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In recent years, the Hindu festival of Diwali has transcended its cultural boundaries and turned into a global phenomenon. What was once primarily celebrated in India and by people of Hindu Indian origin abroad has now blossomed into a festival of international proportions.

The growing numbers of Indians living and working worldwide, valued for their industriousness, work ethic, and peaceful nature, have played a pivotal role in changing the perception of India and its people on the global stage. As a result, Diwali, along with other Indian cultural elements like Yoga and Indian cuisine, has taken the world by storm. The global embrace of Diwali underscores the power of cultural unity and shared human values.

Diwali, often referred to as the ‘Festival of Lights,’ holds a special place in the hearts of millions around the world. Its roots are deeply embedded in Hindu tradition and the religious significance it holds for many. Yet, the transformation of Diwali from a religious observance to a worldwide celebration of light and unity is a testament to its universal appeal. The festival’s essence is built on the timeless ideals of good triumphing over evil and light dispelling darkness. These are themes that resonate with people from all walks of life, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Auckland, last weekend, witnessed the grandest Diwali celebration in its history, with over 100,000 people in attendance. What is even more remarkable is that Diwali is no longer confined to major cities; it has penetrated even the most remote towns, like Invercargill and other provincial areas. The fact that political leaders from all parties actively participate in these celebrations speaks to the festival’s growing influence in NZ and beyond. Diwali has transcended cultural and geographical boundaries, uniting people in a celebration of hope, positivity, and togetherness.

The shift towards Diwali’s secular aspects, centred on the universal themes of light and goodness, has undoubtedly broadened its appeal. It has now become an occasion that people from various backgrounds eagerly anticipate. This transformation is a testament to the festival’s ability to bring people together, irrespective of their religious beliefs, and to serve as a reminder of our shared humanity.

The global celebration of Diwali is intrinsically tied to the growing Indian diaspora, which has made its mark in economies across the world. It is estimated that there are at least 30 million Indians living and working outside of their home country. Their contributions to the global economy are significant, and their reputation for hard work and peace-loving nature has helped shape the world’s perception of India and its people.

Indians abroad have become valuable contributors to various sectors, from technology and healthcare to finance and hospitality. Their determination and dedication are well-recognised, and they have played a vital role in promoting cultural exchange. The success and integration of the Indian diaspora have shattered stereotypes and fostered a more accurate understanding of India and its people. In the process, the world has come to appreciate the rich tapestry of Indian culture, including its festivals, like Diwali.

Diwali is not the only aspect of Indian culture that has captured global attention. The popularity of Yoga, a practice deeply rooted in India, has grown exponentially across the world. Yoga is celebrated not just for its physical benefits but also for its holistic approach to well-being. The international fascination with Yoga has helped bridge cultural divides and promote the importance of mental and physical health.

Indian cuisine is another area where India’s influence has surged on a global scale. The vibrant and diverse flavours of Indian dishes have become a favourite in many parts of the world. From butter chicken to samosas and masala chai, Indian cuisine offers a tantalising journey for the taste buds. It is a testament to the power of cultural exchange that food from a faraway land can find a cherished place on the tables of diverse communities.

As we celebrate Diwali, let us take a moment to reflect on its profound message of unity and hope. Diwali has become a symbol of the power of diversity and the potential for shared values to bring people together. As we join in the festivities, let us remember that Diwali’s true essence lies in the celebration of life, love, and the shared values that bind us as a global community.

Happy Diwali to our dear readers of Indian Weekender and their families and friends!

First published in the 9 November 2023 edition of the Indian Weekender