Diwali festival turns 20
WHEN the South African Hindu Maha Sabha mooted the idea of a Diwali festival in Durban in 1998, the idea was “shot down”.
But its resilience to promote the universal message of “light overcoming darkness” remained its focus and today the Durban Diwali Festival, which celebrates its 20th anniversary, has become a beacon for uniting Hindus and promoting social cohesion.
“When I trace back to how it started in 1998, it was a very special time,” said Sabha president Ashwin Trikamjee.
“There were no public Diwali celebrations at the time, and when we took the idea to Durban tourism, it was shot down. The belief was that Hindus did not like to leave their homes during Diwali.”
He said despite the hurdle, the Sabha took the plunge, and went ahead with its plan.
“We held the festival over a two-day period at the Bay of Plenty, and it drew a crowd of 50 000, a number which has grown over the years. From the festival, we have seen other Hindu communities in other towns in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng host festivals.”
He said that, until 1998, the greater South African community saw Diwali as being “just about fireworks and sweetmeats”.
“They did not know the spiritual meaning, the significance and the universal message of light overcoming darkness. But with the festival, this has all changed. We have seen people from different race groups and religious backgrounds attend.”
This year, the now three-day event will be held at the old Durban Drive-In site from November 2 to 5.
Festival director Nereen Besesar said, among the highlights, a senior citizens programme would be held on the Friday morning, followed by a comedy show in the evening.
“A float procession through the streets of Durban will be held on Saturday, followed by the official opening of the festival. Patrons can also participate in a mass havan on the Sunday. There will also be food and shopping stalls.”
Besesar said, for the first time, they would have a Red Bull aerial show on the Saturday. Communications manager for Red Bull, Hayley Venter, said the show would be performed by Patrick Davidson, Red Bull’s aerobatic and Red Bull Air Race Challenger Series pilot.
Davidson is also the 2018 South African aerobatic champion as well as the first South African to qualify and compete in the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Series.
“Patrick will perform two shows on the day, mainly performing multiple aerobatic manoeuvres in the air.”
The Gauteng leg of the festival, in its 15th year, will take place at the Gold Reef City parking lot on October 20.
Be sure to get your copy of POST on October 31 when POST publishes a commemorative supplement on the the Sabha’s Diwali programme and its community initiatives.
For enquiries and further information, call Besesar on 082 788 5767.
A file picture of youth participating in a float procession during a previous Diwali fair.
An example of some of the multiple aerobatic manoeuvres Patrick Davidson, inset, will perform.