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Festival of Lights energises New Zealanders

Venkat Raman – 

venkat@indiannewslink.co.nz

Auckland Diwali 2016

This year’s Festival of Lights got to a brilliant start on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at Aotea Centre with the weather lending its helping hand.

‘Auckland Diwali 2016’ was usual and yet different.

The Usual

It was usual with speeches by Prime Minister John Key, Opposition Leader Andrew Little, Auckland Mayor-Elect Phil Goff and Indian High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli.

It was usual with the stage ceremony – lighting of the lamp, garlanding the dignitaries on stage, applying the ‘Tilak’ on their foreheads and performances by visiting and local artistes, followed by photographs and selfies.

The Unusual

It was unusual with a number of students protesting the potential deportation order that they face, on charges of having provided fake documents. They were restrained and dignified – which in effect added to their sympathy from a section of the crowd.

It was unusual since for the first time Auckland Diwali featured dancers from the North-Eastern State of Assam.

Meghranjani Medhi and her mother Marami were at their best presenting two Kathak numbers, the first of which was invoking the Blessings of Lord Ganesha.

“We pay tribute to the Indian community for their diligence and hard work,” Mr Key said, instantly followed by ‘Shame, Shame,’ by the protesting students.

He said that New Zealand was keen to have students from India, gain good education and go through the system to become permanent residents.

Mr Little and Mr Kohli were keen to have the students’ issue solved.

ASB at the Festival

Siobhan Enright, Communications Advisor (Marketing & Communications), ASB Bank sent us the following report:

ASB took its support of the Auckland Diwali Festival one step further this year as ITS staff from across the city performed on the main stage on October 15 & 16, 2016.

More than 40 ASB staff rehearsed for several months to create street and main stage performances for the festival’s crowds at Aotea Square.

The ASB performance group recruited external choreographer Kesha Surti from Khottey Sikkey to help create the dance.

Carmelina D’Souza and Ruzbeh Palsetia drove the ASB staff, family and friends’ performance, and were overwhelmed with the commitment from the group.

Performing on stage was exhilarating.  There were some members who had no stage experience, and they said it felt just like an adrenalin rush just before a sky dive. The crowd cheering and the tempo increasing with every song was electrifying,” Ms D’Souza said.

ASB Head of Community, Sponsorship and Events Mark Graham said ASB was pleased to support the Auckland Diwali Festival for the second successive year.

“Bringing the bright lights, vibrant colours and exquisite cuisines of India to the diverse Auckland community, the Festival is becoming a special date in the Auckland cultural calendar and an important celebration of Auckland’s diverse community,” he said.

ASB Dance Videos

A Festival favourite, the ASB Zone was home to a social video-sharing stand where festival-goers recorded their best Diwali dance moves on a green screen video background and then share it via social media. Every ASB video that was recorded and shared on social went into the draw to win one of two, one night stays in the Sky City Grand Hotel, with breakfast for two at Gusto and a $200 Food and Beverage voucher.

Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust

Vivek Arya, Community Relationship Manager, Bharatiya Samaj Charitable Trust said that the organisation celebrated Diwali along with Roopa Aur Aap at Fickling Convention Centre located at Three Kings in Auckland on October 15, 2016.

“The Celebration included games, henna and nail painting. The festive mood was enhanced with members of the Trust singing, dancing and sharing sweets,” he said.

While ‘Auckland Diwali’ organised by the Auckland Council controlled Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) with the support of Asia New Zealand Foundation and several commercial organisations, is the largest Festival of its kind in Auckland (like its Wellington counterpart), the credit for having brought the event to Aotea Centre belongs to Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust and its Chairman and Secretary, respectively Jeet Suchdev and Roopa Suchdev.

“The Trust shifted its celebration of Diwali to Aotea Square in 2002, following which Asia NZ Foundation (then known as Asia 2000 Foundation) and Auckland Council requested us to ‘release Aotea Centre’ to them. They said that the two organisations had major plans. We were happy to comply in the larger interest of the community. Our Trust has been conducting several programmes including India’s Independence Day at the Aotea Centre even prior to 2002. We are proud that Diwali has become a major festival, attracting more than 100,000 people from varied ethnic communities,” Mr Arya said.

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