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Unforgettable Ayodhya experience at Eden Park

Children turned up in huge numbers for the celebrations (Photo: Karan Bhasin)

In a dazzling spectacle that blended the spiritual fervour of Ayodhya with the vibrant energy of New Zealand,  nearly 8,000 devotees, young and old, flocked to Eden Park on January 21, 2024, for 'Ayodhya in Eden Park'. 

Organised by Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Prana Pratishta Mahotsav Committee, this extravaganza set the stage on fire, becoming a prelude to the grand opening of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on January 22.

The day kicked off at Bharatiya Mandir in Balmoral, where priests conducted ‘vastra grahan’ ceremony for the idols of Lord Ram and Sita brought from India especially for the celebrations. 

Hundreds gathered to witness the puja ceremony for the idols made from pure white marble, after which they were taken to Eden Park in a ‘shobha yatra’.

At the stadium, the air resonated with the recitation of kirtans, creating a serene atmosphere. Following the prayers, long queues formed as devotees circled the havan encolsures and deities, making offerings. 

Among the dignitaries who graced the occasion were India's High Commissioner to New Zealand Neeta Bhushan; Minister for Ethnic Communities Melissa Lee, Minister of Regulation and ACT Party Leader David Seymour, Honorary Consul of India in Auckland Bhav Dhillon and parliamentarian Dr Carlos Cheung among others. 

Talking to The Indian Weekender, Bhushan said, “It was a  magnificent event at Eden Park. It was a great privilege for me to participate in the festivities. The enthusiasm among diaspora members and also among Kiwi friends was unprecedented. 

“I thank all members of the organising committee for their hard work in making this event such a big success. I would also like to express my gratitude to all the temples and gurdwaras for their service and support to the community.”

Sharing the same sentiment, Lee said, “It was fabulous to see all the different mandir and gurdwaras and community organisations coming together to celebrate.”

Vinod Kumar, the driving force behind the organising committee, emphasised the event's uniqueness. "The event was all about rewriting history. After 500 years, we celebrated the return of Shri Ram Ji in a significant way. 

“The fact that the event had thousands of people attending it despite the scorching heat says a lot about its impact. It was a cultural extravaganza that showcased the unity and generosity of Auckland's diverse communities. 

“It exceeded our expectations. It would not have been possible without the support of hundreds of volunteers, various temples and Indian associations. The event showcased religious unity and the power of community spirit. We hope to organise bigger and much grander events in the future."

The attendees, too, could not stop raving about the event. Raj, a young student, shared with teary eyes, "I never thought I'd witness something like this in Auckland. It's like a piece of Ayodhya has come to us and is overwhelming."

Another attendee, Rajesh Kumar, said, “The sense of unity was overwhelming. We weren't just offering prayers but creating memories that will last a lifetime."

Beyond the spiritual journey, 'Ayodhya in Eden Park' was an explosion of activities—a mahayagya, cultural performances, storytelling competitions, Ram Leela, and a massive Ram Darbar. The day culminated in 'mahaprasad', which was served from 5 pm onwards.

"The emotional connection to our heritage was overwhelming. It wasn't just a celebration; it was a reconnection with our roots," said Preetika Mehta, echoing the sentiments of many who attended the historic event.

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