Hindu Maori fusion captures hearts of Rotorua

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Hindu Maori fusion at the Deepawali Festival captured the hearts of Rotorua public. From karakia to powhiri, from Haka to carving, from Mehndi Moko workshop to Poi demonstration all happened at the Rotorua Deepawali Festival on Saturday, 2nd October 2010 at the Energy Events Centre.

In addition, experience and understanding of Maori culture by Hindu community during their stay at the Apumoana Marae, Hindu-Maori fusion dance by Anujay school of Dance and Master of Ceremony by Shaloh Mitchell (Ngati Whakaue descent) were some of the highlights of Maori involvement in the festival.

The focus of Rotorua Deepawali Festival 2010 was youth participation and leadership. This years committee had young and upcoming Hindu and Maori leaders. The youngest member of the committee was only 16 years of age.

More than 4000 people from both Rotorua and out of town celebrated this unique smoke-free, alcohol-free and meat-free festival. People came from Auckland, Hamilton, Taupo, Tauranga, Whakatane, Taumarunui and Wellington.

Rotorua public have started recognising this Hindu festival as their own community festival. People from various cultures, nationalities, ethnic groups and faiths participated in this festival. For the first time, Rotorua Chinese community performed their traditional dances at the festival.

The Rotorua Deepawali Festival 2010 was officially opened by Todd McClay (Member of Parliament representing Rotorua) by lighting the lamp following a traditional Maori welcome performed by Ngati Whakaue. Sailesh Patel (Chairperson, Rotorua Deepawali Festival committee) welcomed the gathering at the opening ceremony. Best wishes messages were given by Dev Nadkarni (Editor in Chief, Indian Weekender), Pravin Patel (Patron, Hindu Elders Foundation), Stephen Jones (Coordinator, Friends of India Society) and Selva Ramasamy (Secretary, Wellington Muththamizh Sangam). The Master of Ceremony for the opening ceremony was Bhavisha Daya, and vote of thanks was given by Praneita Narayan, joint secretary of the festival committee.

Following the opening ceremony there were various workshops such as health benefits of Indian cooking spices, roti making demonstration, Maori cooking, Poi making, bollywood and belly dancing interactive workshops, and demonstrations of Surya Namaskar for yogathon. All the workshops were very popular. The food stalls were supported by local and out of town Indian restaurants. Many Rotorua public got to experience a variety of Indian vegetarian dishes.

A number of young women, led by Roshni Patel and Gina Wright, raised some funds with their Mehndi skills and donated the collection to Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation one teacher schools (www.ekal.org).

Natanahira Te Pona and Tane Singh-Lagah, Rotoruas Tohunga Whakairo (master carvers) had a Whakairo demonstration while Riria McDonald conducted Poi demonstration during the festival.

A special powhiri (traditional Maori welcome) was organised at Apumoana Marae for guests from other towns. Kaumatua John Marsh from Rotorua led the Hindu community during the powhiri and Pravin Patel, and Sridhara Mysore spoke on Hindu Elders behalf. Following this Maori welcome ceremony, participants shared dinner with the Maori Elders. The food was prepared by Savita Ben and her team of volunteers. This is the seventh year that Hindu Council of New Zealand had organised a Marae stay for the Indian community to learn, understand and experience Maori culture and customs.

A spectacular Indian cultural show was held at the Energy Events Centre from 6.30 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. Dr Meeta Patel, Festival Secretary and Central Secretary of Hindu Council of New Zealand, welcomed everyone on behalf of Rotorua Deepawali Festival committee. The cultural show started with a Maori dance performance by Mokoia Intermediate kapa haka group. Natraj School of Dance from Wellington, Anujay School of Dance, Nardhana Vidhyalaya, Padmas school of classical dance, Indiance dance group and Prabasee Bengalee Association from Auckland, Rotorua Chinese Association, Bellyvegas community dance group and Soul of Punjab dance group from Rotorua performed a variety of classical and folk dances entertaining the audience. Rhythm House from Auckland put on a spectacular fashion parade exhibiting elegant Indian clothing. Ramandeep Kaur sang a melodious song. All committee members were introduced on stage and thanked for their hard work, and for providing a unique and breath-taking event to the Rotorua community. Navneeth Nair thanked all sponsors for having confidence in the festival committee by providing financial support. He also thanked all who helped the festival in various ways. Dr Guna Magesan, festival coordinator and General Secretary of Hindu Council of New Zealand, announced the dates for Rotorua Holi and Deepawali festivals, 2011. Shaloh Mitchell and Ms Nitika Sharma were the master of ceremonies for the cultural show.

After the cultural show, everyone walked in a procession led by fire dancers to the Government Gardens for the concluding fireworks display at 9.30 pm. Fire dances and drum beats by Samblasta group got the people in the procession dancing to the rhythm.

Donation boxes were set up at daytime event to raise funds for Christchurch earthquake victims. The trauma of the earthquake and the psychological aftermath experienced by victims is likely to last for weeks or even months. The donations will be used towards organising free yoga and meditation classes by experienced teachers for the earthquake victims. These techniques will help to calm the mind and assist the victims in their recovery process.

The festival was proudly sponsored by Rotorua Trust, NZ Lottery Grants Board, Rotorua District Council, First Sovereign, The Southern Trust, COGS, Bay Trust, Creative Communities NZ Rotorua Scheme, and Asia NZ Foundation; and supported by Hindu Council of New Zealand, Settlement Support NZ, Friends of India Society, Rotorua Indian community, and other community organisations; Waiariki Institute of Technology, Rotorua Arts Village, and many businesses. ANZ Bank and Lotus FX came on board for the first time to sponsor through advertisements.

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