Rotorua public got the opportunity to celebrate Holi – the Festival of Colours – on Sunday, 20th March 2011. Both children and adults enjoyed this festival; in particular playing with coloured powder and water which was the highlight of the festival.
This colourful festival, held at Rotorua Soundshell and Village Green, was organised by a committee comprising mainly of youths from various communities. The key objectives of the Holi festival were to encourage youth participation, nurture leadership skills, and educate youths to organise festivals at a community level.
The official festival started at 11.00am with the lighting of the diya (lamp) and a karakia (prayer) by Kaumatua (Maori elder) Mr. Eru George. Murali Magesan, one of the youths in the organising committee, welcomed the invited guests. This was followed by speeches from His Worship Mr. Kevin Winters (the Mayor of Rotorua), and Mr. Todd McClay (Member of Parliament representing Rotorua). Ms. Nitika Sharma representing Hindu Youth New Zealand invited Rotorua youth to the upcoming New Zealand Hindu Youth Conference to be held on 7-8 May 2011 at the Auckland University campus. Master of Ceremony for the opening ceremony was Dr Meeta Patel. Ms. Teilah Komene gave the vote of thanks.
The official welcome was followed by international cultural performances including Indian dances, traditional Chinese dances, belly dancing, Salsa, Zumba, singing and guitar performances. Indoor games of musical chairs, charades, and a quiz on New Zealand were held thereafter.
The highlight of the festival was the blending of people from all communities and races as they sprinkled each other with coloured powder and water at the Village Green, to the sounds of Holi folk songs and drum beats that supplemented the high spirit of revelry. The mixing of colours signified the coming together of people from different communities and background regardless of their dharma, faiths, ethnic and personal differences in the community spirit of Holi.
The Rotorua Holi Festival was a smoke-free, alcohol-free and meat-free festival with free entry to the public. The organising committee, comprised of representatives from the Indian, Fijian and Maori communities, namely: Praneita Narayan, Valencia Herbert, Murali Magesan, Deepika Magesan, Gabriella Wright and Navneet Nair, with guidance from Dr. Meeta Patel and Dr. Guna Magesan. Other volunteers included Tausese Lona, Teilah Komene, Pritika Sharma and Kirtesh Naicker from the Tokelauan, Maori and Fijian communities.
“Given the support this festival is receiving, it is not difficult to visualise the potential for the Holi Festival to become an annual youth festival in Rotorua” said Ms Praneita Narayan, the coordinator of this festival.
Sincere thanks and appreciation to the sponsors, Rotorua Civic Arts Trust and supporting media organisations such as Radio Network, Maori TV, TV Rotorua, Daily Post, The Indian Weekender and Tangata Whenua.com for supporting the Rotorua Holi Festival.
General Secretary of Hindu Council of New Zealand Dr Guna Magesan said it was good to see that youth from both Hindu Maori communities coming together to take Hindu-Maori relations (whakawhanaungatanga) a step further.
Hindu Council of New Zealand has always given importance for building whakawhanaungatanga not only in Rotorua but also in other cities. For example, the Second Wellington Region Hindu Conference will be organised at Arohanui ki te Tangata Marae (Waiwhetu Marae), Lower Hutt on Saturday, 9 April 2011, with Maori elder Mr. Te Rira Puketapu leading the ceremonies. The theme of the conference is “Hindu-Maori Perspectives on Holistic Health: from Individual and Whanau to Community”. The strong parallel between Hindu Dharma’s spirit of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (world is one family) and the vision of Arohanui ki te Tangata (goodwill to all men) will be evident there.