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Saturday, 19 January 2019 04:03 pm

Wellington’s Diwali festival gives many reasons for celebration

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INTO THE LIGHT: Dancers performing at the Diwali festival at Wellington’s TSB Arena

FOR members of the Indian community in New Zealand, Diwali, the traditional festival of lights, has a range of meanings.

Diwali symbolises the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the renewal of life, and is celebrated annually by Indians all over the world.

In Wellington, the festival was celebrated on Sunday at the TSB Arena, and festival-goers had different perspectives on the holiday.

Some people held deeply religious beliefs about Diwali while others used the occasion to integrate with other Kiwis, who are increasingly coming to enjoy the festival, too.

Other members of the Indian community were just there to enjoy the cultural performances and spend time with family and friends.

For Rajib Ghosh, it was a cultural occasion and an opportunity to mix and mingle with others.

“It is a cultural occasion with a religious element,” he said.

It was a good opportunity to meet new people — locals and people of Indian ethnicity.

“It means we can come together and remember our culture and ethnicity.”

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ENTHRALLED: The audience enjoys the show at Wellington’s Diwali festival

There was plenty of entertainment at the TSB Arena. The audience was treated to dancers, singers and light displays.

Children were enjoying themselves, dancing up the front of the crowd and singing along with the performances onstage.

For some attendees, their deep spiritual connections with Diwali and the reasons behind the festivities were the main drawcard.

Amit Bhamare, who was fundraising at the festival for his Hari Krishna temple, said the most important element for him was the religious practices he performed on Diwali day.

“At the Hari Krishna temple on Diwali day, we go there, we pray to the Lord, because that’s the main thing. All of these festivities are just a festival for enjoyment, but the main purpose on that day is we have to remember the Lord, we have to worship him, and so we go to the temple and we pray.

“We are also fundraising for the temple because that is how we remember the Lord and try to be in touch with him.”

Amit said Diwali also helped him keep his Indian culture alive.

“Diwali actually reminds me of the Lord. Though for different people it has become different things, culturally in India if you were to go back 20 or 25 years, at that time Diwali was mainly a cultural festival, so it was not a Bollywood festival like this, which is happening now. It was mainly about the cultural value and remembering the Lord.”

It was also a family time, Amit said, just like Christmas.

“We make lots of different sweets and invite friends and family members and have the time together and worship the Lord.”

Meenakshi Sankar talked about the meaning behind Diwali and the significance of the festival for her.

“One of our most famous kings, Lord Rama, was sent into exile for about 14 years, and after the 14 years he defeated the bad guys, and so Diwali is a celebration of his return.”

“He has always been in Indian mythology as one of our most noble kings and he epitomises all the values of good.”

She said that many Indian families get together and celebrate by lighting 14 diyas (small oil lamps signifying the 14 years of exile of Lord Rama).

“I have a Diwali party at home every year because that’s a way of marking the celebration, it is as important to me as Christmas is to a Christian.”

Meenakshi said she was also enjoying the TSB Arena festivities, and was seeing more of her non-Indian Kiwi colleagues joining in Diwali due to the public festival in Wellington.

“I have been in New Zealand 15 years, and this festival has been going on for 10 years, but prior to that the problem was that it was a private festival and so I did it at home but none of my colleagues at work or in my New Zealand circle could share it with me.

“What this does is it provides that forum for the two to come together, and now my Kiwi friends are as keen on the celebration as I am to celebrate Christmas with them.

“I now invite my Kiwi friends into my Diwali party, so it has become a celebration of a festival in order for me to integrate better with them but for them to integrate with me as well.”

The symbolism of Diwali is important to Meenakshi.

“Living in New Zealand, it symbolises my ability to live my Indian way of life in a New Zealand context and setting,” she said.

At the TSB Arens, there were stalls selling all sorts of jewellery, food and henna tattoos.

Other stalls e promoted peace and happiness, and in one tent, you could learn about the Hindi language.

The religious aspects of Diwali are not the only important part for many Indian people.

Nitya Kanda explained Diwali in simple terms as being like ‘Indian Christmas’.

“For me, it is more like gifts, and friends getting together and wearing nice clothes.

“If you are more traditional, Diwali is mainly down to the worship of the Goddess of Wealth,” Nitya said, “so everyone wants wealth and prosperity in the family, and it is basically the start of a new year.

“It is about happiness in the family, everyone prays and gives gifts.”

Nitya also loves seeing so much Indian culture in one place.

“It helps to keep the Indian culture alive, because it is one day of the year where everyone gets together.

“It gives you that feel that you are still living in India.”

Diwali gives Indian immigrants and New Zealand-born Indian people the ability to remember their religion and partake in a slice of Indian culture.

The TSB Arena festival welcomes people and families of all ethnicities to come share the celebrations and to learn a little something along the way.

Diwali has become very big in Auckland also, where more than 40,000 people attended a weekend festival this year.

 

BOTTOM

STALLS GALORE: Hindi, henna and hot food available for Diwali festival-goers

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is a Whitireia journalism student with a strong interest in sports writing. Jesse covers the Te Aro area. He has a BA in Development Studies.
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