Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Holt Electorate: Diwali Festival
I rise tonight to speak about a significant event that I attended last Saturday. It was a tremendous honour to participate in the annual Diwali festival at the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs. I celebrated this event and met many people who attended that night, including the committee of management and the state member for Narre Warren South, Judith Graley.
Each year the Hindu Society of Victoria celebrates Diwali, the Festival of Lights, which is an important five-day festival for the Hindu religion. It is celebrated on the new moon day of the Hindu month of Kartika, which occurred this year on 26 October. The celebrations involve wearing new clothes, making and sharing sweets, decorating houses with rows of lamps and lighting firecrackers. It was estimated that over 5,000 people attended the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple on Saturday to commemorate this festival.
The collection of people, Hindus and non-Hindus alike, that attended the temple celebrated something very special indeed. Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome, while firecrackers and fireworks are used in order to drive away evil spirits. Day-long religious services began at 9 am and the festival continued all day, with the climax of the festival being symbolically held at sunset, and soon afterwards the fireworks display commenced.
I have mentioned the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in this place before, but I would like to revisit some of the aspects which make this temple and this community, particularly the Indian segment of this community, so significant in the social and religious life of Australia. I have always been struck by the beauty of the temple, which is surely one of the most beautiful and ornate places of worship in Australia. The Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple is unique in the world. This is because the temple was built as a traditional Hindu temple in which Sri Shiva and Sri Vishnu poojas are actually adorned in the same temple, as the temple name suggests. This union of two Hindu deities is what brings people from all Hindu backgrounds together at the same temple. I am told it is one of the few such temples in the world.
The Carrum Downs temple was built by Hindu community members from countries such as India, predominantly, Sri Lanka, Fiji and South Africa. The building itself is a monumental piece of architecture, a credit to the community and one visited by many dignitaries, including Hindu spiritual leaders His Holiness Kanji Sankarathariar, Swami from India, His Holiness Shivaya Subramaniya, Swami from Hawaii, and His Holiness Thri Thandid Chinna Jeyer, from India.
Just observing the spiritual adoration of these poojas and the ritualised traditions that are orientated around these poojas was enlightening on a personal level. The rituals include Ashtanga Namaskaram and blessings using the offerings of oil, fresh fruit and ash undertaken by the Hindu priests. The musical instruments, meditative mantras and aromatic incense all contributed to making a holistic experience for all of the senses and a symbolic journey of the spirit.
The vision, the dedication, the courage and the spirit of the Hindu community of Victoria give the people of Victoria a priceless and everlasting legacy in the form of this truly magnificent temple. It is shared with the rest of the community and is accessible to the rest of the community. This was its purpose.
The educational aspect of the temple ground will soon be extended into a new Hindu cultural and religious education centre currently being constructed on the temple grounds. This centre will include a heritage centre with ancient exhibits, a function hall for events such as weddings, an auditorium, a library and an education centre to cater for Hindu students and the growing number of people who want to learn about Hinduism.
I am proud that this temple is built in the region around Holt—in fact, it is in Isaacs; the federal member for Isaacs is present in the chamber—and I am proud that those with the vision, dedication and courage to build and maintain such a magnificent structure are from in and around the Holt area, some of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting and congratulating for their ongoing efforts.
The Diwali festival is a ancient festival which celebrates the victory of good over evil with the help of the divine. These are universal ideals that were particularly poignant on a very tough weekend for Australians, in particular in coming to terms with the loss of three soldiers in Afghanistan. I think it is useful for all of us, regardless of our religious background, to celebrate these sorts of events, which strengthen the things that bring us closer together and renew our commitment to each other.