Diwali Festival of Lights 2015

Indian culture in all its diversity was celebrated last month with Diwali festivals in Auckland and Wellington.

Tens of thousands of people attended both festivals, which were held in Auckland's Civic Square and Wellington's TSB Arena. This is the 14th year the festivals have been held since they were first organised by the Foundation in 2002.

Watch a short video of Auckland Diwali

As well as hundreds of local performers, the crowds were entertained by two international acts the Foundation sponsored to come to New Zealand. They were folk-dance group Mudra Creation and a puppet troupe led by master puppeteer Mahipat Kavi.

Puppeteer Mahipat Kavi

Master puppeteer Mahipat Kavi has been bestowing life into puppets for more than 50 years—animating some of India’s favourite stories and entertaining and educating tens of thousands of people over the decades.

Watch a short video of Mahipat Kavi discussing his work

Kavi established his theatre company Puppets and Plays in Ahmedabad in 1975. The group has since produced puppet plays, puppet serials for television and educational puppet films on social issues such as family planning and the environment.

In a recent article, he described what distinguishes human drama from puppet drama:

“Fantasy is the element that distinguishes the two of them. Puppet drama must have fantasy as the basic aspect. No human drama can be directly played through puppets, and if played, it will not be interesting. This is because puppets are different from human beings. So, a script has to be puppetized, just as a story is dramatized.”

Kavi’s puppet performances include telling stories from a collection of ancient Indian animal stories called Panchtrantra and recreating a traditional folk-dance from the Gujurat region.

Mudra Creation

Mudra Creation is a dance company specialising in the folk dances of Maharashtra state, in India’s mid-west.

The group performs various Maharashtra dances but is best known for its lavani dance – a combination of traditional song and dance, performed to the beat of the dholak, a two-headed hand drum.

Based in Mumbai, Mudra Creation has toured extensively throughout India. Part of the group’s ethos is to promote traditional Indian dance forms. The group tours to remote areas, not only taking their traditional dance to communities but also researching regional variations of the dances they perform and incorporating them into their repertoire.

Mudra creation was interviewed by Lynda Chanwai-Earle for Radio New Zealand's Voices programme.

Members of Mudra Creation discuss performing at Auckland Diwali

As well as entertaining thousands at both festivals, Mudra Creation and Mahipat Kavi's puppet troupe took to the road and visited schools in Tauranga and Waikato. This not only gave students a taste of Indian culture but gave the performers a chance to see some of New Zealand. School's coordinator Sean O'Connor, who visited the schools with the performers, says they were particularly taken by Morrinsville's rural setting and the attentive students of the local primary school.  

Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival that is traditionally marked by families lighting lamps, candles and fireworks to symbolise the triumph of light over darkness, wisdom over ignorance and good over evil. This year is the 14th year that the Diwali Festival of Lights has been held in Wellington and Auckland.