The first-ever celebrations of the Tamil festival Pongal were held in the New Zealand parliament on Tuesday, February 23, witnessing participation from community members from all around the country. 

Thai Pongal, the biggest festival of the Tamil community, was organised by Minister of Transport Michael Wood, and MP for Upper Harbour Vanushi Walters, in partnership with the newly formed Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangam and supported by the High Commission of India in NZ and Office of Ethnic Communities.

As a part of the celebrations, there were many dance and music performances depicting rich Tamil culture and heritage.

Among them, a unique performance that wowed the audience was a live music and fusion dance by a Maori Powhiri group and students from Natraj School of Dance doing Bharatanatyam.

Present at the event were Minister for Ethnic Communities Priyanca Radhakrishnan, former National MP Kanwaljit Bakshi, High Commissioner of India in Wellington Muktesh Pardeshi and Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.

Another big highlight of the event was the official launch of the Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangam, which was delayed due to Covid lockdowns in 2020.

Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangam (ANZFTS) was created last year to be positioned as a parent body for all Tamil Associations in New Zealand.

“This was the first time Thai Pongal, the most important festival of the Tamil community being celebrated at the NZ Parliament and on this auspicious occasion, we also officially launched our parent organisation ANZFTS that will help support all Tamil organisations in the country,” founder of ANZFTS Raveen Annamalai told The Indian Weekender.

ANZFTS also hosted its first meeting yesterday in parliament attended by community leaders from all around the country and Deputy Commissioner of NZ Police Wallace Haumaha and Inspector Rakesh Naidoo.

“The purpose of creating this umbrella body is to govern and advocate the policy to educate the current and younger generation of Tamils in NZ of the rich heritage, language, arts and culture of the Tamil community,” Raveen Annamalai said.

The event commenced with a traditional lamp lighting ceremony followed by speeches from eminent community leaders on the Pongal festival, its significance, and how young members from the Tamil community need to be attached with their heritage and culture, followed by cultural dance performances.

The event ended with light snacks being served and an opportunity for networking and meet and greet.