Monday December 06, 2021

Festival of lights

November 09, 2018

Diwali, the festival of lights, was celebrated across the country on November 7 with traditional enthusiasm. It is one of the most important religious festivals for Pakistan’s Hindu community.

To commemorate the occasion, I organised an event at my residence on the night of Diwali. I am grateful to Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser for attending the Diwali celebrations at my residence. The presence of parliamentary leaders from both houses sent a positive message of peace and prosperity. A majority of Pakistanis believe in tolerance and religious harmony.

The patriotic Hindu community considers Pakistan to be the beloved motherland (dharti mata). On this occasion, the community offered special prayers for peace and prosperity in Pakistan. This is the spirit that the international community must get to see on this Diwali. The media’s outstanding Diwali coverage also needs to be lauded. In Pakistan, the largest Hindu community resides in Tharparkar, Sindh. As a result, the Pakistan Hindu Council decided to start the Diwali celebrations from Tharparkar by providing food and ration bags and distributing Rs25 lakh among the needy.

An event was held last night in Islamabad to celebrate Diwali and another one will be held on November 10 in Karachi. Similar events will be observed in different parts of the country to commemorate the occasion. Traditionally, Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival that has been celebrated for thousands of years. It usually falls between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali is also pronounced as ‘Dipawali’ – a Sanskrit word that means ‘rows of lights’. On Diwali, the Hindu community adorns their homes, temples and streets with festive lights. This is why the event is also referred to as the festival of lights.

On the night before Diwali, people make special arrangements to ensure that their houses are clean and any renovations and repairs are duly carried out. Gifts are exchanged among friends and relatives and various kinds of sweets are distributed among family and friends.

Every religious event highlights a positive message. Diwali reflects the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and optimism over pessimism.According to the Ramayana, when Ram, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after spending 14 years in exile in a forest, locals decorated their homes with lights and distributed sweets to celebrate their return.

The festival reminds us that a good person may have to face countless hurdles, but no matter how strong his opponents are, he will triumph over them. This is also a lesson for everyone to not lose hope in the face of life’s struggles.

Many countries – including India, Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago – announce an official holiday on Diwali.

As a parliamentarian, I tried to push for a legislation to declare an official holiday on Diwali in Pakistan. Now, government departments in Sindh and Punjab have started announcing a holiday for Hindu employees on Diwali. However, there should be a national holiday for such religious festivals. This gesture will promote interfaith harmony, build a stronger understanding about other faiths, and encourage people celebrating together.

The purpose of Eid, Diwali or Christmas celebrations is to bring smiles on people’s faces. On Diwali, we must provide financial assistance to the poor so that they can also celebrate these festivals. It is a tradition that rich Hindu businessmen offer an extra one month’s salary to their employees as a Diwali bonus. Similarly, a number of discounts are being offered on various products.

The Pakistan Hindu Council is taking solid steps to ensure the participation of neglected segments of society in sacred events. Such gestures of kindness will have a positive impact on society as a whole. That’s why Pakistan’s Hindu community also arranges mass weddings every year for hundreds of poor couples. The registration process starts every year on Diwali. The next annual mass wedding ceremony, the 11th one so far, will be held on January 6, 2019 in Karachi.

There is a pressing need to help the new generation realise that the Pakistan was created to ensure a peaceful society where every citizen, regardless of whether they belong to a minority or majority group, will have the freedom to contribute towards the country’s betterment. Happy Diwali!

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani