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The Unique Waitakere Diwali: An echoing message to the Super Auckland City

The Ramayan and Ram Darbar: No this is not from a Bollywood movie or from a devotional photo, this the live scene from the resounding successful Ram Lila performed at Waitakere Diwali 2010. (Photo by Thakur Ranjit Singh.)

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Thakur Ranjit Singh.

Just mind-blowing and magnificent – these are the terms that sum up the Waitakere Diwali at Trusts Stadium on Sunday 24th October, 2010. The Stadium, with seating, temporary chairs, standing and sitting was choc a block with some 5000 attentive people witnessing the grand stage Ram Lila performed by the students of Waitakere Hindi School. This perhaps is the largest indoor Diwali celebration in the southern hemisphere, if not in the world.

The stage play Ram Lila , based on life of Lord Ram from Hindu epic Ramayan, was preceded by the traditional aarti (welcome) song, followed by the New Zealand National anthem on the accompaniment of Harmonium and tabla, (Indian twin-drum) first in Maori followed by the English version.

The formal ceremony saw the Chief Guest, Ethnic Affairs Minister Hon Pansy Wong deliver her address in which she praised the diversity in New Zealand and assured the Westies that Waitakere Diwali would remain an icon of the West Auckland, even in the Super Auckland City.

With what was witnessed in the Waitakere Diwali function, Auckland will be poorer if such community based functions become a victim of the increased bureaucracy and politicians’ whim of centralisation. As was witnessed, each of Auckland’s localities has their cultural uniqueness which should be retained to magnify the rainbows silhouetting the cultural landscape of Aotearoa. This was shining from the background of the magnificent Waitakere Ranges on a beautiful Labour Weekend at the Trust Stadium in Henderson.

The day’s programme saw involvement of youths through Bollywood schools dance competition in which nine schools in primary, intermediate and high school categories took part, with the overall first prize going to the visitors from North Shore, Kristen College.

The stage play, Ram Lila, which retains the uniqueness of Waitakere Diwali, was the star attraction. Specially imported costumes from India which had arrived just days before the event, added reality to the characters of Ramayan. With weeks of dedicated rehearsals and mastering of the sound recording and scene selection, the final result was a deliverance that made some overcome with pleasant emotions because of the devotional chaupaais (quadruplets) from Ramayan sung in the traditional tunes of the yesteryears and the narration that depicted the purpose and the origin of Diwali.

While all this was in Hindi, the pin drop silence added credence to the adage that music is universal- you need not understand the language to catch its spirit. Nevertheless, the screen has subtitles in English. The large number of non-Indian Kiwis and the diversity within the audience enjoyed the theme and tradition of Diwali still maintained and retained at Waitakere Diwali.

This does not mean that those with more contemporary taste were left disappointed. After a Diwali song rendered by Waitakere Senior Citizen group, which is a part of Waitakere Indian Association, the whole mood later in the evening preceding the fireworks took a new turn with the stage reverberating with Punjabi Bhangra and the thrilling beautiful youths delivering popular Bollywood numbers. In the tradition set some years ago, the Bhangra group led the audience to the outside grounds for a magnificent fireworks display lasting some ten minutes which shook the silent moonlit Waitakere evening with echo of the thundering noise emanating from multi-coloured sparkles that lit the very pleasant Saturday evening.

With the galore of some thirty craft and goods stalls and fifteen food stalls, people of all choices and tastes had a grand Diwali day experience. At the peak of events at around seven in the evening, the complex had some fifteen thousand people around the event while the rolling crowd during the day would have exceeded twenty five thousand.

That is the extent to which an icon of Waitakere City Council and that of Waitakere, still managed by a community group, Waitakere Indian Association, with blessing of its loyal supporters, were able to deliver a memorable and hugely successful event that reflected the diversity of New Zealand and gives the reason to the Super City why community based events should not only be encouraged, but emulated in other parts of Auckland.

This is an example where dedicated and successful community organisations, which appreciate their respective cultures and traditions, are best suited to organise such events in partnership with the local government which should allow the community to sit in the driver’s seat when organising such events. In this respect, Waitakere City Council had been a shining light in setting up a successful trend of community-local government partnership which the Super City needs to take on board.

Happy Diwali to all!

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a community worker associated with Waitakere Indian Association, and is a media student at AUT.

NOTE: Those who missed the Ram Lila at Waitakere Diwali can catch the action at the Auckland CBD Diwali at Aotea Centre, next to Auckland Town Hall on Sunday 31 October at 12 noon.

2 comments:

  1. Gyanesh, 1. November 2010, 19:58

    Lovely Perrformance !

     
  2. Harbance K. Minhaas (canada), 29. November 2010, 10:01

    Nice to see South Asian i.e Indian culture kept live and well so far from
    India—Awesome