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October 28, 2019

Diwali celebrations reaffirm Karachi’s commitment to religious harmony


October 28, 2019

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, one of the most significant religious occasions for the Hindu community, is being celebrated across the globe from October 25 to October 29.

As witnessed during other major Hindu festivals, Karachi’s Sunni and Shia Muslims also participated in the Diwali celebrations at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir on MA Jinnah Road to honour the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness, and to once again set an example of inter-faith harmony.

The main entrance of the temple was beautified with lights. Inside the premises, sweet stalls were set up and everyone was seen exchanging good wishes.

Somewhere “Salam” was replied with “Jai Shri Ram” and “Happy Diwali” with “Thank You”, while the arrangements were made not only by Hindus but Muslims as well, especially social and political activists, who were seen assisting the minority community to make their festival as memorable as possible.

“It’s a decades-old tradition at the mandir, where Hindus and Muslims get together for the celebration of holy occasions,” said Vijay Maharaj, a custodian of the temple.

“Hindu families invite Muslim families and Hindu friends invite Muslim friends particularly for the celebrations of Diwali, Holi and Navratri among other occasions. They contribute to our celebrations with full devotion every year. When Muslims come to play a part in our festivals, our joy increases twofold.”

Maharaj said Diwali is another name for the Festival of Lights, a moment of joy and hope; it is an open event for all; everyone can come at the mandir.

He said that such celebrations provide an opportunity to other communities to closely observe the Hindus’ faith and their religious culture. On the occasion of Diwali, the Hindu community share their joys and love with one another as well as with other communities, he added.

“Diwali’s message is based on spreading happiness, peace and love. We have to bring light into our hearts instead of darkness. It is very important for all of us to participate in each other’s celebrations.”

The custodian added: “We are the branches of the same tree; and once, we had been one. We belong to this land in which we, Hindus and Muslims, have developed our own cultures in a span of several centuries.”

He stressed the need to struggle for the revival of “our cultural values and give respect to each other’s faiths. We should not set aside our mutual values”.

According to the available information, the history of Diwali can be traced to the day Hindu deity Ram returned to Ayodhya and vanquished the evil king Ravan. The people of Ayodhya celebrated his return by lining the streets with oil lamps and decorating their front yards with colourful patterned designs called rangoli.

‘Not alone’

Human rights and political activist Naghma Sheikh told The News that it is very important for society to jointly observe joyous and sad moments with other communities so they could feel that everyone belongs together, that they are not alone.

She said that in the recent past the country had observed the worst kind of terrorism and religious panic. Thus, she added, celebrating such occasions had become more important for the people; these events should be celebrated not only at the community level but also at the provincial and federal government level.

She said if the youth participate in such celebrations, they would learn about the rich culture of the Subcontinent, and it would also help minimise hatred against minorities and encourage the young to respect the minorities.

Qurat Mirza of the Women’s Action Forum said the presence of government officials and political leaders in the Diwali celebrations was negligible, but the presence of civil society and social activists was encouraging enough.

She pointed out that Hindus and Muslims both belong to the same region; they have some similar cultural values, languages and traditions; thus, neither can win the other’s heart with hatred.

“We have to sit together and think about the issues that create differences among us. Hatred is darkness and love is light, and that is what Diwali tell us: a hope, a ray of light, the colour of light and joys.”