Diwali in Christchurch: Mayor Lianne Dalziel performing the Ganesh Aarti (Photo by JK Images)
The last two weekends of October saw Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region enjoy a multitude of events marking various Indian festivals.
These included Christchurch Diwali, Dandiya Raas and Garba Rolls (Navratri dance), Durga Pooja, Dussera, Teeyan da Mela, Arya Samaj Hawan (Yagna).
While many parts of the world are in lockdown, New Zealanders are fortunate to celebrate important festivals and observances, thanks to our combined efforts in controlling Covid-19 led by the Jacinda Ardern government.
The Indian Social & Cultural Club hosted the Christchurch Diwali, 23rd in an annual series.
The event was held at North Hagley Park for the first time, away from the usual venue of Cathedral Square. This free, family-friendly outdoor event attracted thousands of visitors from all ethnicities.
The programme began with Shri Ganesh Aarti performed on the stage by special guests and sponsors, led by Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and many local MPs.
Among the highlights of Christchurch Diwali was the fireworks display in the evening.
While Diwali has become an integral part of Christchurch’s annual calendar, it assumes greater importance this year because all public events were cancelled during various lockdown levels.
Christchurch Durga Pooja
This was the fifth year that the local Bengali community organised Durga Pooja in Christchurch.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Councillor Jimmy Chen and others at the Christchurch Durga Pooja.
Amit Sarkar, one of the organisers said, “Durga Pooja could not be held in public in many countries this year. New Zealand has dealt with Covid-19 very well and gave us an opportunity to celebrate the Festival. The Christchurch Bengali community has led the way by working with like-minded people globally and co-founding the Bengali portal. We created an exclusive session capturing the festivity, tolerance and happiness worldwide.”
In less than a month, after several discussions and meetings over Zoom, content-sharing for Durga Puja was formalised and with its expansive network reaching 58 countries and nearly a million viewers. Digital transformation of Durga Puja became a reality.
The Organising Committee decided to make it an all-inclusive Pooja and invited people from diverse backgrounds and faith. It was yet another sustainable environment-friendly event, teaching the future generation to be responsible and respectful.
In addition to the religious aspects, there was vegetarian food (cooked by volunteers) and cultural events. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden conveyed her best wishes, while Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Councillor Jimmy Chen and this Reporter (as Community Board member) spoke at the event. Later in the afternoon, Labour MP Sarah Pallett and new Community Board member Sunita Gautam visited the event.
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh Dussera
The Christchurch Chapter of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) organised its annual Dussera event.
Lavanya Karra of HSS Christchurch writes: “We celebrated Dussera with the Vijaya Dashami Utsav. HSS conducts weekly Shakha, which brings families together for Sharirik, physical activities through fun games, Yoga and Surya Namaskar and Boudhik, intellectual discussions. Vijaya Dashami is an annual Utsav, which brings families together.
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh Dussera
“Basic Yoga, Surya Namaskar and a few steps with the Lezim instrument were demonstrated along with a song competition. Musical instruments were honoured as a part of Shastra Puja. Children, representing various states of India and Fiji, talked about what Dussera means to them. The Ravan Dahan and Ram Lila of Delhi, Durga Pandals of Kolkata, Vidyarambham Saraswathi Puja of Kerala, Bathukamma of Telangana, Garba and Dandiya of Gujarat and Theru Koothu dance of Fiji were shown with a slide show, while youngsters shared their thoughts on Dussera.
“An effigy of Ravan was made and everyone wrote one negative quality, which they want to overcome and pasted it on the effigy, with a resolution to review next year. Children got balloons to write their areas of weakness and then burst them with a positive thought to try and overcome. It was heart-warming to see the honesty in children who admitted things like being lazy or angry.
Dandiya Raas Navratri Garba Nite
Rohan Chakrabarty, a University of Canterbury student, led the organisation of the Dandiya Raas Navratri Garba Nite at the Bishopdale YMCA Hall.
A day before the event, the organisers could not be sure about how many people to expect.
“We will be happy with 300~500 ticket sales,” he said.
About 1000 men, women and children attended the event, many dressed in colourful ethnic costumes.
One of the special aspects the organisers did this time was to make available food suitable for those who were fasting during Navratri.
The next weekend, a few kms away, the growing suburb of Rolleston hosted and enjoyed ‘Garba Rolls,’ with hundreds of people participating in the Garba.
Arya Samaj Gayatri Havan (Yagna):
While Arya Samaj holds the Gayatri Havan on a monthly basis, this one was special because the Havan was performed by children, who excelled, to the delight of their parents and others.
Arya Samaj Havan Group Photo (1)
It is amusing to note that some celebrations in New Zealand do not necessarily follow the actual sequence of their occurrence. While Diwali is actually celebrated three weeks after Dussera, the Christchurch Diwali Festival was held a week before Durga Pooja and Dussera events.
Arya Samaj Havan Group Photo (2)
Shirish Paranjape is our Christchurch Correspondent.
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