Wellington Diwali festival has revived the spirit of festivity, community and celebrations in this Covid inflicted year as thousands of festival-goers thronged TSB Bank Arena to enjoy an evening of music, dance, celebrations, food and shopping.

The hugely anticipated celebratory event of the year was a grand success despite almost being called off and scaled-down twice due to Covid scare and lockdowns in the country. 

The signature annual event of Wellington City Council organised by Community Action Trust New Zealand (CATNZ) saw men, women and children clad in traditional and festive outfits dance to the tunes of Indian classical and popular Bollywood music.

Unlike previous years, the event was organised in a compact manner starting at 3 p.m. and ending at 8:30 minus the fireworks at the end that had to be postponed due to poor weather conditions. 

The organisers of the Wellington Diwali Festival estimate that the event attracted between 15,000 and 18,000 people on Sunday, October 25.

The official opening ceremony was held at 3.30 pm when the dignitaries including Mayor of Wellington Andy Foster, the newly elected Members of Parliaments Labour Party’s Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Dr Gaurav Sharma, and Ibrahim Omer, along with High Commissioner of India, Muktesh Pardeshi and members of Kiwi-Indian media organisations lighted the traditional lamp.

Speaking on occasion Mr Pardeshi said this year’s Diwali festival, and the event in Wellington had a greater significance as the world battles the pandemic of Covid-19. 

“It is a matter of great value that Diwali is celebrated in New Zealand so extensively. 

“It celebrates the victory of light over darkness… This year has been the year of devastation, deaths and darkness as we are struggling with a deadly disease. Though the mood may not be as festive, nonetheless, Diwali brings us together in an otherwise tough year. 

“Let this Diwali renew our collective resolve to fight this virus, the evil this year and give us the light of hope to usher to happier times,” Mr Pardeshi said. 

Mayor Andy Foster acknowledged the support of the local communities, businesses and CATNZ in organising the massive celebrations before officially declaring the Diwali event open. 

“We celebrate today an important event in our calendar, Diwali, and one of the things as a city we take great pride in seeing the diversity, inclusion and we have something like 11,000 people who describe themselves as of Indian origin, and that is a hugely important part of our community,” Mayor Andy Foster said at the opening ceremony of the event addressing the visitors. 

MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan said, “These festivals are also a reminder of the diversity that we value, the message of inclusion and the fact that there is still a long way to go and a lot more work to be done for us to become truly inclusive in a way to celebrate who we are as New Zealanders and everyone is able to participate meaningfully in New Zealand.” 

The evening was divided into several parts giving the audience an array of different cultural and contemporary performances to entertain the audience. 

The event had commenced with a session of Bollywood music performed by children followed by the traditional Indian classical dances, The Indian Weekender’s Wellington Diwali Got Talent, fusion, Bhangra, and concluding the show with high octane finale dance acts. 

The mood across the two-venue halls, TSB Bank Arena and Shed 6 were equally energetic as many enjoyed the performances, and art and craft stalls, while others treated themselves with lip-smacking Indian snacks and beverages. 

The art and craft stalls in the entrance of the Arena was flocked by shoppers from the beginning of the day till the end with people buying traditional Indian decorations, dresses, posters, frames, imitation jewellery etc. 

Speaking on the success of the event, organiser from CATNZ Murali Kumar said, “we are thrilled to witness such a huge turnout and the response has been overwhelming, outstanding about the performances, food and art stalls,”

One of the best parts of the Wellington Diwali Festival, the firework was postponed until next confirmed date due to unfavourable wind conditions on the evening of the event, and rain date Monday, October 26.