Diwali, India’s famous festival of lights, traditionally celebrated with cakes, gifts and delicacies, returns to Dubai with much-anticipated merriment following a brief lull due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Al Arabiya English joined some leaders of the Indian community in the Gulf city, home to more than three million from the Asian subcontinent, to understand what the festival stands for now ahead of the celebration today.
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Commonly celebrated by the Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities, the multi-day festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil or light over darkness.
“Diwali in Dubai is special,” Dr Aman Puri, Ambassador General of India, told Al Arabiya English.
Confirming the massive return of Diwali celebrations after COVID-19, Puri said, “Indians living abroad are eager to continue their celebrations this time after the reduced events in the last two years.”
The excitement of the festival is best reflected in the streets of old Dubai, especially Karama and Bur Dubai, where the apartment balconies include colorful LED lights, kerosene lamps and flower decorations.
Long queues were seen across florists, sweet shops and jewelery shops leading up to the event in many Indian neighborhoods in Dubai.
Residents of the UAE who take into account the complexities of decades of culture ensure a spotless home with new decorations, access to different types of sweets, new clothes for family members, gifts for friends, and participating in group prayers for prosperity to the Hindu goddess. wealth, Lakshmi.
However, in Dubai, a city inhabited by more than 200 nationalities, this particular Hindu holiday is celebrated with great pride among the city’s ten million inhabitants.
The Indian consulate, for example, organized a “special reception” for the local diplomatic community and “Emirati brothers and sisters to celebrate ‘International Diplomats Day’ in the spirit of Diwali,” said Puri.
In another sign of crossing cultural and religious boundaries, the Indian consulate has partnered with the city’s Department of Tourism (DTCM) to organize fireworks in tourist hotspots and offer unique shopping and dining experiences.
“It has become very popular with tourists and residents,” the ambassador said.
A story as old as time
“Our elders always reminded us that the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum visited our homes to celebrate Diwali among us,” recalled Lalit Karani, honorary chairman of Dubai’s first Hindu temple.
The Hindu place of worship was built in 1959 on land donated by the late ruler of Dubai. Praising the city’s hospitality, Karani mentioned how the temple “witnessed the growth of Dubai like no other.”
Hindu devotees visit the Dubai Hindu Temple on April 29, 2021. (File photo: AFP)
“In the last few years, we have had heads of state come and acknowledge the ceremony and allow us to join them closely once again,” claimed the temple chairman.
“Every year, more than 10,000 devotees flock to the Shri Krishna Temple to seek the Lord’s blessings… Now that Dubai has successfully helped end this epidemic, we are all free to gather and celebrate,” Karani said.
“From the days of having to cut babies in secret to being completely accepted and supported [by the local authorities] now it has become the biggest change to celebrate,” said the honorary chairman of the decades-old temple.
People set off fireworks as they celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, October 19, 2017. (File photo: Reuters)
“The lights installed in everyone’s homes make the sky brighter than ever. Dubai certainly knows how to excel at this, even here, building upon building across Dubai looks like they are ready for the next global event,” he told Al Arabiya. English.
A festival for everyone
Another community leader, Surender Kandhari, Chairman of the Guru Nanak Darbar of Dubai, enthusiastically explained the history of the festival’s importance to the Sikh community.
“Diwali is doubly important for us,” Kandhari said in a conversation with Al Arabiya English. The Gurudwara welcomes thousands of UAE residents through its doors during the festival.
“Since the Gurudwara opened in 2012, every year we celebrate Diwali with great pride,” said Kandhari, praising the UAE government for supporting its success as a “community center” for people of all faiths.
Backed by a long history of community service, the Sikh place of worship provides free food in a large hall throughout the day by employing cooks and volunteers in a community kitchen called ‘langar’.
People break their fast with a langar, the Sikh word for community kitchen, at the GuruNanak Darbar Sikh temple, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 23, 2019. (File photo: Reuters)
“Society in the UAE is very inclusive. Therefore, each of our celebrations is done with everyone in mind; we celebrate Diwali, Christmas, New Year and even Ramadan,” he said, adding that Iftar is available for all 30 days in the Sikh ritual for those who follow Islamic traditions.
For Diwali, the Gurudwara expects around 40,000 attendees in its prayer hall and community dining area, with support from Dubai Police and the Roads and Transport Authority for safety and traffic management, the Gurudwara chairman said.
As festivals like Diwali promote cross-cultural harmony between different communities and their traditions, Kandhari said that the government supports these activities to a large extent.
“Each religion shows us how to live together, how to live together, how to help each other.
“Festivals like Diwali allow us to spread these elements,” Kandhari said decisively.
Karani agrees and noted: “Diwali celebrations have grown by leaps and bounds like the city of Dubai. We as a community have never felt so far from home with the warmth, openness and hospitality offered by local communities.
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