Devotees headed by ISKCON Communications director for Italy Parabhakti Das organized and participated in the Diwali celebrations at Rome’s City Hall on October 23rd, with positive results.
“If Brussels is the diplomatic capital of Europe, Rome is its capital from the religious and cultural point of view,” Parabhakti says. “So it is important that our movement is well represented and clearly visible in this world-famous city.”
While he has pondered this need at various national and international ISKCON meetings over the years, Parabhakti has found it difficult to plan events of major impact due to the small number of devotees in Rome.
“The recommendation of Srila Prabhupada to ‘focus on the big catch’ motivated me to think more broadly and out of the box,” he says.
With this in mind Parabhakti decided to organize a Diwali event along with other traditions. This would bring all the different Indo-Asian traditions together with their different insights and practices, as well as people from other backgrounds and traditions who simply appreciated the bright and positive message that the festival conveys.
To ensure that the general public really took notice of the event, Parabhakti wanted to make it an official celebration. And after many meetings with the various players involved, including the President of Religion for Peace Italy, Diwali was celebrated at the Protomoteca di Campidoglio at Rome’s City Hall, a room reserved by the City for important functions. It was the first Hindu festival to be celebrated in an institutional environment in Italy.
Around 200 select people, mostly from the institutional, religious, political, diplomatic and NGO worlds attended, including ten devotees from the Rome area.
The event began in the morning, with speeches under the banner of “Integra,” an institutional project that focuses on the issue of integrating immigrants, especially from the religious point of view.
Personalities from the political and diplomatic world gave moving talks, with all speakers referring to the need for spiritual light to counter the dangers of dark materialism.
“The speeches were of the highest level, with the public particularly appreciating those by the Presidency of the Chamber, the Office of the Mayor of Rome and the Department for Culture,” says Parabhakti.
Various delegates light their Diwali lamps
The afternoon, meanwhile, was dedicated to the Diwali celebration itself. After Parabhakti’s introduction during which he explained the deeper spiritual meaning of Diwali, representatives from various other traditions spoke, including official delegations from the Vatican and the CEI (Bishops’ Council).
Next, several representatives took turns to light lamps on a beautiful golden candelabra made by Mukundananda Das, as the soaring sounds of South Indian brahamanas chanting Vedic mantras pervaded the hall.
The audience then enjoyed a Bharatanatyam performance by veteran dancer Maresa, a Krishna devotee renowned throughout Italy for her presentations.
The day ended with a soft bhajan that spontaneously built into a large kirtan, as all attendees joyfully and enthusiastically danced to the Holy Names.
“The event was a success,” says Parabhakti. “The institutions greatly appreciated it, and have already pledged their support for the next one!”[ diwali ] [ italy ] [ parabhakti ] [ rome ]