23 November 2020

Diwali celebrations shine bright for Indians in Canberra

| Michael Weaver
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Canberra's Indian community celebrate Diwali

Rishika and Saanvika of Canberra’s Indian community celebrate Diwali. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra’s 20,000-strong Indian community showed its brightest colours during the annual Diwali celebrations last weekend.

Diwali is known as the festival of light and is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists.

President of Canberra’s Navya Andhra Telugu Association, Prasad Tipirneni, said their community, which is largely based in the Gungahlin area, maintains its strong connections to their mother country through Diwali.

“We use colour as a celebration of the spirits that won against evil cults. It is our reinvigoration of the spirit,” Mr Tipirneni tells Region Media.

“On the second day of celebrations, we light candles and lamps throughout our houses which again show our spirit and brightness.”

This year’s celebrations were scaled down to household gatherings and smaller community spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas previous years saw Diwali celebrated at large venues like Exhibition Park, the Canberra Theatre Centre and Civic Square.

Indian girl holding sparklers

Theshya celebrates India’s culture of spirit with light. Photo: Supplied.

Diwali is as significant to Indians as Christmas is to people in western cultures, so an array of delicious Indian food is also enjoyed.

Mr Tipirneni said families will share mainly vegetarian dishes and sweets such the bright red or orange-coloured sweet snack jalebi, made by deep-frying maida flour batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup.

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There is also jaggery rice, a traditional Punjabi dish made using jaggery (a sweetener made by evaporating raw sugarcane juice without separating the molasses from the crystals) and spices. Jaggery is also added to payasam, a type of pudding made by boiling milk, sugar, and rice or a rice substitute.

The most common food served is laddu, a golf ball-sized snack made with sugar, besan flour, sultanas and cashews.


Laddu is often served during Diwali. Photo: Unsplash.

“After eating dinner and sharing sweets, like most people, we like to sit back and relax,” Mr Tipirneni explains.

“It’s really all about bringing hope to our communities and sharing love and integration, particularly in Australia and here in Canberra. Every year we celebrate and we will be looking forward now to our next celebration being the Indian new year in April.

“We want to bring a positive happiness to all cultures we welcome more people to celebrate with us when restrictions allow,” Mr Tipirneni said.

Canberra’s Indian community also works closely with the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum, the peak body representing more than 100 ethnic and associated community organisations in the Australian Capital Territory and its surrounding area.

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