Mahatma Gandhi Centre owned and operated by Auckland Indian Association Inc. has cancelled its one of the most popular festival events of the year ‘Navaratri’ assessing public risk of huge gatherings in the era of Covid scare.

Even though AIAI witnessed a sharp fall in revenue due to cancellations of events for the last six months and Covid lockdowns, they have decided not to host this event as massive gathering at the mega event for ten days pose a greater risk for the community and under Auckland’s AL1, indoor assembly is limited.

Auckland Indian Association Inc. is the oldest Indian community organisation in New Zealand and since 1920 has been working on preserving and promoting the Indian culture in New Zealand.

Due to Covid restrictions from early this year, the organisation saw scores of events of different scales being either postponed infinitely or cancelled. The only prominent events the centre has been able to hold are Janmashtami and its Annual General Meeting after the first lockdown under Alert Level 1 before Auckland went back into Level 3.

Under AIAI is the iconic Mahatma Gandhi Centre on Eden Terrace, Auckland, and is one of the most renowned Indian community centres in New Zealand. The venue is generally booked well in advance for various community events, celebrations, functions, meetings, weddings and cultural programs. The Radha Krishna Temple, adjacent to the Centre hosts and celebrates all religious occasions and programs.

Like many event centres around New Zealand who have seen cancellations of bookings or organising them on a much smaller scale to adhere to gathering restriction, MG Centre had to face a big blow in 2020 with almost every event axed from its calendar, thereby, cutting its main revenue streams.

Auckland Indian Association’s Navratri celebration is one of the most popular celebrations amongst the Indian community in Auckland and attracts over 15,000 people over ten days and nights from all corners of the city.

The event also brings a team of famous artists from India who stay in Auckland for at least two weeks and perform at the Navratri event.

“Aucklanders eagerly wait for Navratri celebrations at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre, and it also allows the organisation to connect with its members, volunteers and supporters.

“Auckland Indian Association Inc. is not immune to the impact of COVID-19, and just like many other businesses in NZ, it has also covered all operational costs while no revenue has been generated during the lockdown and to an extent even now,” president of Auckland Indian Association, Narendra Bhana told The Indian Weekender.

He added that Navratri cancellation also hugely impacted the Indian businesses, food suppliers, small vendors supplying different amenities to the annual event.

Mr Bhana says the cancellation has disappointed the community they would look forward to the event and come with families and friends and participate in the ‘Navratri Garba’ till late in the night.

One of the most important events besides the nine-nights of Navaratri celebration in September-October is the centennial celebrations of the establishment of the Auckland Indian Association.

The Auckland Indian Association had formed a centennial celebration committee to plan the 100 years completion mega event.

The committee had planned grand celebrations in September this year that included exhibition, art, music, Mahila Samaj activities, religious katha and a gala dinner.

The committee had also invited high profile dignitaries from India and New Zealand, but the celebration was postponed due to the pandemic.

“The centenary celebrations will be planned as soon as the international border is open and we are able to invite dignitaries from overseas,” Mr Bhana said.