Every year since moving to Auckland from Mumbai, Shriya Chitale will make lanterns and lamps to welcome Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

It is a tradition the 34-year-old has followed for generations, and says keeping the practice keeps her bonded with her family in India.

Tomorrow, Chitale will join more than 150,000 Indians in New Zealand and over a billion others in the world in celebrating Diwali.

Diwali literally translates to "row of lamps" and Indians light up their homes with oil lamps, lanterns, candles and electric lights during the festival.


"I used to make this lantern, or kandeel, with my brother when I was little," said Chitale, who has lived in New Zealand for six years.

"I do it because it makes me feel connected to my family."

A kandeel is a lantern with a wooden or cardboard framework and covered in coloured papers.

Tonight, Chitale and her husband Harshal, 36, will light and hang the kandeel in front of their Sandringham home.

Diwali is one of the most important festivals on the Indian calendar, and the lighting of lamps signifies light over dark, and victory of good over evil.

"To me personally, whenever I have faced challenges in my life ... it's the relationship with family and friends that have fortified me and lifts me up," Chitale said.

"This is also my little way of honouring that, and celebrating all those relationships."

In the lead up to the festival, she has also cleaned her house and bought new clothes, other Diwali traditions she has kept alive.


Although how Chitale celebrates the festival is now very different, preserving these traditions are important to her.

"These are traditions that have been passed on to me and I intend to keep them, even though I no longer live in India," Chitale said.

Across New Zealand, other members of the Indian community have also been busy preparing for the festival.

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

Jeya Ravindran, a 21-year-old ethnic Indian student from Malaysia, joined tens of thousands at Aotea Square for the Auckland Diwali Festival.

Ravindran has been in Auckland for just over two months, and said he was surprised to see the festival being celebrated in "such a big way" here.

The annual free festival held last weekend has become one the city's biggest and most colourful events.

It features 800 local and international performers, food, fashion, arts and crafts, street theatre and a fireworks display.

The festival, first held in 2002, was set up to raise public awareness of Indian culture and traditions and the contribution made by New Zealand's Indian communities.

Minister for Ethnic Communities Judith Collins said Diwali was celebrated all over the world and is a holiday in many countries.

"Diwali celebrates the conquest of light over darkness, truth over ignorance," Collins said.

"It is a time of festivity and an opportunity to celebrate New Zealand's cultural diversity and Indian presence in New Zealand."

The Minister expressed her best wishes to all who are taking part in Diwali celebrations across the country.

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

"I would like to wish everyone a very happy Diwali," Collins added.

"Diwali ki shubhkamnayein."