Celebrate India’s Diwali Goes Digital in 2020

In light of COVID19 restrictions, Celebrate India is committed to bringing Diwali to your screens this year with a diverse program set to dazzle and entertain.

For Indians in Victoria for the past fifteen years, Diwali has come to be known not just as a time to gather in our homes and celebrate with family and friends, but also to head to Federation Square to behold the spectacle of music, dance, light, and colour organised by Celebrate India, and feeling our hearts swell with pride as the entire city celebrates the festival of light with us.

This year, as we try to keep each other safe amidst COVID restrictions, Celebrate India is planning to live stream their special Diwali celebration, making sure we don’t miss out on any of the festivities. G’day India talked to Celebrate India Chairperson Arun Sharma to find out what’s in store!

‘This was supposed to be our 15th year celebration and we had big plans for it, but everything is different this year. COVID has come with a big challenge to the community but with the challenge comes an opportunity, and we’re not stopping–we decided that people need some positivity in their life so we are going to stream a short but sweet program on the 7th of November from Federation Square,’ said Mr Sharma, adding that the streaming would be done live on their Facebook page, YouTube channel, as well as on the websites of their supporters.

‘We have a lot of plans depending on how the restrictions ease, and we’ll have to change with those changes, but we’re going to have the illumination of the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel on 7th of November and 16th of November on Diwali day in the Indian flag’s tricolour.’

For their live streamed programme, which will be much shorter than the usual 9-hour fiesta, Celebrate India is focussing on highlighting diverse folk music and dance performances from different corners of India. ‘We’re confined to a 2.5 hour to 3-hour programme so that people can sit down and watch it. We’re looking for classical to semi-classical folk performances of India, there’s just so much diversity in India and Bollywood is only a small part, so there’s so much to learn and we want to focus on that. We’ve got contributions coming from Sydney and New Zealand, and we’ve got 7 or 8 groups participating from India,’ said Mr Sharma.

While the focus this year will mainly be on Indian folk performances, there will be one Bollywood-based item that is especially close to his heart, Mr Sharma revealed. ‘It’s a tribute to Sushant Singh Rajput, who tragically lost his life earlier this year. He was a bright young man who touched the nerve of India, he was a humanitarian and environmentalist and we are planting more than 100 trees in his name and working with Parks Victoria to identify a sacred place where we can do this in his memory,’ he said.

While many of the events that are usually held by Celebrate India in the week leading up to Diwali will not take place, there’s a special event they have planned on the 3rd of November. ‘Every year we try to do something focussing on the welfare of the community and this year we’re focussing on international students and we’re organising a food workshop for them with the renowned chef- Jessi Singh, who is going to teach them to prepare healthy fast food as well as something sweet for Diwali which is perfect for students on the run. We want the students to register so they can attend it and learn, and so that we can provide them Diwali gift packs of food which can keep them going for months.’

To test the waters for the community’s interest in participating in the festival, Celebrate India has run two events on Facebook, both of which received an excellent response—a COVID art gallery in which people submitted their artwork, and ‘Sing for Diwali,’ a Facebook singing competition. The third event will be ‘Light for Diwali’ which will continue up to Christmas in celebration of Australian multiculturalism.

Wearing my finest new clothes, lighting diyas, feeling rice flour slip through my moving fingers as I attempt to create a lotus design on the tiles, and gathering with my family and friends and presenting each other with plates of crisp syrupy jalebi and silvery sweet kaju-katlis are the memories which come to my mind when I think of Diwali. This year, as we celebrate according to restrictions, Diwali will certainly be different, but there’s no reason why it can’t be just as vibrant with so much to watch and enjoy!

by Shivani Prabhu