For the 10th year in a row, Christchurch Diwali—the biggest Indian festival in the South Island—showcased the rich culture, history, and traditions of the subcontinent to the wider community.
As a testimony to the multicultural nature of New Zealand, the event also had performances from Latinzone Contemporary and Jalsa Hip Hop Group of the Christchurch Fiji Association. However, the highlight of the event for many was the rocking performance of Canterbury Police on a mix of Bollywood songs led by Inspector Hirone Waretini, who is in-charge of Canterbury Police Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services Group.
"Encouraged by the continuous support that we have been getting over the years, we wanted to put on an even better show this time around. There were [more than]24 performances demonstrating the talent of more than 100 participants. The attendance was also better than last time and initial estimates put that figure to close to 8,000,” noted Natu Rama, President of the city-based Indian Social and Cultural Club (ISCC), which organised the event.
“On a personal level, I feel humbled and honoured to be able to serve the community in my role as the President of ISCC. Moreover, as our family is completing 100 years in New Zealand this year, we thought to support the event in a big way. That's why we formed the Rama Family Trust and became one of the naming sponsors of the event. This is the first event we supported and look forward to be a part of more such cultural and educational initiatives in the future,” he added.
Apart from the cultural performances, another major attraction of the event was the trade and craft stalls. Hemant Chauhan, a volunteer with ISCC informed, “We had 14 trade and 17 food stalls as part of the celebrations. The interest and participation from among the business community have also risen over the years.”
Amrit Singh from Value Mart retail store and Priya Thapar of Recontres Bling candlelights were participating for the first time and expressed their excitement on being able to contribute towards enriching the New Zealand culture with some Indianess.
A major change that the organising committee did this year was to sell only vegetarian food during the celebrations.
"There was some scepticism early on, but we wanted to try it out. And I am glad to report that even if only for a meal, we were able to prove to the wider community that vegetarianism is possible and healthy," said Rama.
He also shared that the theme for this year's Diwali was ‘Monuments of India’.
"One thing that always comes up is that in the concert-like nature of how we organise the Diwali festival here, the cultural aspects are somewhat subdued. While I understand that, I believe we also need to provide a platform to the Indians settled in South Island for showcasing their talents. But in the coming years, this is one thing we want to improve upon. Maybe have Ramleela on the sideline. And along with that if we can take Diwali to the Hagley Park, which will help thousands more attending the festival, it will be the icing on the cake,” said Rama.