Kagay-anons and visitors from all over Mindanao were treated for the first time ever to dazzling glimpses of India’s Diwali Festival as the Indian Embassy Manila and the Indian Business Forum brought highlights of India’s Festival of Lights to the Limketkai Atrium Wednesday evening.

The show was the highlight of the first evening of the Mindanao Food Congress Tri-Event hosted by the Oro Chamber on October 26-30, 2022 at the Atrium of the Limketkai Center in Cagayan de Oro City.

Diwali, India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the human ability to overcome. It is a post-harvest festival celebrating the bounty following the arrival of the monsoon in the subcontinent which has become celebrated as a national Indian festival.

The Diwali illuminations with lighted diyas bring the supernatural brightness and joy with the hope of finding light in darkness, achieving knowledge where there is ignorance, and spreading love amidst hatred. Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. Light is significant in Hinduism because it signifies goodness. Thus, during the Festival of Lights, ‘deeps’, (oil lamps), are burned throughout the day and into the night to ward off darkness and evil.

Diyas symbolize goodness and purity, and lighting them denotes dispelling darkness and going into light. And since Deepavali is celebrated on the new moon day, a time of darkness everywhere; light these lamps are a means to get rid of darkness.

Lighting the lamps also denotes dispelling anger, greed and other vices, and also stands for good luck. The traditional diyas were lit using ghee (clarified butter) but today people also use oil. The lore goes that as per Indian tradition, the little diyas are bought on Ashwin Purnima, which is a full moon day, which is about two weeks prior to Diwali. Then diyas are soaked in water so as to make them ready for the Diwali pooja.

India Business Forum President Dileep Tiwari presides over the Indian Cultural Night Festivities

After a warm welcome from H.E. Shambhu S. Kumaran, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines, the evening’s festivities led by Mr. Dileep Tiwari, president of the Indian Business Forum, started with  the lighting of tea candles by all present which they shared with one another in the spirit of Diwali.

Rep. Bobby Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte Gov. Angging Dimaporo, Indian Ambassador HE Shambhu S. Kumaran and PCCI X Gov. Ruben Vegafria raise their tea lights in the spirit of Diwali.

This was followed by multiple dance numbers by volunteers from the Indian Community of Manila doing the  Bhangra, the most popular folk dance of Punjab.

Bhangra represents the liveliness and dynamism of its people. The dance mainly involves men, who perform to the fast beats of drum and music.

Dancers from the Indian Community in Manila do the Bhangra, originally performed during the Baisakhi harvest festival, of Punjab province. (N. Singh)

“The Bhangra was originally performed on the Baisakhi festival, the harvest festival of Punjab, hence we chose to feature it because of its agricultural origins in deference the theme of the Mindanao Food Festival,” said Mr. Nishikhant Singh, First Secretary for Economic and Commerce of the Indian Embassy. “However, bhangra is now performed at festive occasions today, such as our Mindanao Food Festival.”

Bhangra originated as a dance form during the Indo-Scythian period of Punjab, from 2000 BC. Traditionally, the dance was a fusion of music, song, beats of the dhol (drum), and music from a single-stringed instrument called the iktar (ektara), the tumbi and the chimta.

The dances showcased traditional bhangra costumes consisting of a kurta that is similar to a silk-buttoned shirt, has embroidered patterns and is loose to wear. It is combined with lungi – a cloth tied around the dancers’ waist that is usually decorated and jugi – a waistcoat with no buttons.

Traditionally, Bhangra is performed with a number of male dancers, who move around a drummer in a circle. They start with a slow movement of their feet. As the tempo increases, first the hands and feet, and then the whole body comes into action. They whirl round and round, bending and straightening their bodies alternatively, hopping on one leg, raising their hands, clapping with their hands and exclaiming Bale! Oh Bale!

The highlight of the evening came with the serving of the traditional meal of chicken biryani, murgh makhana (butter chicken) and laddu, a dessert that’s often served during festive or religious occasions.

H.E. Kumaran said the first two dishes were a prepared by Messrs. Happy Singh and Tumkesh Khera of Flavours by Vana’s Authentic Indian Cuisine in Makati City, while the laddu was prepared by the staff of Mr. Rameash TK’s Annappoorna Restaurant in Mandaluyong City.

Ambassador Kumaran lauds Messrs Happy Singh & Tumkesh Khera of Flavours Restaurant who prepared the Biyrani and Butter Chicken for the night’s festivites at short notice.

The diplomat lauded the owners and staff of the two restaurants for being up to the challenge of preparing the dishes at short notice in a far-off location.

Chicken biryani is a popular Indian dish served on special occasions which is made with long-grained rice (like basmati) flavored with fragrant spices such as saffron and vegetables and a thick gravy. As remarked by a local chef, there are several main types of biryani specific to certain communities which are named after the place where it was created like Sindhi biryani, Hyderabadi biryani, Malabar biryani (from H.E. Kumaran’s home province of Kerala), Calcutta/Kolata biryani, Ambur biryani, Lucknowi biryani, Mughlai biryani, and Kalyani biryani, to name a few.

A Perfect Dawali meal with Chicken Biryani and Butter Chicken. (Lavlav Ferolino)

Murgh Makhani (better known as butter chicken) is a type of curry made from chicken with a spiced tomato and butter (makhan) sauce known for its rich texture.  Chicken is marinated for several hours in a mixture of lemon juice, dahi (yogurt), Kashmiri red chili, salt, garam masala, ginger paste, and garlic  paste then cooked in a tandoor (traditional clay oven), but may also be grilled, over-roasted, or pan-fried.

The sauce is a tomato, garlic, and ginger-based sauce that is simmered until smooth and much of the water has evaporated. There are many variations on the composition and spicing of the sauce, which is strained to make it velvety smooth.

Laddu with Chicken Biryani (Tito Mike)

Not the least, Laddu (or laddoo) is a spherical sweet primarily made from flour, fat (ghee/butter/oil) and sugar or jaggery. They are often made of gram flour but can also be made with semolina. Sometimes ingredients such as chopped nuts and/or dried raisins are added, but vary with each recipe.

CDO Bloggers covering the India Cultural Night (Photo : Laag & More with Awesome ChenS)

The Diwali Festival being an annual homecoming and bonding period for families, communities and associations, particularly those in urban areas, was not lost on the organizers.

The Dharmdas and Moorjani families with Indian Ambassador HE Shambhu S. Kumaran.

Members of the local Indian community joined the festivities, foremost among them the Dharamdas Family which started Wadhu’s Quality Store which is now the oldest store in Cagayan de Oro, and the Moorjani Family, another of the pioneer traders who now own two stores in Cogon market.

The Singh Family of the Guru Nanak Indian Temple with HE Shambhu S. Kumaran. Bhupinder Singh Sandhu (right) is the Region X FNKN President.

Also present were the Singh Family who are more recent arrivals to the community and members of the Guru Nanak Indian Temple at Aluba, Upper Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City led by Bhupinder Singh Sandhu, Region X President of the FNKN (Foreign National Keepers Network).


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