A beautiful tribute to the Festival of Lights and the Thai-Indian community.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
On 21-23 October, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), together with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Association Thailand (VHP) and the Indian Association of Thailand (IAT), hosted the first-ever official Diwali celebration in the iconic Phahurat Road, known fondly as ‘Little India.’ A historic occasion for Indians in Thailand, the three-day extravaganza was organised by Destination Siam Group and Talad Thai India, and had the support and encouragement of newly-elected Governor Chadchart Sittipunt, as well as several sponsors who inaugurated the celebration at an official level.
Conceived with the intention of bringing together the Indian diaspora in Thailand, as well as allowing the Thai people to celebrate the Indian culture together with them, the event’s aim was to make Little India a “Thai-Indian cultural tourism landmark in the heart of the city,” lighting up the area adjacent to the Ong Ang Canal with festivities and cultural presentations. Its other aims were to promote Indian culture among the Thai people, open their eyes to the importance of Indian tourism as well as promote Thailand as an important destination for Indian tourists, to support local Thai-Indian entrepreneurs, and to elevate the Diwali festival to become one of the main festive events in Thailand.
The area was divided into two sections: one served an astonishing variety of traditional Indian food, clothing and accessories, while the other was for the “divine-inspired,” with altars set up to different gods so devotees could perform pujas while there. There were free mehendi stalls, and a team from ISKCON performed spectacular dances to the glory of Lord Krishna, matched step by step by VIP guests and visitors alike.
There were cultural programmes every evening, with folk dances and classical singing, as well as young children reading out shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita, and then explaining their meaning. The Brahmakumaris also spread their message of peace, love and brotherhood. The event saw throngs of people celebrate the Festival of Lights with delight, with a footfall of over 100,000 – many more than expected.
Mr. Nikorn Sachdev, who helped conceive the event and is the Director of the IAT and part of the sub-committee of Bangkok Tourism and Culture, praised the success of the celebration, and expressed his hopes that it will create a landmark occasion in Little India for years to come. This was echoed by the VHP Association Thailand, who thanked the BMA and Governor for the cooperation rendered, and pledged to make this annual event bigger and better each year.