By Matters India reporter
Thrissur: Federal Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has described culture of harmony, unity and tolerance as India’s DNA.
Naqvi said this on December 27 while opening the grand Christmas celebration at Thrissur in Kerala, southern India. ‘Buon Natale’ (‘Merry Christmas), is a procession taken out by the Trichur archdiocese every year, to strengthen communal harmony.
Buon Natale is recorded in the Guinness World Records as the largest gathering of people dressed up as Santa Claus.
While flagging off the event, Naqvi said “India’s centuries-old history is a proof that the people of our country had always defeated those forces who wanted to disturb our rich culture”.
He also emphasized that in spite of religious and cultural diversity, the spirit of social harmony, unity and tolerance has been strengthened for several centuries which has maintained India’s DNA of ‘Unity in Diversity’.
Naqvi described programs such as ‘Sadbhav Samagam’, ‘Progress Panchayat’ and ‘Hunar Haat’, as attempts being made by his ministry to reach out to the minority section, The Hindustan Times reported.
The minister also cautioned people against succumbing to the “propaganda started by some people against the government” and to judge the government through work done by it.
He said cultural harmony not only prevents people from religious narrow mindedness and confrontation but also strengthens the fabric of social harmony.
“We have to protect and strengthen this fabric of social harmony, unity and tolerance at any cost. Every religion, every region, every culture and every community will have to move forward together to make India an example of social unity for the entire world,” he said and thanked Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur for organizing the event.
The procession, which consisted of floats, bike-riders, bands, dancers and people dressed as Santa Claus started from St. Thomas College and after taking a tour of the city concluded at the same location.
More than 100,000 people of different creeds participated in the program to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
Naqvi flagged off the procession from St. Thomas College at 4:30 pm in the presence of Hindu, Christian and Muslim leaders.
State Tourism Minister Katakampalli Surendran was the chief guest.
The annual pageant displayed around two dozen big floats and more than 6,000 Santa Clause costumes dancing to Christmas carols while tens of thousands watched from the both sides of the three-kilometer round about in the heart of Trichur, the cultural capital of Kerala.
The procession went around the city and ended at the St. Thomas College three hours later, Archbishop Thazhath said.
“Buon Natale is a cultural festival in connection with Christmas and New Year. The celebrations are aimed at strengthening communal harmony. People are cooperating with the celebrations irrespective of religion, caste, and political beliefs,” the prelate said.
The 20 floats showcased the cultural heritage and communal harmony of the country. More than 50 artisans from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry made them, said Fr. Lijo Chittilappilly, working chairman of Buon Natale. A flash mob by more than 5,000 dancers was another attraction.
A mini-pooram (festival) with three caparisoned elephants and percussion ensembles also added color to the procession.
A procession of Harley-Davidson bikes, band sets, camels, 1,000-odd angels, cycle rickshaws, and many Santa Clauses was some of the other attractions of the procession.
The fund for charity in connection with Buon Natale was declared at the valedictory. Houses were built and financial assistance was provided for the poor.
The buon Natale celebrations, which had already entered the Guinness World Records as the largest gathering of Santa Clauses, was marked in a more colorful manner this time, said Mayor Ajitha Jayarajan.