Out of darkness came Diwali, the festival of light

Indians gather for the most important festival in Indian culture

Female students are predominant on five out of the six Copenhagen University faculties (photo: iStock)
December 2nd, 2011 11:02 am| by admin

In the darkness of the Danish winter, the Association of Indians in Denmark group gathered in Bronshøj to celebrate the festival of light.

The celebration is called Diwali and it’s the most important festival in Indian culture. Set on the night of a new moon when the sky is at its darkest, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over dark with traditional lamps, sweets, and dancing.

“Its [Diwali] significance is laid out by the Sanskrit verse ‘lead us from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality,’” President Barack Obama explained after lighting a symbolic lamp in the White House just recently.

“In Hinduism, it marks the return of Lord Ram from exile, with small lamps lit on his way home. The lighting of the lamps continues today, marking the celebration as a reflection of the year gone by and a time to pray for the good year to come.”

In India, arrays of earthen lamps are placed on the balconies and doorsteps of homes and commercial establishments across the country. Fireworks sporadically pierce the black night sky as reminders of light’s power. Most importantly of all, Diwali is incomplete without limitless consumption of traditional Indian sweets made from milk, ghee (clarified butter), nuts and sugar syrup.

When it comes to celebratory fervor, Diwali is on par with Christmas in the western world. 

“[It’s] more than a just a cultural perspective,” Kannathasan Pandian, the  president of the Association of Indians in Denmark, said. “This time we brought in an element of ‘fun for all’, with games for the whole family.”

While the celebration in Bronshøj lacked fireworks and other comforts of India, it brought people together to celebrate a common tradition. A pair of local IT professionals sang a duet and two women donned bright red dresses while dancing to the Indi hit ‘Rangeela Re’.

“Although I miss celebrating Diwali at home, spending it with friends in Denmark makes up for it – albeit to a much lesser extent,” dancer Anu Suthakaran said after her performance.

Danske Bank employee Anurag Ranjeet said he was feeling homesick and missed his family, but singing an upbeat duet from the movie ‘Border’ certainly helped. He appreciated the celebration as an opportunity to socialise with the small Indian community in Denmark.

“Diwali is [also] an opportunity to showcase Indian culture to the Danish people,” Pankaj Danhane, the other half of the duet, added.

The night continued on with a solo dance performance by Tanya Bansal and another dance to current top-of-the-charts Bollywood song ‘Chammak Challo’. Mayurika Saxena, Shalaka Dongare and Alekhya Krishna brought the crowd to life with their performance, and event host Surabhi Goswami thanked them, and all the evening’s performers, for their participation.

“Although having to spend Diwali away from home, Indians in Denmark creates a platform for Indians to come together at Diwali,” he explained later.

The festival in Bronshøj may not have lived up to the memories of a traditional Indian Diwali, but the singing, dancing, and endless Indian treats gave this small expat community a taste of home. It exposed Danes to traditional Indian culture, and above all else, brought light to the blustery gloom of a Copenhagen winter’s day. 

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