The first Diwali at Scottish Parliament symbolises camaraderie of communities

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The first Diwali hosted in the Scottish Parliament was celebrated this year on the Hindu auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami and the 20th Anniversary of the Scottish Parliament on 8th October. The coinciding celebrations of important festivals and events with significant community leaders was a deliberate plan to symbolise the camaraderie between the communities.

The five-day-long Hindu festival of lights, representing good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and the victory of light over darkness is celebrated globally among the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh communities. For centuries, the festival is celebrated by cleaning and decorating temples, homes, shops (and office buildings) with lamps and candles. The goddess of wealth and prosperity Lakshmi is worshipped on this day. People share gifts, donate to charities and give bonuses to employees. Like many festivals, Diwali is observed by sharing meals with family and friends to show mutual respect of friendship and love.

The Scottish Wing of the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), headed by Puneet Dwivedi took the lead to organise the event, after relentlessly trying to introduce the festival for the past few years. He was supported by HFB members Samir Desai and Ritesh Singh Thakur who between them delivered the program, right from getting cross-Party sponsorship to getting a letter of support from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. This year’s event was sponsored by Rt Hon Sandra White MSP, Rt Hon Liam McArthur MSP and Rt Hon Claire Baker MSP.

The members room of the Scottish Parliament was decorated in a traditional manner with flowers, terracotta Indian lamps (diyas), and red lights to host more than 160 esteemed guests.

The chief guest for the evening was Rt Hon Aileen Campbell, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government who represented the First Minister. Other esteemed guests included President of HFB Mrs Trupti Patel, inter-faith leaders, members of the British Armed Forces, the Superintendent of Police, Scotland, Tim Ross, Consulate General of India in Edinburgh Mrs Anju Rajan, Ashish Brahmabhatt of OFBJP Scotland, Sunita Poddar of Patanjali Yogpeeth UK, HFB member organisations from across Scotland, and Indian regional community leaders.

“The first Diwali at the Scottish Parliament is the beginning of engagements to provide a wonderful platform for creating understanding and valuable co-operation between the Hindu community and society at large,” said Puneet.

The event started with the lighting of the auspicious lamps by the sponsors MSPs Liam and Sandra, Minister Aileen Cambell, Ashish Brahmbhatt, and Trupti Patel. The welcome address given by Puneet included a brief on what the celebrations of Diwali in the Parliament meant in the present day – a powerful and underlying message of celebration honouring a cohesive and integrated society within the highest values of peace and non-violence, a safe place where the people of the nation will prosper and be happy.

Sandra White MSP, gave a powerful speech about the contribution of the Hindu community in Scotland’s integration. Other speeches were made by Aileen Campbell, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government who represented the First Minister, and a humorous speech from Liam McArthur set the tone of the evening.

Trupti Patel, the first woman to head the Hindu forum in the UK and represent the faith in global platforms, made a moving speech on the contribution of Hindus to the UK’s economy and urged the youngsters not to tolerate any hate crime. She emphasised that British Indians are major donors to British charities and recommended that highly skilled youngsters should take up public services and politics to serve the nation.

Karolina Goswami, of the YouTube channel “India in Details”, couldn’t attend but sent a video message which was played at the event. Her channel features non-political content which aims to present the lesser known sides of India and Indians and has over 364,000 subscribers.

As a part of the evening prayers, ISKCON Scotland group sang devotional songs and chanted the Mantra Meditation. There were Indian classical dance performances bharatnatyam, and a Diwali-themed Bollywood dance by a children’s group.

The evening also saw the launch of the Hindu Forum Scotland chapter’s magazine by Minister Aileen Cambell and other dignitaries.

The Diwali festivities in the Scottish Parliament is the beginning of one of several engagements aimed to provide a wonderful platform for creating understanding and valuable co-operation between the Hindu community and society at large. Astha Channel (UK Sky No 724) recorded the program which would be telecast near actual Diwali date.

Smita is a multi-cultural freelance journalist, writer, and filmmaker based out of London, Hong Kong, and India. Global Indian Stories is her brain-child and she created the platform to help people share their stories, get published, and reach out to their diaspora across the globe.