KARACHI: Festivities linked to Diwali began in the wee hours on Thursday as members of the local Hindu community arranged special worship sessions to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth as per Hindu mythology.
Diwali or the festival of lights also coincides with the return of Lord Rama, another major mythological character who as per belief returned home after an exile of 14 years.
“It basically represents the triumph of good over evil,” said Dr Suresh Kumar, mentioning that Diwali is one of the important festivals celebrated by the community – a festivity which spreads over a period of three to five days.
During the past few years, Karachi had witness resurgence in the number of middle class Hindus. Since their massive exodus in 1947, the community is regaining recognition through different events commemorated under the Hindu calendar, especially Holi and Diwali.
Although not very elaborate, local commercial centres including the bullion market, is reported to witness an unusual hustle and bustle in its markets at this point of time.
“All of us without any distinction on basis of caste or status, as per tradition, do indulge in purchase of gold and luxury goods,” said Dr Suresh Kumar, originally from Mirpurkhas and living in the metropolis for the past 10 years. Mentioning that on eve of Dhaneteras, essential part of Diwali celebrations, people prefer to procure “Lakshmi” (wealth) in accordance to their capacities He said that in present day scenario, many of the people prefer to purchase prize bonds of varied denominations as well as shares of different commercial entities.
Rajendar from Badin, who now considers Karachi his permanent abode with sizable number of friends belonging to other communities (mainly Muslims), feels no inhibition in celebrating the festival.
“Like any other people, we too visit our friends and extended families to greet each other,” said the young accountant. “Many of my non-Hindu friends await for specially prepared sweets, considered to be a specialty of ours,” said Rajendar.
In reply to a question, he did not mince his words acknowledging that not everyone can be very open-minded; however, an advantage in
Karachi is that people are willing to accept diversity.
Malti, a senior citizen of Karachi serving at KMC for the past 40 years said that she and her colleagues, mainly settled in old areas, prefer to celebrate the day within the community.
“We are in no position to throw lavish parties; however, we do come together to celebrate at Shri Swaminarayan Mandir,” she said, mentioning that youngsters often arrange music shows on self-help basis.
About the celebrations peculiar to the festival of light, she said that from evening till late night, the members of the community from all parts of the metropolis prefer to join special celebrations at the centrally located Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.
There are several small as well as mid-sized temples in Karachi; however, 200-year-old Swaminarayan is the largest one with sizable number of Hindus living around and therefore many prefer to join the religious ritual performed here.
The rituals including recitation of holy verses and hymns also encompasses specially arranged fireworks, leaving a colorful trail in the night sky.
Colorful patterns created on the floor with sand, rice or flower petals, called Rangolis, are also very peculiar to the occasion as members of the community decorating their homes and temples with fairy lights and clay lamps make extra efforts to make Rangoli at their homes and temples.
Lighting up firecrackers, another integral component of the celebration, continues during the night, much to the amusement of kids often found playing with sparklers.
Attired in colorful and traditional costumes, members of the community show no reluctance in inviting others to join the festivity. It was therefore no surprise to see non-Hindu vendors selling balloons, garlands and even souvenirs related to the occasion.
Presence of Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) personnel along with police force definitely provided an additional sense of security to the people in general.