Joburg sky to be set alight

Friday, November 5, 2010

Johannesburg - The night sky over Johannesburg will be set alight this evening when Hindu residents celebrate the festival of lights Diwali.

The annual religious festival, marking the Hindu new year, is celebrated with fireworks and sumptuous food to signal the victory of light over darkness, reports

Diwali is observed across India, Sri Lanka and Singapore, and around the world through the Indian diaspora.

There are several strands to Diwali, one of which is the homecoming of Rama, the deity, after a 14-year exile in the forest, and his victory over Ravana, the 10-headed king of the demons. Lights and diyas are lit at homes and on streets to signify the driving away of darkness and ignorance, as well as to welcome Rama home.

A few days before Diwali, families spring clean their homes, buy new clothes and fireworks, and decorate their houses. Sweet meats and traditional Indian baked goods are prepared to make up parcels that are sent to family and friends.

A typical Diwali morning involves the family waking up early and greeting the morning with an oil bath. New clothes are put on before the family prays together, offering the sweetmeats and savouries to Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi. The day is filled with guests popping in and out to send their blessings.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indian people in South Africa, making it an especially important celebration locally.

In his speech at the opening of the FNB Gauteng Diwali Festival in Newtown on 23 October, Executive Mayor Amos Masondo said the Indian community had provided integral "leadership and innovation in the areas of politics and governance, commerce and industry, education and the sciences, arts, culture and sport" throughout South Africa.

He pointed out that one of the founding fathers of the Indian republic, Mohandas Gandhi, spent an important part of his early career in Johannesburg. He had a successful law office in Rissik Street, and it was in Johannesburg that he developed his philosophy of satyagraha.

As crackers and fireworks are set off on 5 November, which is also Guy Fawkes, the SPCA has urged people to take care of their pets.