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Community bulletin: Turban Day marked in Canterbury as Diwali festive season ends

A round-up of notable community activities from across the country.

The festive season ends

The almost two-month-long Indian festive season has come to an end, with the last Diwali celebrations for 2023 celebrated in Selwyn, Canterbury, and Takanini, Auckland, on 11 November, and in Rotorua on 16 November.

The season started in early October with the nine-day-long Navratri, a Hindu festival celebrating the mother goddess Durga.

This was followed by Dussehra or Dashain, which marked the killing of demon Ravan by the Hindu god Ram. Dashain celebrations were organised by the New Zealand Nepal Society in Auckland, and by the Canterbury Nepalese Society and Nepal New Zealand Friendship Society of Canterbury in Christchurch.

Last came Diwali, which celebrates the return of Ram and his wife, Sita, to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile.

"One of the highlights this year was the 'Brides of India' showcase for which local Indian women dressed up in the traditional bridal attire of the different regions of India detailing the diversity of the country," said Archna Tandon, chair of the Canterbury Indian Women's Group, one of the organisers of the Diwali in Selwyn.

In Rotorua, Diwali celebrations were organised by the Bay of Plenty (Rotorua) Indian Association as part of the Rotorua Night Market.

"Our Diwali and Bandi Chhor Diwas celebrations were attended by over 35,000 people. There were cars in a line that extended three kilometres waiting to enter the Takanini Gurdwara," said Daljit Singh, president of the Supreme Sikh Society that organised the event. "We got support from New Zealand Police and the Papakura Local Board to make this happen."

Groups in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch also held Karva Chauth celebrations over this period. Karva Chauth is a festival for married women who observe a nirjala fast - without food of water - for their husbands' long lives and prosperity.

An event was held at the Hare Krishna Centre in the Garden City, while the Wellington Indian Association organised a gathering at the Gita Mandir. In Auckland, female members of the Bihar Jharkhand Sabha of Australia and New Zealand got together and broke fast in the evening.

Swaminarayan Temple's 'mountain of food'

The day following Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu new year and is traditionally celebrated with annakut or govardhan, which literally translate as "a mountain of food".

As the name indicates, an offering of hundreds of different vegetarian food items is made to the Hindu god Swaminarayan on this day to express gratefulness for his providence over the past year and to seek his blessings for the year ahead.

According to tradition, the event signifies what Hindu god Krishna did when he lifted the Govardhan mountain and urged the people of Gokul to offer their gratefulness to nature for all its gracious bounty.

This year, the event was organised by BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha and the Yogi Divine Society across the country. After prayers were offered, devotees got together and shared a communal meal.

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