The Auckland Diwali Festival is one of New Zealand's largest cultural festivals. More than 60,000 people attend each year to celebrate this important and ancient Indian festival.
The Auckland Diwali Festival takes its inspiration from Diwali or Deepavali (row of lamps), an important and ancient Indian festival celebrated throughout India and in Indian communities around the world.
Colloquially known as ‘The Festival of Lights’, Diwali signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the renewal of life.
Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama, his wife and brother from their 14-year exile and their defeat of the 10-headed demon-king Ravana. This story is depicted in The Ramayana - one of the two great Sanskrit epics and is in poem form.
Villagers traditionally celebrated the return of Lord Rama by setting off fireworks and lighting diyas (clay lamps) to guide their journey back to their kingdom.
Indian families today celebrate Diwali with family and friends, dressing in traditional clothing, exchanging Indian sweets or gifts, cooking and eating together and enjoying song and dance. At night, homes are decorated with clay lamps and fireworks are set off.
Women decorate their hands or feet in henna and decorate the entrance to their homes with rangoli (decorations made from coloured powder, rice or flowers). The more religious families will start the day with prayer.
History of the festival in Auckland
The Auckland Diwali Festival was produced by the then-Auckland City Council (now Auckland Council) in partnership with the Asia New Zealand Foundation and collaboration with key Indian community members. More than 60,000 people attend the festival every year, which showcases not only traditional Indian culture, but contemporary New Zealand Indian culture as well.
The festival features bright lights, energetic dance performances, incredible Indian delicacies and spectacular fireworks on the Sunday evening.
The festival is free to attend, alcohol-free, smoke-free and family friendly.
Key terms and phrases
A type of popular music combining Punjabi folk traditions with Western pop music
Inspired by the elaborate dance sequences of India’s Bollywood movies, this is a fusion of traditional Indian dance styles with Western influences from hip-hop and contemporary to Latin and jazz
The main style of classical music in southern India, as distinct from the Hindustani music of the north
The north Indian style of Indian classical music, a tradition that originated in Vedic ritual chants and has been evolving since the 12th century CE
A large, long-necked Indian lute with movable frets, played with a wire pick
A pair of small hand drums, one of which is slightly larger than the other and is played using pressure from the heel of the hand to vary the pitch
Stalls at the Auckland Diwali Festival sell dishes like bhel puri, sambar, aloo tikki chaat, butter paneer, masala dosa, gulab jamun and kulfi ice cream