Tue, 19 Nov 2019

As Hindus worldwide gather to observe Diwali, a group of forward-thinking Durbanites are attempting to change the perception of the auspicious day.

While many associate it with fireworks that scare pets and disturb neighbourhoods, some Durban residents want to take Diwali back to its roots.

Organisers of the city's first ever Green Diwali festival say they are moving in a direction to observe the beloved Hindu celebration in a more environmentally safe manner.

Festival organisers hosted their first event this past weekend and received positive responses from the crowds who gathered at Mitchell Park.

One of the event's organisers, Dr Sanil Singh, a veterinarian by profession, said the celebration was meant to bring people together.

"Instead of Diwali creating division over fireworks, we looked for a way to promote social cohesion and sustainable living by bringing people together in a safe space," he said.

He referred to the ancient Vedic (Hindu scripture) principles of celebrating with consideration for others and caring for the environment.

Singh said that consideration for others was not anti-Hindu.

"In fact it is being pro-Hindu by going back to the original scriptures and the core message of the triumph of light over darkness.

Singh's views were echoed by local historian Kiru Naidoo who was also part of the team of volunteers who worked over several months to host the cultural showcase.

"Climate change is real and we each have a responsibility to stop polluting the air, the soil and the oceans," added Naidoo.

Naidoo said the climate crisis facing the planet demanded courageous leadership to tell people uncomfortable truths.

He further welcomed a City of Cape Town decision to not have any designated sites for fireworks displays at all celebrations, including Guy Fawkes, Diwali and New Year's Eve, which it announced on Monday.

However, the City backed down on its decision on Tuesday after receiving complaints from the Hindu community, News24 reported.

Certain Hindu organisations have hinted at fighting the ban in court.

"If needs be we will join in the court action to say that when the rest of the world is going green, Hindus should not be seen to be going the other way," said Naidoo.

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