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Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Indian community celebrates annual Diwali festival with bright colours and lights

Tens of thousands in city to buy food and offer prayers over several days

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 11:07pm

Homes, temples and businesses of Hong Kong’s Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities were draped in bright colours and lights on Thursday in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong’s Indian diaspora spent the day preparing for Diwali by buying food, confectionery, clothing and religious offerings as well as spending time in prayer.

It was one of the busiest times of the tyear for the city’s Sikh and Hindu temples as worshippers filed in to light candles and diyas, or oil lamps, in celebration.

“The feeling of an unseen joy and purity due the very idea of making everything look so beautiful and serene is my favourite part about Diwali,” local business owner Dhingra Lalita Umesh, 45, said.

She planned to decorate her home with fragrant flowers, candles and rangoli – art created on the floor of living rooms using materials such as coloured rice, flour, sand or flower petals.

Gifts are exchanged and Indian confectionery are shared among family and friends during the annual celebration. Traditional favourites include barfi – a soft, milk-based sweet – and laddu – a sphere-shaped sweet made with flour, milk and sugar.

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For Hindus, Diwali is a five-day celebration.

There are numerous stories on how the festival originated: marking the return of the deity Rama from exile; the defeat of the evil demon Narakasura by the blue-skinned god Krishna; or the incarnation of Lakshmi on Earth.

The Sikh celebration of Diwali differs from the Hindu tradition. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas or “Day of Liberation” when the sixth guru in Sikhism, Guru Hargobind, along with 52 Hindu Rajput princes and kings, were released from Gwalior Prison in India in 1619.

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As told in this tradition, Hargobind was tricked into imprisonment by a jealous confidant of Mughal emperor Jahangir, who was developing a friendship with the guru.

Hargobind was incarcerated for two years before he was released, according to historians.

I feel a special happiness in my mind when I see all the lights and colours
Paramjeet Kaur

When he reached Amritsar, Diwali was being celebrated. The people lit up the city with candles and lamps, joyful about seeing their guru again.

Paramjeet Kaur, 36, an Indian national living in Hong Kong, said she would welcome Diwali by spending her morning in prayer at home and later at the Sikh Temple in Happy Valley. Kaur planned to spend the evening with her family, lighting candles and diyas, and eating Indian confectionery.

“I feel a special happiness in my mind when I see all the lights and colours,” she said.

Diwali is also a day of remembrance for the martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh. Singh, custodian of the Golden Temple, the Sikh spiritual centre in Amritsar, was executed by dismemberment in Lahore – located in modern-day Pakistan – in December 1738. Singh was accused of failing to pay a tribute for permission to celebrate the Day of Liberation at the temple and killed for refusing to convert to Islam.

There are 36,462 ethnic Indians in Hong Kong, according to the 2016 census – up 0.2 per cent from 10 years earlier.