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‘Real Diwali’ goes beyond sweets and fireworks

New Zealand now probably has the longest Diwali season compared to any other country in the world.

Different celebrations on successive weekends either side of Diwali now extend over several weeks, enabling the participation of many New Zealanders.

With the growing number of homes that are decorated with lights also comes a greater awareness of Diwali in communities, especially in Auckland and other cities where many Indians live.

Major public Diwali celebrations are only possible with significant hard work by scores of volunteers and voluntary organisations.

The Indian community is indebted to these leaders for the exciting programmes they organise, the stalls they attract and the food that is available.

Dance talent

It is especially pleasing to record my appreciation of the growing number of young people who demonstrate Indian art form, especially dance, at these events. Credit for these performances go to the many dance teachers we have in the community and the parents for their encouragement and support. The standard of many of the performances is excellent and the support they receive from those who attend most encouraging.

Another feature of contemporary Diwali celebrations in New Zealand is the growing number of corporates who sponsor events or host major celebrations. Our Banks are very active in this space and I acknowledge their thoughtfulness and generosity in being part of the growing visibility of the Indian community, its culture and heritage.

Bumper Issues

Indian media also play a very significant role in Diwali celebrations. In addition to keeping the community informed of Diwali events, they are also major sponsors of a number of them. Most print media will now put out a special feature which directs attention as well as contribute to the commercial aspects of these major celebrations.
There is still much that individuals and organisations can do to ensure that the meaning, importance and nature of Diwali are appropriately transmitted to all New Zealanders.

I am certain that Diwali will have recognition as an important festival and religious event for Hindus that approximates the level of awareness there is about Christmas.

In order to do this, we must move beyond the simple explanation of Diwali being the celebration of good over evil to one where the Diwali story and its deeper meaning gain more significance.

That should be a goal for the leaders in the future.

Role for Temples

The Hindu community is well served by a number of temples and priests. They have a special role to play in focusing on the religious aspects of Diwali.

Most Hindus will be attending events at temples and marking the religious significance at home with their own priests.

In this sense, Diwali has a special significance for families and friends.

Families will make every effort to be together in prayer as well as at celebrations.

Family traditions are passed on at this time or new ones established, especially for those who are expanding through marriage and relationships.

There are many people involved in the celebration of Diwali and I acknowledge each one of you. May you all have a great Diwali season.

I expect to catch up with many of you at one of the many celebrations that are now under way. May you and your family have a prosperous and safe New Year.

Shubh Diwali.

Dr Rajen Prasad is Member of Parliament on Labour List and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank of Baroda New Zealand Limited. The picture (by Narendra Bedekar) here, taken from our archives, shows (from left) former Indian High Commissioner Kadakath Pathrose Ernest, former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, Dr Rajen and Mrs Prem Prasad at our office on October 13, 2006.

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