Festival of Light attracts thousands

THOUSANDS of people have gathered at Bendigo's The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion for the inaugural Festival of Light. 

The event started at noon today with the program including a blessing, chanting, candle lantern procession and a host of performances. 

Minister for Regional Services, Local Communities and Territories Catherine King tonight joined Member for Northern Victoria Region and Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development Damian Drum in lighting the top half of The Great Stupa.

Representing Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Ms King said it was "an absolute privilege" to be at the event.

"It's wonderful that we do live in such a diverse society like Australia in freedom and in peace," she said.

"I really love indulging in the appreciation of the wide variety of cultures which have come together to make such a nation so rich.

"I know how important this event is for this region and how much it is appreciated by the officials of the city and of the broader community at large."

The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion is located in Myers Flat and is the largest Buddhist monument in the western world.

The structure is expected to be completed by 2015 and will house the largest gem quality Jade Buddha in the world.

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