The iconic Wellington Diwali Festival had kept its enviable reputation of being the second largest Indian cultural event in New Zealand, intact, by showcasing a mesmerizing display of Indian culture, art, craft, food and heritage on Sunday, October 28.
The sun also came out in full to give an opportunity to all Wellingtonians to not miss the city’s biggest, and country’s second largest Diwali celebrations. To the credit to Wellingtonians, who also did not disappoint as they kept on pouring in huge numbers to make the festival a grand success.
The festival first started in 2002 by the Asia New Zealand Foundation as part of its mission to increase New Zealanders' understanding of Asia is by the Asia New Zealand Foundation in 2002 as part of its mission to increase New Zealanders' understanding of Asia.
This year the festival was organised at the indoor venue (unlike many other peers around the country) of TSB Arena and Shed 6 near Queen’s Warf right at Wellington CBD.
One stage, massive auditorium, and a captive audience
What made the experience at Wellington Diwali so special was a large closed auditorium with one stage that created a captive audience with an undivided attention, thus creating an altogether exhilarating experience for the festival-goers.
The retail stalls also shared a third of the auditorium, with the vendors selling, displaying and promoting products and services that promoted the Indian arts and culture.
The festival started sharp at 1.30 p.m. with the doors of the venue opening up for enthusiastic guests for a non-stop display of cultural events for the next eight hours.
However, that was only after a surprising flash-mob dance performance right outside the venue below the sails to give a glimpse of what to expect inside the festival to not only patiently waiting-guests, but also unsuspecting passer-by to attract them to the festival.
The excitement generated right outside the venue below the sails finally culminated after eight hours of non-stop experience of dance and cultural events with a dazzling display of fireworks – symbolising the eventual victory of good over evil, and light over darkness – the very essence of the festival of Diwali.
As the day progressed at the event, the size of audience swelled, bursting the seams, and dancing on their feet on energetic musical performances – thus creating an epic scene of exhilaration and enjoyment.
Not to be left behind were, the Kiwi-guests who also turned out in huge numbers dressed in ethnic Indian wears to not only immerse themselves in Indian cultural experience but also to support Indian community’s biggest festival, in a glorious display of multiculturalism in New Zealand.
The official opening ceremony of the festival began with a royal experience of chief guests entering the auditorium in a procession led by energetic drummers (Chenda Mellam) representing the Indian state of Kerala.
Present at the official ceremony were Jill Day, Deputy Mayor of Wellington, Minister of Ethnic Affairs Jenny Salesa, Sanjiv Kohli, High Commissioner of India, Simon Draper, Executive Director, Asia New Zealand Foundation, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour Party MP, Michael Wood, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities, Paul Eagle, Labour Party MP, Kanwaljit Bakshi, National Party MP, Alastair Scott, National MP, Councillor Diane Calvert, Wellington City Council, Councillor Peter Gilberd, Wellington City Council.
Energetic performances by the international troupe
This year the festival got international stars from the Indian state of Punjab who presented different forms of Bhangra dance and folk music.
Kalehri Arts and Culture Academy from Punjab, India, enthralled audience, with a colourful and energetic performance.
An exhibition depicting traditional lanterns, diyas and Lights
A major attraction in Wellington Diwali festival this year was an exhibition depicting different styles of traditional Indian lanterns, diyas, lights decoration, temple and home decoration.
The exhibition was curated by Wellington-based Jyoti Gossavi, who worked in close cooperation with her husband, father-in-law and daughter, to produce a magnificent display of different styles of diyas and lantern from the Indian state of Maharashtra.
The exhibition received an overwhelming patronage from the dignitaries and festival-goers that thronged in huge numbers to appreciate the traditional artwork. (Read the full story on page number).
The Indian Weekender Mr & Ms Diwali 2018, Wellington
The Indian Weekender had proudly joined hands with the iconic Wellington Diwali Festival for the first time after almost five years of association with Auckland Diwali Festival took its highly popular Mr and Ms Diwali to the capital city, only to be received with much love and support.
For uninitiated, ‘Mr & Ms Diwali’ is a cultural pageant show whereby enticing fresh talents from the community on the biggest cultural platform of the city.
In its inaugural edition in Wellington six male and female participants contested for the illustrious title riding on their talents and passion for Indian culture and art forms, vying for the attention of judges and the crowd.
The show lived up to its expectation and generated significant interest from the festival-goers for its novelty factor.
The festival is brought to the community by Wellington City Council and produced by Communities Action Trust NZ (CATNZ).
Murali Kumar, (of CATNZ), the producer of the festival was delighted with the turnout and the success of the iconic festival.
Speaking to The Indian Weekender, Mr Kumar said, “The Wellington Diwali was a resounding success again this year.”
“Our communities, regional friends, funders and sponsors played a great role in supporting the festival.
“The success of the Wellington Diwali highlights the need for such strong platforms to regularly showcase our community diversity and engagement around the country," Mr Kumar said.