A citywide competition on decorating homes “Diwali style” is being held in New Zealand’s largest city Auckland, challenging the Aucklanders to decorate their homes honoring Diwali, Hindu festival of lights.
Titled “Spice up your home”, it would announce an “Overall Winner”, a “Runner-Up” and a “People’s Choice Award”. “Winners not only receive prizes and bragging rights but a sign to display outside their home”, announcement says. The initiative is the brain child of leading Auckland real estate company, Barfoot & Thompson; in partnership with government controlled Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).
Major day-long (12 to nine pm) Diwali celebrations will be held in the Aotea Square of Auckland on October 13 and 14, which will include cultural performances on three different stages including Gujarati folk dances by a 15-member group from India, classical music, Bollywood dance competition, fashion parade, etc. It will also include food and craft markets, Rangoli kids art workshop, Rangoli art demonstration, Sitar and Tabla workshop, talks on “My India Experience” by experts, street theater and shows, lighting displays and decorations, etc., and concluding with fireworks.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, applauded New Zealand for embracing Diwali festival celebrating the cultural diversity of the country and bringing New Zealanders together to celebrate and experience Hindu and Indian culture in its various forms.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, has asked that Diwali be declared as a public holiday in New Zealand because it was important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at homes with their children, relatives and friends. Currently only Christmas, Easter and Good Friday are observed as public holidays in New Zealand and there are no public holidays covering festivals of other religious groups.
Diwali festivities in New Zealand are starting early this year with a photographic exhibition “Rivers of Colour” about people and places in India at Auckland University of Technology from September 29 to October 12, followed by Diwali celebration by staff and students of the Institute on October two, and a Diwali Symposium on October six.
Day-long Diwali celebrations will also be held in New Zealand’s capital Wellington on October 21. Asia New Zealand Foundation is organizing the Diwali festival in partnership with the Auckland and Wellington city councils.
A “Diwali Walking Trail” is being created in Auckland to take the revelers to the festival venue entertaining them enroute by a variety of Indian performers and artists, including a spinning wheel for prizes. Various Auckland roads will be closed for the Diwali festival. A vegetarian “Diwali Taste On A Plate food challenge” is being organized on the occasion, a brainchild of ATEED and the New Zealand Restaurant Association. Free morning yoga sessions will also be held, including Surya Namaskara.
Rajan Zed has stated that New Zealand Parliament still opened with a prayer with a wording that was Christian in nature. Zed suggested that guest chaplains from various religions and denominations should be invited to read the opening prayer, thus each day starting with a new prayer. Zed, however, thanked the New Zealand Parliament for holding in the past official reception to mark Diwali.
According to Zed, Diwali, which falls on November 13 this year, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Hindus worship goddess of good fortune and beauty Lakshmi, god of wisdom and auspiciousness Ganesh, and mountain Goverdhan on this day. Also on this day, coronation of Lord Ram was held, Lord Hanuman was born, Lord Vishnu returned kingdom to monkey king Bali of Kiskindha, Lord Vishnu and goddess Lakshmi married, Lord Krishan killed demon Narakasur, and ancient king Vikramaditya was crowned. On this day of forgiveness, festivities, and friendliness; families and friends get together for worship followed by a sumptuous and elaborate feast. It is also considered a harvest festival. Besides Hindus, Sikhs and Jains and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali, Zed points out.