Even though limited availability of venue dictated preceding the celebrations by almost 20 days [Holi falls on March 23 this year], over 2000 people - Indians and non-Indians alike – ensured that the Garden City was second to none in colouring itself in the Holi [the Indian festival of colours] spirits on March 5 at The Commons in Christchurch's CBD.
Hitesh Sharma, co-partner in Revel Events - a Christchurch based event management company which has been organizing the holi celebrations in the Garden City since 2014 shared his joy, "It started with a simple idea to create an afternoon full of colours for the Indian community living in Christchurch. Showcasing our culture to the wider community in general was also the aim but as a side note. Now when I see that almost 70 percent of those who attended the celebration on Saturday were non-Indians, I am very pleasantly surprised. It shows that Kiwis are ready to embrace other cultures and experience the diversity of the human race.”
Raju Sampat, owner of one of the biggest Indian supermarkets in Christchurch and principal sponsor of the event informed that over 1500 kgs of colours were specially imported from India for the event. “We feel very proud to be a part of such a joyous festival which brings everybody together with a spirit of bonhomie and brotherhood. Next year, we will try to even bigger and better.”
Sandeep Khanna, Creative Director and co-partner at Revel Events added, “Apart for a slew of colours, we had three cultural performances including by the S2C, Hip Hop Group and Tahuko Group. There was also a colour countdown, followed by the matki phod competition which saw participation from three teams. Various holi-themed delicacies including dhabeli and colourful ice-creams were sold by multi-cuisine food trucks too.”
The excitement was so huge that Michelle Kramer, a doctorate student in the chemical engineering department of the University of Canterbury who moved to New Zealand almost six months back and had her first brush with holi on Saturday, can't wait for the second experience. “When I saw the advert of the event few days back, I had no idea what to expect. So I came with no expectation. But now! So much colour, such energy, and such good music. Holi – the festival of colours, is a strong contender to become one of my favourite festivals,” she quipped.
Jeet Gadhavi, team leader of a group of volunteers from a Christchurch-based Gujarati youth group Youngistan, experienced similar emotions. “We all miss the festive atmosphere of holi which we have back home so much, that we had to be a part of this celebration. At least for an afternoon, we were able to create a mini-India in the heart of Christchurch city, for all its residents to enjoy and celebrate with us,” he concluded.
Christchurch's Mayor Lianne Dalziel who also attended the festival noted that it is multi-cultural festivals like holi, which truly represent the changing face of a multi-cultural New Zealand in general, and Christchurch in particular.