If we talk about ethnic Indian communities in New Zealand and their impact, then undoubtedly, the mention of the Gujarati community comes out instantly.
Going by the historical references, the Gujaratis began to settle in Aotearoa shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. And from the 1930s onwards, they started establishing businesses and institutions.
It is hardly surprising that retaining their culture is very important to Gujaratis. And therefore, there are several Gujarati associations across NZ, including Hamilton, Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington, catering to the 26000 substantial Gujarati population in NZ.
And today, in the fourteenth edition of our series on Indian cultural associations in New Zealand, we feature Gujarati Pariwar Waikato (GPW). This Hamilton-based non-profit organisation intends to preserve the heritage and customs of Gujarati culture.
Talking about the history of the association and the need to have one, Manish Thakkar, President of GPW, says, "As the number of Gujarati community members kept increasing in Hamilton, they were missing our culture and events. And that’s why to keep our Gujarati cultures alive in Hamilton, we decided to register our own Gujarati Group GPW in 2016. More than 350 members are presently part of the GPW.”
Interestingly, the motto of GPW, “Sanskar, Sanskruti, Sahyog”, itself explains its vision and inspiration. Explaining it further, Thakkar says, “We aim to preserve the values and culture of our motherland and instil them in our future generations. We want to help the Gujarati community across NZ to prosper in life while still maintaining a positive focus on serving the community.”
Moving on to the activities of GPW, the association celebrates most of the Gujarati and Indian Hindu festivals of India. They also organise Gujarati Drama, Yoga-Shivir, Bhajan-Sandhya, Sports Day and blood donation camps etc.
Interestingly, GPW HAS also started a teaching program for the Gujarati language, which is very helpful for the younger generation to write, speak and understand their mother tongue Gujarati.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation rescued Gujarati families stuck due to the lockdown in NZ. “We had provided full support to them during their stay till their safe return to their respective home in India,” says Thakkar.
GPW also provided food kits for more than 500 families living in Gujarat.
Thakkar also revealed that they would not like to adhere to activities associated with the Gujarati community only, but we will want to expand it in the next five years.
Elaborating on that, Thakkar says, “At present, we feel that there is a dire requirement of our premises to organise more events regularly. We want to invite Gujarati speakers, artists and performing groups from India. As one of our goals, we want to unite all Gujarati in a common group with a vision of knowing each other throughout NZ by way of contact details on one platform, and also to create a matrimonial platform for the South Pacific Gujarati group.”