Dancer Sivani Chinappan, centre, Dhivya Jyothi Naidoo and Diaksha Singh prepare for Diwali on Sunday by drawing a rangoli at the entrance to the Stri Muruga Kovil, in Northcroft in Phoenix. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

It is so steeped in history, rich in tradition and wise in its spiritual texts and philosophical teachings, more people should make the effort to broaden their knowledge and understanding of it - as we should with all religions that have survived into modern times.

The trouble is, far too many of us tend to closet ourselves in our own religious, cultural and social silos, we hardly ever allow ourselves exposure to what goes on beyond our own personal spaces.

Whether out of myopic thinking, misguided prejudice, social pressures or just plain apathy, we tend to take the easy way out.

We remain blissfully blinkered and allow outdated stereotypes to guide our perceptions of other faiths.

Take, as an example, the biggest festival on the Hindu religious calendar - Diwali or Deepavali - being celebrated today by thousands of Hindu South Africans.

How many of us outside the Hindu community (including many Indian South Africans of other faiths) ever make the effort to understand the real significance of this day - beyond the customary tray of jelebi, chana magaj and savouries we receive from our Hindu neighbours?

Worse still are those South Africans who believe Diwali revolves around fireworks alone.

Let’s admit it. It’s now become a hardy annual that as the days towards Diwali approach every year, the battle lines are drawn.

As the fireworks erupt, tolerance and social cohesion fly out of the window.

On the one side, there are those who deliberately flout municipal regulations by lighting noisy and hazardous “crackers” which are illegal - and beyond the times stipulated in our by-laws.

Then there are those who see Diwali as the day when they’re supposed to shut their doors, tranquillise their pets and post insulting and racist messages to their Hindu neighbours.

Diwali is much more than the lighting of fireworks.

Steeped in spirituality, glorious tradition and a history going back over 4 000 years, it celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

And on that unifying note, I wish all South Africans a happy and blessed Diwali.