For the second year in a row, the Parliament of Victoria hosted the Diwali Exhibition in which the Indian community put forth a magnificent exhibition depicting its rich cultural heritage in the Queens Hall of the Parliament House. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Melbourne), in association with 18 other Indian organizations, presented a Diwali & Annakut Exhibition for four days at the Parliament of Victoria.

About 150 guests attended the formal inauguration event on 24 October 2016 in the presence of The Hon Bruce Atkinson (The President of the Legislative Council), The Hon Telmo Languiller (The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly), Ms Gabrielle Williams (Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Employment & Volunteers) – representing Hon Daniel Andrews (Premier), The Hon Matthew Guy (Leader of Opposition), Ms Manika Jain (Consul General of India, Melbourne), and various distinguished members of parliament, along with community leaders and members of many Indian associations.

The 4-day festive gala was formally launched by performing three traditional rituals: Deep Pragatya – lighting of traditional lamp, singing of Thaal – an act of consecrating the offerings to God, and Arti – the ritual of waving of lamp before God’s idols. The inauguration function featured an inspiring display of Indian culture through singing of devotional songs, traditional cultural dance performances, and an insight into Diwali, all wonderfully depicted by various Indian organizations.

Ms Geeta Devi, Chair of Hindu Organizations, Temples and Association [HOTA] Forum spoke about the importance of festival celebrations like this.

Then, Ms Niyati Brahmbhatt, a teenage BAPS volunteer, enthusiastically delivered the keynote address explaining the significance and meaning of the Diwali & Annakut festivals, demonstrating how young Australian-Indians value their cultural heritage and are proud to share it with wider Victorian community.

The Hon Bruce Atkinson spoke on how so many young Indians are contributing to the society. Irrespective of faith or religion this festival reminds us to pause and reflect upon how we can be better individuals and citizens. He then added, “The reason why members of parliament and members of local government are here tonight is to recognize the contributions you (Indians) make and to join with you in this celebration in our own way to reflect on what we can do better. Reflect on how we (parliamentarians) can represent you better.”

The inauguration event was also addressed by Ms Gabrielle Williams, representing The Hon Premier Daniel Andrews, The Leader of Opposition Hon Matthew Guy and Ms Manika Jain.

The highlight of the inaugural event was a performance by a group of 6-year-old kids from JET Australia Foundation, who recited Sanskrit shlokas and then explained them to the audience, revealing ancient messages that are still relevant today: “Love earth like you love your own mother,” “It is our duty to protect Mother Earth from all the environmental damages caused by human activities,” and others.

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