Diwali Mela breathes new life into city’s events calendar

By Brendan Rees

After a year of uncertainty and rolling lockdowns, the community has come together to celebrate one of the biggest festivals on the Hindu lunar calendar. 

More than 4000 people gathered at Queen Victoria Market (QVM) to bask in Diwali, the annual festival of lights from November 13 to 14.

The Diwali Mela event was rich in Indian food, dance, music, Bollywood and Bhangra dancing, dance workshops, face painting, henna stalls and traditional sari costumes.

There were also showbags and selfies with Kanga (a North Melbourne Football Club mascot) as well as free memberships to the Roo Squad. 

Organiser Himanshi Munshaw Luhar from Foodie Trails said the two-day celebration was “highly energetic” with dance shops proving “extremely popular”.

“It was a little bit of breaking that seal being one of the first events to come back,” she said.

“We had a full stage line-up including stilt walkers dressed as an Indian prince and princess.” 

City of Melbourne Cr Jamal Hakim, who addressed the crowd to welcome visitors, said the event was the first major Indian festival following the end of lockdown and after the Diwali celebration, which was officially celebrated on November 4.

“It was a great celebration of our Indian communities, and an opportunity to showcase food, colour, and community. It’s success is a clear sign of Melbourne’s multicultural strength and support for our Indian community, who have faced discrimination during the pandemic,” he said.

“This is the first of so many community festivals showcasing our multicultural communities – made even safer in open air spaces like the Queen Vic Market. In a new COVID world, we know how important connection and belonging is.”

Queen Victoria Market CEO Stan Liacos said his organisation was excited to welcome events back to “our iconic open-air sheds and outdoor laneways”.

“The return of events will see the market spring back to life and will bring together a number of small, local businesses as well as community groups to entertain and feed visitors across the summer months and into 2022,” he said.

Diwali is widely celebrated in India and is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists around the world •

Caption (main): Stilt walkers dressed as an Indian prince and princess wow crowds in the packed two-day Dilwali Mela event. Picture: John Tadigiri.

Caption: Live performances captivated audiences (Picture: Foodie Trails).

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