Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, will be celebrated elsewhere on Friday - but in Auckland, light has already triumphed over darkness.

Aotea Square was transformed into a spectacle of light and celebration over the weekend, with thousands turning up to soak up the festive atmosphere and watch Indian performances.

The recent row over Television New Zealand broadcaster Paul Henry's comments that Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand wasn't a New Zealander enough also brought many to the event to show support for the local Indian community.

The festival, Auckland's largest Indian cultural event and organised by the Asia New Zealand Foundation, was opened by Sir Anand.

Naomi Skelton, who attended for the first time, said: "New Zealand is a multicultural society, and ironically, it was Paul Henry's comments that made me feel that I am not Kiwi enough because I know little about the other cultures of my fellow New Zealanders."

Mrs Skelton said she and her friends had gone to the event also to show "we are proud to have an Indian as our head of state".

Mohan Baskaran, a visitor from Mumbai, said he was thrilled to have experienced Diwali celebrations in Auckland. "I think it will be double good luck for me, because I will be celebrating my second Diwali by the time I am in India this Friday."

Diwali marks the beginning of the Indian New Year, and the festival represents the triumph of light over darkness and the renewal of life.

Families celebrate by lighting lamps, candles and fireworks to symbolise victory of the light.

Celebrations concluded last night with a fireworks display.