Investigations have begun after Auckland Council upset the Hindu community by trying to hold the Auckland Diwali celebrations a month before the actual religious festival.

Diwali, the Hindu festival celebrating victory of light over darkness, falls on November 11 this year. Traditionally, devotees observe Navratri, or nine nights of prayer and puja (rituals), to deities Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi, before Diwali. This year Navratri falls in mid October.

However, the council-controlled Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) had planned to hold Diwali celebrations in the city in mid-October.

Veer Khar, president of the Manukau Indian Association, said that made "a mockery" of the religious festival and showed "grave disrespect" to devotees in Auckland.


"As you can't have Easter Monday before Good Friday, you should not even think of having Diwali before Navratri," said Mr Khar in an email to the event organisers.

Ateed external relations general manager Steve Armitage said the agency worked with event partner Asia New Zealand Foundation to determine the timing of the festival.

"To ensure consistency of integrated planning across the country, the event is scheduled in conjunction with organisers of the Wellington Diwali Festival to allow performers from India to showcase their talent at both festivals," said Mr Armitage.

"On that basis, the 2015 Auckland Diwali Festival is set down for 17-18 October with the Wellington festival the following weekend."

Mr Armitage said public Diwali festivals were scheduled before the actual festivity in the same manner as public Christmas events.

Yesterday, the foundation's culture director, Jennifer King, confirmed alternative dates were now being looked at. "Ateed will undertake diligent investigation into alternative dates, ideally any dates outside of 13 to 22 October," she said.

The decision was made after representatives met Hindu leaders at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Auckland on Tuesday. Ms King said Ateed would liaise with the leaders "to ensure their level of comfort" should the dates be changed.

AUT University professor of diversity Edwina Pio said the ideal situation would be to have Diwali after Navratri. But the festival as celebrated by the council was primarily a community event, she said.


In New Zealand, about 155,000 people or 3.9 per cent of the population are Indian and nearly 90,000 people are Hindu.