Auckland Diwali Festival: The Biggest Celebration of Indian Culture in New Zealand’s Largest City
In its sixteenth year, the Auckland Diwali Festival will be held on 14 and 15 October 2017 at Aotea Square and Queen Street. Diwali or Deepavali (literally “row of lamps”) is an ancient and important Indian festival known colloquially as the “Festival of Lights”. The lighting of lamps, candles, and fireworks—the main feature of this festival—symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness, wisdom over ignorance, and good over evil. Although originally a Hindu festival, Diwali Festival is also observed by non-Hindus. It is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji.
In a statement, Charmaine Ngarimu, Head of Major Events for Auckland Tourism, Event and Economic Development (ATEED), says that “the Auckland Diwali Festival is an opportunity to celebrate and connect with local Indian communities.” As the city is shaped by a rich ethnic mix of people and traditions, Ngarimu adds that “the popularity of the festival continues to grow each year, attracting tens of thousands of people during the weekend.”
The Kalika Kala Kendra dance group, an international group of performers from Ahmednagar in the Indian State of Maharashtra, will grace the event in Auckland. The group was founded by Marathi film star and social activist Rajashree Nagarkar to provide girls in her nomadic community with a livelihood. The performers wear nine-meter long saris and heavy jewelry; their ghungroos (ankle bells) can weigh as much as ten to fifteen kilograms. They are experts at the romantic folk dance style known as lavani—a combination of traditional song and dance performed to the quick tempo beats of dholki, a percussion instrument.
Visiting New Zealand courtesy of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the High Commission of India and Air New Zealand, the Kalika Kala Kendra dance group will join more than 800 local performers, including regular festival favorites BAD (Bhangra Auckland Da), Raunak Punjab Dee, and the Khottey Sikkey Dance Group. The festival will also feature the hotly contested Radio Tarana Bollywood Dance Competition and the Indian Weekender Mister and Miss Diwali contest.
Fifteen years after it was first held, the anticipated family-friendly festival will showcase traditional and contemporary Indian culture for free, including dance and music, food, fashion, arts and crafts, and street theater. The festival will end with the famous Barfoot & Thompson fireworks finale. The full 2017 Auckland Diwali Festival program will be available on aucklandnz.com/diwali on Friday, 6 October.