Johannesburg, Nov 2 (PTI) For the first time in South Africa, two kings of indigenous communities of the country have helped celebrate Diwali.
The festival was held in Nongoma, around 30 km north of the coastal city of Durban, at the Osuthu Royal Palace of King Goodwill Zwelithini, the monarch of South Africa's largest indigenous community, the Zulus.
Also joining the celebrations was King Makhosoke II of the Amandebele community.
The festival was organised by Professor Ishwar Ramlutchman, the head of the Sivananda World Peace Foundation, who is also the only person of Indian origin who has been anointed as a prince of the Zulu nation.
The cultures of the three communities, including that of the South Africans of Indian origin, were featured in songs and dance performances.
The annual Diwali celebrations hosted by the Zulu king usually attract thousands of people, but this year, only 200 could attend due to COVID-related restrictions.
'I want to wish a happy Diwali to all of you who are celebrating the festival of lights here in the kingdom and around the world,' Zwelithini said.
'For Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists, lighting the lamp -- the diya -- is a chance to remember, even in the midst of darkness, that light will ultimately prevail. Knowledge will defeat ignorance and compassion will triumph over despair.
'Diwali is also a reminder that we must each do our part to achieve that victory by dedicating ourselves to the service of others. If we affirm our commitments to one another and strive to lift each other up, then together, we will continue moving closer to that brighter future we all seek,' he added.
Zwelithini called for the freedom, festivity and friendliness everywhere in South Africa during Diwali to continue beyond that period.
'During this time, we embrace one another with love and this must endure beyond the days of festivities. Deepavali is a great unifying force,' the monarch said.
'The concept of unity in diversity is a strong principle which is being promoted amongst our people. Our multicultural and multi-religious community must flourish and aim towards unity as one nation.
'Living in a diverse rainbow nation with many religions, cultures and rituals, it is imperative that we learn to respect others and their beliefs,' he added.
Endorsing the views of his fellow royal, King Makhosoke II reminded the audience that Diwali is being hosted on the eve of the 160th anniversary of the arrival on November 16, 1860 of the first boatload of indentured labourers from India for the sugarcane farms of Natal province.
'This festival provides all of us an opportunity to learn more about the hardship and struggle faced by these indentured labourers during those trying times.
'History teaches us that learning more about people makes it easier for us to have a better understanding and be able to co-habit better than people who do not know each other,' Makhose said.
Ramlutchman, who has established Sivananda peace pillars in various towns of the province over the past decade, said the greatest Diwali gift that South Africans could give King Zwelithini would be peace in the province.
'I know that nothing troubles His Majesty more than strife among his people. I therefore urge all, more especially in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, to give His Majesty the gift he will cherish for the rest of his life -- the gift of enduring peace,' he said.
There have been a number of violent incidents, including allegations of assassination of political leaders, in recent years in KwaZulu-Natal province. PTI FH RC