Diwali South Africa
An Indian man dressed as a monkey god Hanuman blesses a bystander as he participates in a religious procession ahead of Diwali festival in Allahabad, India, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. Diwali, or Deepavali, the annual Hindu Festival of Light, will be celebrated on Nov. 13. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Opinion: Divali is not okay in South Africa

Indian religious slash linguistic bodies in South Africa have yet again made themselves the laughing stock of the greater South African community. Before I get into the spice of it all, let’s look at what has passed the table of conversation at home just now when I had some of my friends over for a glass of wine. Yes I am sure one of you bodies or all will write a letter about that too.

Neelam, one of my offbeat Goan friends had much to say about the Easter Hot Cross buns debacle that was highlighted in the Sunday Times Extra sometime back. It was with the issue of the symbol of Christianity to the delicious bread. The cultural anecdote of it all was crucified but she is sure that it will make a resurrection next Easter. Then, there was more commentary from the peanut gallery of my other offbeat friend, Revaan who cares nothing but for food be it halaal or kosher according to him – it must be tried! The soapbox moment was about the call for the Hindu stamp of approval that is yet to make its appearance on products in South Africa similar to the SANHA certification that we find on most products for Muslims.

Now the fireworks begins with Divali. Careful my desi friends, I found the in-between here, yes Diwali or Deepavali – meaning ‘row of lights’ – I choose to brand it Divali. Should keep social cohesion on the right direction here.

In South Africa, we have the Hindu Maha Sabha, a religous body that considers the organisation – the authority of Hindu’s across South Africa & we have the Tamil Federation. The latter which is the authority of the South Indian community who are recognised as the voice of South African Indian citizens. Last week the confusion of the date of Divali rendered annual chaos more than an Indian aunty trying to figure out what sweetmeats to buy and lie that she made it when she gives it to all her friends.

I kid you not! I was flabbergasted by the debacle, however it was quite clear after looking at all the evidence on hand that was delivered to my inbox. The SA Tamil Federation issued a letter to the public for use to qualify them for a day’s leave. This was downloaded almost 40,000 times from in a matter of 3 days. This letter helped my readers be it North or South Indian to facilitate a valid day’s leave or 2 for their families in school or at work.

A day later in a print publication we find the Hindu Maha Sabha conflicting the date from the 22nd to the 23rd of October 2014 – based on an agreement that was made between the previous relationship of the former SATF President Mickey Chetty. The next day, another email flew in and the Hindu Maha Sabha had issued a one line message in this letter stating the official day of Divali to be 22nd October.

Amadah! I was now finished! – As Neelam learnt the SA Indian lingo well, I could just imagine her now – Speeches are on Maarmz!.

I was done with tamasha. I picked up the phone and called various priests and ofcourse my Amma. And the confirmation was clear, Divali kicks off on the 22nd with the wane of the dark moon and follows through to the next day.

But I’m not done, while I am on this opinion piece. As-Salaam Wa-A-Alaykum dear brothers and sisters, the Jamiatul Ulama of KZN communicates that it is very haraam for you as a Muslim to participate in Divali.
diwali south africa

Now please can the Mullah factory stand up & justify this proper? In the era of SA diversity, take South Africa’s beautiful social cohesion that we have, oh and let us not forget that in 2013, Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir come together and celebrate with a Divali Milan where everyone celebrates the concept of Light in our lives together. I find it very disconcerting that the Muslim body will choose to issue such acidic rules against another religious event. Then again, I should not be surprised it’s usual drama.

I am from a diverse background of Muslim, Hindu lineage and I choose to celebrate Eid, Divali and any other celebration of the Higher power that re-ignites the human spirit and so do many others.

In closing, the SAHMS which seems to be the Roti, the SATF clearly the Dosa and the Jamiatul Ulama KZN, the naan bread (mind you, its Halaal), pick up the phone, talk to each other, keep the politics on the Thava – ‘indian plate’ for making the above breads, let the people see the love of festival of Divali.

You have yet again either made a mockery or endorsed acknowledgement of your organisation’s concept of the religious celebration of Divali in the eyes of the SA and world community. Clarify the difference between the date of religious observance and that of day of governmental leave. The point that has been missed.

Divali a festival that has encompassed the South African way of life where everyone has identified with this colourful celebration in one way or the other spiritually.

With that, Shukran, Nandri, Dhanyavaadalu, Namo Nama! Samasta Lokha Sukhino Bhavanthu. Happy Divali to everyone.

Words & Terms translated: 

  1. Divali – a term related to Diwali, Deepavali
  2. Roti, Naan, Dosa – Types of breads you can experience at Indian food venues
  3. Thava – An indian cooking utensil used to prepare the Indian breads and also an Indian restaurant in South Africa
  4. Nandri – Thank you in Tamil
  5. Shukran – Thank you in Arabic
  6. Dhanyavaadalu – Thank you in Telugu
  7. Samasta Lokha Sukhino Bhavanthu – Let all the worlds be happy,
  8. Halaal – is most commonly used term to refer to the Muslim dietary guidelines that stipulate what is and what is not permissible for human consumption.
  9. Amadah – A term used by SA Indians to summarise shock, happiness.
  10. As-Salaam Wa-A-Alaykum- Greeting in Islamic terms
  11. Speeches are on maarmz – A slang term to announce the beginning of a fight.
  12. Amadah! I was now finished! – Another slang term using item point 8 to emphasise an emotion of disappointment and the rest of the phrase emphasises that one is ‘gatvol’ – tired of this nonsense.

Want to read the letters by the SATF and SAHMS? Click here

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About Naufal Khan

Naufal Khan was the Publisher at ADISHAKTI MEDIA and the editor-in-chief of the South African Indian news service Indian Spice. Khan was former Sunday Times journalist and also an occult fiction and non-fiction writer with several published titles.