The Auckland Diwali Festival is one of New Zealand's largest cultural festivals.



About Diwali

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.


Diwali performers in colourful traditional indian dress


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.

Auckland Diwali Festival 2020

In 2020, we’re adding a new chapter to Auckland’s Diwali history, delivering a revised festival programme that spans three weeks with events across the entire region.

In August, following consultation with the Diwali Advisory Group (made up of representatives from Auckland’s Indian communities) it was agreed that it is best to plan and deliver a festival that can meet the guidelines of Alert Level 2 or higher. The revised festival would be in place of the usual two-day festival in Auckland central.

The revised festival enhances the current community programme, taking place at venues across the Auckland region from 27 October to 14 November.

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

Bollywood dance:
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

Carnatic music:
The main style of classical music in southern India, as distinct from the Hindustani music of the north

Hindustani music:
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