Victoria’s Hindu community reacts to eased restrictions in time for Diwali
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For Ramesh Rao, this year’s Diwali festivities will be marked by an abundance of brightness and optimism when he celebrates the five-day festival of lights beginning on Saturday.
A patron at Sri Venkata Krishna Brundavana temple in Murrumbeena, Mr Rao is one of thousands of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across Victoria looking to make the most of the state’s latest easing of restrictions, permitting religious gatherings of up to 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors.
Ramesh Raoat the Sri Venkata Krishna Brundavana Temple. Credit:Simon Schluter
‘‘We’ve got to look at the positives,’’ Mr Rao said. ‘‘We would love to have many people, but given the circumstances we are happy to be having the people the government is allowing us.
‘‘As a Hindu community and as an Indian community, we are very glad that we are able to celebrate our culture and connect to our roots, even in a land so far away from where we originally came from.’’
Diwali, which for some coincides with the Hindu new year, is a festival that observes the triumph of good over evil and is often marked by lively performances and special light displays.
Neeraj Kalia, secretary of Sri Durga Temple in Rockbank, said the temple's celebrations this year will be livestreamed and include a line-up of international artists and performers.
There will also be the option for worshippers to attend the temple in small groups to offer prayers, but it will be a far cry from the scale of festivities Mr Kalia’s temple is accustomed to.
‘‘We usually have festivals with more than 15,000 people outside,’’ he said.
‘‘There will be no festivities or fireworks or anything we usually do during Diwali.
‘‘The community is suffering, but fortunately we have overcome the second wave and are hopeful we will be celebrating our festivals and gatherings in the way we are used to from next year onwards.’’
Head of the Victorian arm of the Hindu Council of Australia, Makarand Bhagwat, said the community had welcomed the state government’s new coronavirus freedoms.
‘‘It’s definitely better than nothing,’’ he said, pointing out that Hindus had already missed out on visiting temples for several major festivals already due to the complete shutdown of religious gatherings in Victoria for much of 2020.
Diwali is a festival usually celebrated with family and close friends.
Mr Bhagwat said that some parents who were in Melbourne visiting family at the start of the pandemic in March have extended their stay in Australia and are able to celebrate with their children.
‘‘But on the other side, young families who usually visit their parents in India during Diwali cannot go. That includes me,’’ he said.
Mr Bhagwat said the customary lighting of lamps has a special significance this year for the millions celebrating around the world.
‘‘When we light the lamps, we light the lamps within ourselves,’’ he said.
‘‘Because of the COVID situation all over the world there is gloominess. For the gloominess that is going through everyone’s mind and the darkness that is going through everyone’s mind, let us light the lamp and start thinking positively.
‘‘Let us start thinking in the direction that we will beat this unseen enemy and we as a humanity will become victorious.’’
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