wellington Mutamizh Sangam President Selva Ramasami.
Mr Kumar said Diwali or ‘Deepawali’ is a very pious and spiritual festival and that it is customary to begin celebrations by lighting a lamp, without wearing footwear. Once the lamp is lit, the space is sanctified.
“The pious spirit of Deepawali is best honoured in a tobacco free and alcohol- free environment, where only vegetarian food (no poultry, fish or meat) is served.
“There are now commercial businesses, such as banks, celebrating Diwali by hosting lunch and dinner, not knowing that it is an insult to serve non-vegetarian food. I am sure that chief executives and other top officials of these organisations are not aware of the custom,” he said.
Mr Kumar said that it was important that people attending these functions (especially people from the Hindu community) should make those involved in organising Diwali functions aware of the true spirit of the festival.
“They should protect our culture and religion before it is strategically undermined by others. People are laughing at us while one is chewing non-vegetarian food in the name of Diwali festivities,” he said.
Mr Kumar said that the brochure was designed following several complaints from Hindus who had seen non-vegetarian food served at Diwali functions.
Editor’s Note: The Wellington based Asia NZ Foundation strictly follows vegetarianism at its annual festivals held in Auckland and Wellington, informing restaurants, organisations, groups and individuals setting up food stall not to serve any non-vegetarian items.
The traditional Lamp
The Brochure said that Hindus believe that lighting the lamp is significant to education, self-enquiry and improvement, bringing harmony to individuals and communities.
“Ethnic dress makes the celebration vibrant and colourful. Usually, groups of people celebrating Diwali together bring with them a plate of vegetarian (no poultry, fish or meat) food and sweets to celebrate.”
It also describes the meaning and purpose of Diwali, mentioned in a number of articles appearing in this Indian Newslink Special Report.
According to the Brochure, striving to remove ignorance is the primary goal in human life, enunciated in Hindu culture.
“Diwali is marked by five days of celebration, each denoting a tradition with the common theme of reverence towards goodness in the natural order and celebration of life.”
Dhan Teras or the ‘Festival of Wealth’ is observed on the 13th day of the fortnight of the waning of the Moon (Krishna Paksha) during the Hindu month of Karthik that occurs during October-November. This day marks the arrival of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.
Choti Diwali or ‘Mini Diwali’ (celebrated on the eve of Diwali) is also called ‘Naraka Chaturdashi,’ marking the killing of demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna.
Diwali commemorates the auspicious day of the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana.
Govardhan Pooja (Annakoot) commemorates the feat of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain on his little finger to save the residents of Vrindavan from torrential rains.
Bhaiduj is a celebration of the bond between brothers and sisters.