Thousands flock to Diwali celebrations in New Zealand

Wellington, Oct 18 (IANS) Thousands of people flocked to Auckland on Sunday to get a first-hand experience of traditional-cum-contemporary Indian culture in a celebration of the Diwali festival, a media report said.

The two-day celebrations concluded at the Queen St’s Aotea Square with a fireworks finale on Sunday night and included events like workshops, live dance, music, puppet and theatre performances, New Zealand Herald reported.

The event is the largest vegetarian festival in the city and recorded a footfall of 35,000 people last year.

The event was organised by Auckland Council’s Tourism, Events and Economic Development arm in collaboration with the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The celebrations were spiced up by the availability of traditional food while arts and crafts and dancing gave an insight into the multi-hued Indian culture.

The festival had more than 60 food and craft stalls — the largest in the festival’s 14-year history.

Many Indian performers, including Indian puppeteer and master storyteller Mahipat Kavi, and Mudra Creation — a Lavani folk dance group from Maharashtra, performed at the event.

Other highlights included a ‘bhangra’ (Punjab folk dance) performance by a group of policemen (and a woman). The dance was coordinated by New Zealand’s first Indian female police officer Mandeep Kaur.

Smita Upadhye, an India-born Auckland-based contemporary artist, supervised the colourful, geometric ‘rangoli’ patterns at the kids’ rangoli workshops.

“It is especially used during Diwali, because of a belief that goddess Lakshmi likes colourful decoration, and if you decorate your house with rangoli on Diwali, she will be pleased and come into the house,” she said.

Indian and Kiwi artists, Harpreet Singh and Brydee Rood, in collaboration have displayed their works at the Auckland Art Gallery in Kitchener.

The collaboration was aimed at reflecting Indian traditions and contemporary concerns about migration and refugees, and the cultural diversity of Auckland.

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