On Wednesday 25 October, the Diwali festival was celebrated at the European Union Parliament in Brussels (Belgium). The festival will take place this year on 12 November, but due to Parliament’s own agenda and to allow the largest number of representatives of Hinduism in Europe to attend, it was held two weeks in advance, as reported by La Verdad de Ceuta.
The event was organised by the Hindu Forum of Europe (HFE) in collaboration with the Palan Foundation and the Phi Foundation. Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, has been celebrated in the European Parliament since 2015.
The Hindu Federation of Spain (FHE) was represented by its president Juan Carlos Ramchandani (Pandit Krishna Kripa Dasa) who is also vice-president of the HFE, as well as by Swami Rameshwaranda Giri Maharaj, advisor to the FHE in relations with the administrations and spiritual advisor to the Hindu Forum of Europe.
Representatives of the monastic order (sannyasa) such as Swami Amarananda from Switzerland and Swamini Dayananda ji from Campus Phi in Spain also attended. Representatives from the Hindu federations of Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom also attended.
The event was also attended by several religious representatives such as Ivan Arjona director of the Church of Scientology in Europe, Binder Singh representative of the Sikh Community in Europe and Dr. Kishan Manocha who is Head of the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe).
Institutional representation was provided by Morten LØKKEGAARD, MEP (Member of the European Parliament) and Chair of the EU Delegation to India, who hosted the event and gave a speech to welcome the attendees. Also in attendance was French MEP from Guadaloupe Maxette PIRBAKAS, of Indian origin and delegate for institutional relations with India, who gave an emotional speech and called for the protection and celebration of traditions.
Diplomatic representation from the two countries with the largest number of Hindus in the world was also present, with India’s Ambassador to the European Union His Excellency Mr Santosh Jha and Nepal’s Ambassador to Benelux His Excellency Mr Gahendra Rajbandhari. Both gave a congratulatory message to all the attendees on behalf of their respective governments.
The programme started with a welcome message from Dr. Lakshmi Vyas, President of HFE. Pandit Ramchandani then chanted prayers in Sanskrit invoking the grace of the masters and the attainment of peace. This was followed by lighting of diyas or candles symbolising the festival of Diwali.
The event included a cultural section with traditional Indian dances such as Bharata Natyam and Kathak, performed by young people from the Belgian Hindu community.
The culmination of the event was a vegetarian dinner consisting of typical Indian dishes. The event was attended by eighty people from different parts of Europe, the largest group being Swami Rameshwarananda’s disciples from the School of Yoga, Vedanta and Meditation. They all received a copy of the annual magazine Diwali Event At the EU Parliament published by the Hindu Forum of Europe, which lists the activities carried out by the organisation and its members during the year.
Ramchandani commented: “Very happy to be able to attend and participate in this event that visualises Hinduism in Europe, I have been attending since it was first held in 2015. Brussels is the heart of Europe, and it is here that we represent the oldest form of spirituality of humanity that is still alive. An opportunity to reconnect with Sanatana dharma brothers and sisters and friends from other religious traditions with a common goal: to improve people’s spiritual awareness in order to achieve a better world”.