Fireworks lit up the skies over New Zealand’s biggest city as the country started Diwali festivities on Saturday - the first of three weekend celebrations in the country's three biggest cities.
Thousands packed down-town Auckland for two days of colourful celebrations as the city’s main thorough-fare Queen Street was transformed into an Indian bazaar, with over 800 performers, food stalls and a pop-up cricket pitch.
New Zealand’s largest annual ethnic gathering was also a timely reminder that India and New Zealand are about to share in a very different kind of festivity during ICC Cricket World Cup in February 2015.
Kiwi cricketing hero and Ambassador for ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Sir Richard Hadlee, was on hand in Auckland to join in celebrations and give festival goers a few tips on their fast-bowling.
“It’s exciting to see the way that Diwali is celebrated here in Auckland. It’s definitely one of the most colourful festivals on the calendar and a real celebration of our cultural diversity as it brings together Indian and Kiwi culture. I’m looking forward to more of that next year as we come together on the cricket field for the ICC Cricket World Cup – that’s the other kind of festival that Kiwis and Indians love to share."
Auckland is one of seven New Zealand host cities for the cricket tournament. New Zealand is co-hosting the major international sporting event with Australia.
Diwali celebrations in Wellington and Christchurch
Meanwhile further south, two more celebrations are planned in Wellington and Christchurch.
Wellington - New Zealand’s capital city - will host a lively Diwali festival on Sunday (19 October) along the picturesque downtown waterfront - a popular leisure precinct of restaurants, bars and cafes, and all within walking distance of the Basin Reserve, Wellington’s iconic home of cricket.
Finally, the city of Christchurch is also soon to transform into Little India with its own Diwali festival on 25 October.
The South Island’s most colourful ethnic festival will deliver a vibrant celebration of culture, diversity and family fun. The festival will take place not far from the historic Hagley Oval which will host the opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 (14.2.2015).
New Zealand is classed as one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, and New Zealand's Indian population at 155,000 (or 3.9% of the population) is among the five largest ethnic groups to call New Zealand home. There are around 90,000 people who identify as Hindu in New Zealand.