Festival of light 2014: A beautiful experience

SIDDARTHA Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, started his life as a respected Indian prince - a man destined for material wealth and comfort.

But before his 30th birthday the young prince decided that a pleasure-seeking existence was not for him. 

He gave up his title and position and instead became a penniless monk, whose life centred around meditation and compassion.

On Saturday, Bendigo residents celebrated the life and times of this greatly admired man with a ceremony at The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion.

During the day people made lanterns, made wishes at the wishing trees and took part in a number of workshops, such as learning about sand animations.

Everyone represented their own culture, which was beautiful. - Dee Nissanke

But at 6pm it was time for a kaleidoscopic lighting display.

The Great Stupa structure was lit up with swirling patterns and bright colours, setting the stage for the evening's performances.

Performers from the Bendigo Chinese Association were first off the rank, with girls dressed in glittery silks performing an elegant dance, followed by a fast-paced, psychedelic dragon routine.

Next, didgeridoo player Ron Murray bellowed out a deep and soulful tune, followed by music by the Golden City Pipe Band, a Vietnamese Flower Dance and a musical depicting the story of Buddha's birth.

The night was completed with a spectacular fireworks display.

Festival organiser Dee Nissanke said he was very happy with how the day unfolded.

"It was really well executed and really well done," he said.

"It involved mixing with all different cultures - everyone represented their own culture, which was beautiful."

He said about 8000 people attended the festival, with some coming from as far as Sydney.

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

It is expected to be completed in 2015.

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