New Zealand parliament has continued the tradition started last year in 2016 of celebrating Indian spring festivals to acknowledge New Zealand’s growing diversity and multiculturalism.
On Wednesday, April 19, around 250 guests present in the Banquet Hall of the Parliament House were witness to enthralling performances and speeches from several enthusiastic performers and Members of Parliament.
The corridors of Parliament were bustling with festivities where guest dressed in colourful traditional attire created the spirit of spring in autumn through the spring festival celebrations.
"I smell spring in autumn", was the feeling shared by everyone present on occasion.
The event was coordinated by Multicultural Council Wellington and was organised by Minister of Parliament Brett Hudson and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.
While last year all festivities in the parliament were centred singularly alone on the Punjabi festival Vaisakhi, this year was a more multicultural event bringing together many other prominent spring festivals celebrated in different part of India such as Ugadi and Chithrai Puthandu.
Vaisakhi is celebrated in northern India whereas Ugadi is celebrated in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. Chithirai Puthandu - also known as Tamil New Year and is celebrated by Tamilians. These spring festivals are celebrated as harvest festivals and mark the beginning of a new year as per lunar Hindu calendar. Baisakhi or Vaisakhi Festival is also celebrated as the Sikh New Year and the founding of the Khalsa Panth.
The list of guests included Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, Peter Dunne, David Bennett, Mayor of Wellington, Mike Tana, Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle, High Commissioner of Malaysia Dato' Lim Kim Eng and the High Commissioner of India Sanjiv Kohli.
Along with people of Indian origin, there were many other councillors, community leaders and distinguished guests.
Upholding Indian traditional Indian custom of lightening lamps before the beginning of any auspicious event, eminent guests lighted the lamp.
"Tonight is the first time that we have had multiple groups across Wellington gathered here in Parliament to celebrate Indian New Year,” Mr Hudson said.
A beautiful Bharatnatyam performance by students of Nataraj School of Dance marked the beginning of cultural events, which was followed by Carnatic Music performance in Telugu by a group of performers from Wellington Telugu Association and a Bhangra dance performed by Wellington Bhangra crew.
Another group of performers flew all the way from Auckland to brighten up the event with their Gidda performance.
Bhangra and Gidda are folk dances from Punjab whereas Bharatnatyam claims its roots in South India.
Members of the community took the opportunity to explain the importance of these festivals and celebrations unique to their respective region in their own language and then translated it to the English language for the benefit of everyone.
The surprise of the event was Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse, who had earlier in the day announced some nerve wrenching changes to government’s immigration policies at Queenstown.
However, the Minister reiterated and assured everyone in the room that New Zealand welcomes everyone and celebrates diversity.
A thank note followed the cultural celebrations by Mr Bakshi who acknowledged everyone contributing to the event and making it a success.
Later, Mr Bakshi invited distinguished guests to give a memorabilia as a token of appreciation to all contributors.
The evening concluded with an opportunity for the meet and greet with the members of Parliament and the Ministers.