Light after a period of darkness; hope overcoming despair. After the year we've had, or at least the latter half of it – where do we sign up?
This year, Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights and one of the most important events on the Hindu calendar, is observed from November 4, with events popping up across New Zealand from now until late November. Events, we may add, that don't all come with a "cancelled" sign slapped across their promotional posters. But before you fire off your RSVP, let's delve into Diwali's origins.
Coinciding with the Hindu New Year and celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, Diwali is observed by more than one billion people worldwide. Spread over five days of festivities, the history of Diwali differs depending on the traditions of each region. In North India, it is symbolic of good overcoming evil, when the exiled Prince Rama returned to Ayodhya city after overpowering his rival, King Ravana. In the south of India, Diwali marks the defeat of the demon Narakasura by the Krishna deity. With many other variations besides, they all share one common theme: hope.
During Diwali, and to ensure good luck in the coming year, family gatherings take place alongside prayer, feasts, fireworks and gift-giving. It's a time to wear new clothes, spring clean the house and start new ventures. Rows of bright clay lamps known as diyas are lit and entrances are decorated with rangoli: elaborate patterns created from coloured rice, sand, powder and petals. You can see a beautiful example of this on National Geographic's YouTube channel: (youtube.com/watch?v=HrrW3rO51ak).
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In New Zealand, 2021 would have been Auckland's 20th year celebrating Diwali Festival, but (and at the risk of sounding repetitive) Covid-19 has forced the event to move online. Visit aucklandnz.com/cultivate/diwali for virtual classes, crafts and recipes. Keep an eye on the city's public landmarks, too, which will continue to glow for the period. Wellington's Diwali festival will also be a virtual offering, but North Islanders in the Bay of Plenty are in luck, the festivities are going ahead at the Historic Village Tauranga on November 6, with Indian street food, Ramayan dance and henna tattooists.
For some live action down south, Queenstown Events Centre will transform into a night-time Diwali spectacle on November 14 and if you're Invercargill-based, the ILT Stadium is where you'll want to be November 27. Guaranteed to be a full day of family fun, expect food, dance and DJs from midday onwards.
Check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz