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Celebrate India’s Diwali festivities were a crowd-puller

With tradition, music, dance and cuisine, spread lavishly across Federation Square, and the sails of Sydney’s Opera House shining through, Celebrate India rang in the festival of Diwali along with tens of thousands of jubilant revelers.

Since it began organizing Diwali festivities in 2006, Celebrate India’s annual event has been among the most awaited Indian events in Sydney, with every passing year getting bigger and better. It’s all thanks to the efforts of Celebrate India founders Arun and Jaya Sharma and their army of volunteers, who ensured a great build-up to the actual event – they tied up with Melbourne’s major public transport provider Metro to promote the festival in several languages; and with the officials at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport for permission to deck the terminal in festive décor as well as distribute traditional sweets to passengers. The run-up to the main event didn’t end there — popular Bollywood movies were screened in collaboration with Mind Blowing Films at several venues, while colourful banners about the Fed Square festivities were put up at Finders Street station.

While the biggest crowd-puller was clearly the Bollywood song and dance on stage, off stage, the food stalls replete with every kind of Indian delicacy from sweet to savoury, crispy to curried sold out to queues of foodies, while avid shoppers found bargains at the traditional Indian crafts, fashion and jewellery stalls. While Celebrate India painted the town red with the Diwali festivities, women got their hands and feet painted the same colour at the henna stalls. Another highlight this year was the photo opportunities with the 2015 ICC World Cup.

It wasn’t just India that was celebrated that night in November –Fiji, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Latin America and China also joined in the fanfare.

This year also saw the addition of the Celebrate India Essay Competition, a cross-cultural initiative that encouraged primary school students in Victoria to participate in an essay writing competition focusing on India and its culture.

Several dignitaries attended the event at Fed Square — including Premier of Victoria Denis Napthine, Opposition leader Dan Andrews, Deputy Mayor of the City of Melbourne Susan Riley, and Consul-General of India in Melbourne Manika Jain.

The end of the festivities came with a big bang – as spectacular fireworks lit up the night sky, even as the Indian community echoed Celebrate India founder Jaya Sharma’s wish that Diwali be one day declared a public holiday in Victoria.

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