Buoyed by growing sponsorship from Indian companies in Johannesburg, several South African Indian community organisations have hosted Diwali celebrations last weekend, with more set for the festival of lights on Friday.
Last Friday evening saw thousands of Indians, mainly Gujaratis, flocking to the Gandhi Hall in Lenasia, the sprawling Indian suburb south of Johannesburg, to celebrate Navratri with the country's first-ever Samu Garba, sponsored by ICICI Bank.
The Lenasia Soccer Stadium was the venue for the annual Diwali celebration of the Hindu Coordinating Council, an alliance representing a wide range of religious and cultural bodies.
The sponsor in Johannesburg during the function on Saturday was Maltiherb, a herbal health company in South Africa led by Subash Agarwal, who with his wife Rakhi also hosted local and expatriate guests, including the Indian High Commissioner to South Africa, Rajiv Bhatia and Indian Consul General Navdeep Suri.
To the thunderous applause of the thousands of people in the stadium, Bhatia expressed the pride of the Indian government in seeing diaspora communities such as that in South Africa so strongly retaining their culture after their ancestors had left their motherland so long ago.
The biggest Diwali celebration in the country was hosted simultaneously on Saturday evening on the beachfront in the port city of Durban, where the first Indians landed in 1860 as indentured sugarcane farm labourers. While the events in Johannesburg were largely Indian supported, the Durban arrival saw tens of thousands of people of all communities flocking to savour the culture, cuisine and arts of India.
On Diwali day, the two biggest events will be at the Rameshwar Mandir in Lenasia, where the biggest fireworks display of the year will take place, sponsored by Sahara Computers. Because the event has outgrown the capacity of the temple grounds, it will be hosted at a nearby sports field.
Adjacent to the sports field, the Swaminarayan Mandir will be quieter, as the mission does not believe in setting off fireworks but rather serving humanity in other ways. Thousands of people are expected to flock to the temple to view the magnificent building decked out in thousands of lamps.