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Source: Auckland Council

Diwali celebrations kicked off over the weekend, with the start of Auckland Diwali Festival’s 20 days of celebration in the lead up to Diwali, officially observed on 4 November this year.

The Festival will look a little different this year with an online celebration.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says: “Diwali is one of Auckland’s most popular festivals and a really important celebration for the Indian community. 

“It is disappointing that the usual celebration has again had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“However, we want Diwali to still be a special time for Aucklanders, with the online programme providing opportunities for families at home to enjoy Indian culture and celebrate the Festival of Lights together.”

The Auckland Diwali Festival team have gathered a range of entertaining and educational content for all Aucklanders to enjoy, available at Aucklandnz.com/Diwali. Landmarks will also be lighting up in bright fuchsia and yellow for the Festival of Lights. The Auckland Diwali Festival Facebook page is sharing daily inspiration.

Leilana Meredith, Festival Producer, says: “While the tens of thousands of Aucklanders who normally attend our major event aren’t able to this year, we still wanted to support Aucklanders to celebrate Diwali, learn more about Indian culture, enjoy and try something new at home with their family.

“Tasty Indian dishes and treats are a firm festival favourite, so we have fantastic at-home recipes and cooking demonstrations; music, crafts and dance are always hugely popular, so we have dance classes, henna and craft templates, videos to learn more about Diwali and Indian culture, and a playlist of music from DJs that would usually perform at the festival,” says Meredith.

Meredith says that stallholders and performers are a key part of the full festival, and the team was determined to find ways for the online celebration to showcase their talents.

“We want to thank our community of performers, stallholders and sponsors who have been so important in creating the content for this online celebration.”

Local Board Member Ella Kumar has been involved in the festival in many ways for two decades and hosted an online class, Bollyrobix with Ella Kumar, yesterday on the Auckland Diwali Festival Facebook page.

Kumar says this year it is about families celebrating together at home: “This year, along with the online activities from Auckland Diwali Festival Facebook page, it is an awesome opportunity for the families to celebrate Diwali in their own homes by lighting up with fairy Christmas lights, making festival foods that are specifically made during Diwali and sharing the history of Diwali. The children can also enjoy Rangoli art at home around their property. I remember in the 1970s when Diwali was celebrated in our family home, we spent hours making festive foods for family and friends, we lit little Diyas around home. This was prior to having Auckland’s larger scale event,” says Kumar.

Perzen Patel will be part of the online celebration by offering three cooking classes, including offering a free class on Saturday 23 October on how to make Masala Dosas from scratch, and sharing a recipe for at-home cooks. Her business Dolly Mumma – named after her grandmother, Dolly – makes ready to cook pastes that help Kiwis go beyond butter chicken.

Patel says: “I remember attending the Diwali Festival as a high school student. It was one of the few places I could find authentic Indian street food, far beyond what you could find in a general takeaway shop at the time. I loved seeing the dances, meeting the community and eating, it felt like Diwali at home.”

“As an Indian that’s lived in New Zealand most of my childhood, when it came to cooking Indian at home, I was always intimidated by the spices and methods. It felt easier to just get a takeaway. It took moving back to India, starting a food blog and experimenting (many, many times) with spices to understand that the “recipe” is not as important as cooking with all your senses. I want to help people incorporate the flavours of India into everyday cooking.”

While it is 20 years since the first Auckland Diwali Festival, the celebration of that much-anticipated milestone will be saved for the next in-person festival.

Auckland Diwali Festival is an important opportunity to celebrate traditional and contemporary Indian culture and our diverse Auckland Indian communities.

The Auckland Diwali Festival is delivered by Auckland Unlimited, on behalf of Auckland Council.  Asia New Zealand Foundation is the festival’s founding partner.

MIL OSI