Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is perhaps the most famous Indian holiday. With Hindus living in almost every corner of the world, this festival honoring the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil is widely celebrated in autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere. The South African city of Durban is no exception. In fact, this bustling port city has the largest Indian population outside of the subcontinent, making it an Afro-Indian melting pot with its own vibrant culture.
Located on the shores of the Indian Ocean in KwaZulu-Natal Province, Durban is famous for its sunny golden beaches bordering the Golden Mile and the famous Victoria Street Market. Crossing the Indian Ocean to work as contract laborers in the sugarcane fields in the 1860s, many Indians remained in Durban, putting down roots, carrying on traditions and shaping the culture of Africa’s second largest city. from South.
It was in sunny Durban that Mahatma Gandhi, who came to South Africa as a young lawyer, spent his formative years. Here he developed his political views, primarily “Satyagraha”, a form of peaceful resistance to injustice, which he then brought to India‘s fight for freedom. It was also here in 1994 that Nelson Mandela first voted in a democratic South Africa.
On a visit to Durban, you can pay homage to these heroes, taste the famous Bunny Chow, and, while you’re there, celebrate Diwali alongside the locals.
Durban Diwali Festival
In its 21st year, the Durban Diwali Festival (October 18-20), will take place at Durban Old Drive. Hosted by the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, this free festival has everything you expect: delicious food, a lively atmosphere, entertainment, rich tapestries and a colorful display of fashion and furniture. Enjoy local entertainment, sample Indian street food, and shop for handmade souvenirs. There is a temple on site to offer prayers and a chariot procession.
Shop at Victoria Street Market
The famous Indian market, on which the current Victoria Street Market siege, started in 1910. After being destroyed by fire, it reinvented itself in 1973 and now attracts dozens of residents and travelers to its indoor bazaar. Make your own curry powder mix at one of the spice shops, browse clothing stores, and try on Indian and Zulu jewelry. You’ll find men and women dressed in traditional Zulu, Hindi, and English speaking kurtas and saris, selling spices, scarves, and other treasures. On the ground floor you will find a food market offering fresh seafood, meat and produce.
Chow Down On Curry and Bunny Chow
Spicy and flavorful Indian curry has been a part of Durban’s culinary scene for years. The city’s signature dish, Bunny Chow, originally prepared by contract workers, exemplifies the fusion that is Durban. Sanctified Hot Bread creates a portable bowl that holds a vegetarian or meat-based curry. It is served with sliced carrots, an onion salad and chili. And don’t worry, no rabbit was injured during its manufacture; “Rabbit” actually refers to Indian merchants who sold curry. This delicious treat can be enjoyed at food stalls and restaurants across town.
If you’re looking for more authentic Indian cuisine, head to the famous curry buffet at the Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks, 16 km north of the city center. Savor several curries, accompanied by biryani or naan, in the luxurious Mediterranean-inspired Ocean Terrace hotel facing the ocean.
Visit the ancient playgrounds of Mahatma Gandhi
A short drive outside of Durban brings you to the Phoenix Colony, which is part of the Inanda Heritage Route winding through a valley dotted with historic sites. The original Phoenix settlement, established in 1904, represents Gandhi’s struggle for justice and peace in his adopted country. Today you’ll find a replica of his house, a building turned into a museum that once housed his newspaper printing press, Indian opinion, the home of his son Manilal and the Phoenix Interpretation Center.
If you are looking to venture beyond the settlement, follow the Inanda Heritage Route to Ohlange Institute. It was there that Dr John L. Dube, Gandhi’s neighbor and the first president of the African National Congress (ANC), established an educational institution. It was here that Nelson Mandela first voted in 1994. The course also includes Inanda Seminary, one of South Africa’s oldest girls’ schools.