Johannesburg: Tens of thousands of South Africans from all communities participated in Diwali celebrations across the country ahead of the festival of lights next Sunday.
The Durban Diwali Festival, hosted by the South African Hindu Maha Sabha (SAHMS), attracted the largest crowds over the three days that it was hosted, with a wide range of cultural activities, food stalls, Indian movies and yoga sessions for the young and the old.
"Since 1998, the Durban Diwali Festival has been celebrated by not only the people of Durban, but from across South Africa, acknowledging a worldwide festival," SAHMS President Ashwin Trikamjee told PTI.
A morning 'hawan' featuring pundits and gurus from all Indian linguistic groups was organised which was followed by bhajans and a special recital of the Ram Katha.
"Diwali celebration in South Africa is no longer confined to just the Hindu community, it has now become a national celebration of the entire community of South Africa. The Diwali festivals across the country attract people from all sections of society.
"Different race groups enjoy the festivities that are celebrated during the time of Diwali. It is yet another indication of what the Rainbow Nation in South Africa can achieve – bringing people together," Trikamjee added.
In Pretoria, Diwali celebrations on Saturday evening attracted over 7,000 people to the stadium at Laudium, the township to which the Indian community of the region were forcibly resettled in the apartheid era.
"I ask all of you today to reflect on making the world a more liveable environment where co-existence, sacrifice and selflessness will impact all our fellow human beings, irrespective of race, colour or creed," said Sanjay Govind, President of the Pretoria Hindu Seva Samaj, which hosted the event.
In Johannesburg on Friday evening, three recent mayors of the city attended the grand Diwali celebrations hosted by the Consul General for India in Johannesburg, Mahesh Kumar, at India House, his residence in the suburb of Houghton.
Current Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda was joined by his predecessors Thapelo Amad and Herman Mashaba. All the guests lit small electronic diyas, the lamps traditionally filled with oils on Diwali, as part of the efforts to be environmentally friendly.
Gwamanda said he was attending an Indian event for the first time.
"The first thing I saw was the beauty of the culture of everyone here. The City of Johannesburg embraces you. South Africa embraces you. We are here to share the heritage of the Indian origin community. We are here to share the experience and hopefully we will take some of it back with us," Gwamanda said.
Internationally-renowned singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka was also among the guests, most of whom were local and expatriate Indians. She made a plea for support for those suffering elsewhere in the world.