Classical Indian dancers showcased traditional items at the palace.
Durban -  History was made at the weekend when Diwali, or Deepavali - the Hindu festival of the “Feast of Lights” - was celebrated for the first time at the Zulu royal palace of King Goodwill Zwelithini in Nongoma.

And despite the warnings of a few naysayers who opposed the initiative because they claimed it would denigrate the royal venue, the heavens did not crumble into a heap. Nor was the world plunged into darkness.

On the contrary, rows of sparklingThe king has made it clear that this is not just another public relations exercise or an effort to be politically correct.

 Diwali lamps lit up the sky as a symbolic celebration of light over darkness and a triumph of good over evil and conciliation over conflict in a country searching for unity and tolerance after decades of forced separation under apartheid.

There are many people who deserve praise and recognition for this historic initiative, but none more than King Zwelithini who is leading a sustained campaign to foster greater unity and understanding among the country’s diverse communities.

His vision is long-term. He recognises that the current generation are still struggling with the historical scars of racial separation, but is convinced that by bringing people together now and encouraging a sharing of knowledge about each other’s practices, customs and norms, we will succeed in building a foundation for the next generation and for generations to come.

After all, that was how apartheid was defeated - not by the efforts of any single community, but by black, white, Indian and coloured people fighting side by side against an evil regime.

Among others who played a pivotal role in hosting the celebrations at Nongoma was businessman Ishwar Ramlutchman, head of the Sivananda World Peace Foundation, who has long enjoyed a special relationship with King Zwelithini and his family.

Together, they placed focus on the many tensions that have arisen from economic challenges in the country and urged people to see a sharing of resources as an extension of social cohesion.

To amplify his point, the king said: “I plead with you, my Indian brothers and sisters, to lend a hand in eradicating illiteracy and unemployment.”

This is a plea the community should take seriously if it wishes to show its sincere commitment to unifying the country.

We need to make this a subject of conversation in our homes, at work and even our places of worship:

What role can each of us play in eradicating the evils of poverty, inequality and unemployment among all South Africans?