Auckland is set to come alive this weekend with one of its biggest annual cultural celebrations - Diwali.

The annual festival will kick off at Aotea Square and Queen St this Saturday, celebrating Indian culture, dance and music.

Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights that celebrates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil and is celebrated by Indian communities all over the world.

And one man is busy making sure some of Indian elderly and less fortunate do not miss out on the festivities - by bringing the party to them.


Chairman of the Bhartiya Samaj Trust Jeet Suchdev said although the Auckland event gives Indians here an opportunity to celebrate the festival as a community, there are many who are not mobile and can not attend the public celebrations.

"This is especially so for the elderly are staying in rest homes and do not have any family here," Suchdev said.

"When they can't celebrate something that is integral to their culture and faith, it deepens their sense of loneliness and isolation."

For the last four years, Suchdev and other volunteers have been focused on bringing Diwali celebrations to residents of the David Lange Care Home in Mangere.

This year, the 22 Indian men and women at the facility's Aashirwad ward, a designated Indian ethnic ward, will be treated to a Diwali feast, yummy snacks, cultural dancing and singing on October 17th.

Traditionally, Indians would clean and decorate their homes for Diwali, Suchdev said, and the residents would be encouraged to do the same.

Madan Balakrishnan, 92, who resides at the ward with his 89-year-old wife, said the celebrations were for him the "highlight of the year".

"It is like a celebration with our extended family members, and also sharing our culture with our non-Indian house mates," he said.


The actual Diwali day falls on Thursday, October 19, and the festival is celebrated across New Zealand by members of the Indian community.

The religious festival's annual dates are decided by the lunar calendar.

At the last Census, more than 155,000 people identified with the Indian ethnic group and 146,500 live in Auckland.

Besides the Hindus, Jains also celebrate Diwali and the Sikh festival Bandi Chhor Divas also falls on the same day.

The Auckland Diwali Festival will take place on October 14th and 15th from midday to 9pm.

The free event will showcase Indian dance, music, food, fashion, arts, crafts and street theatre, ending with a fireworks finale.

Asia New Zealand Foundation Executive Director Simon Draper said the festival brings members of the many different Indian communities together.

"This festival is an opportunity that gives these communities the chance to share their own special cultural traditions and foods with the wider Auckland community," Draper said.

The festival was first held in 2002, initiated by the foundation.

A group, the Kalika Kala Kendra dancers will be coming from India to perform at this year's event.

Specialising in the romantic folk dance style known as "lavani", the group was founded by Marathi movie star and social activist Rajashree Nagarkar to provide girls in her nomadic community with a livelihood.

They will join more than 800 local performers including BAD (Bhangra Auckland Da), Raunak Punjab Dee and the Khottey Sikkey Dance Group.

Charmaine Ngarimu, Head of Major Events Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, said: "The Auckland Diwali Festival is an opportunity to celebrate and connect with the local Indian communities."