Do you wish to extend your appetite beyond your usual Indian takeaway order? Perhaps you are intrigued by the rhythmic dance moves which so often feature in Bollywood movies? Or maybe you need to learn some basic Hindi for a friend’s wedding in Mumbai? This week marks the celebration of Diwali. Here at Christchurch City Libraries we have many resources on offer to help you learn more about this auspicious occasion and displays and crafts on at libraries.
Diwali or dīpāvali, the festival of lights, is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs with the rising of the new moon at the end of the month, Ashvin. However, in a country as diverse as India, where people from many different faiths live side by side, the festival is not limited to one particular faith for it represents the victory of light over darkness and the triumph of wisdom over ignorance. Throughout cities and villages the darkness will be symbolically turned back. Clay lamps (diya) will be lit in homes and shops, fireworks will be released into the sky and the streets will be filled with music.
As a result of the Indian diaspora, the festival is now celebrated worldwide. The first Indians to settle in Christchurch arrived in the 1850s with Sir John Cracroft Wilson (though it is possible that Indians working on whaling ships may have visited the region at an earlier date). Although the number of migrants started to grow in the first half of the twentieth century, Diwali celebrations in Christchurch initially remained limited to small community and family events.
In recent years the Indian Social and Cultural Club (ISCC) has been responsible for bringing Diwali to the wider Christchurch community with their Diwali – Indian Festival of Lights event. The first public celebration was held in 2010 at Victoria Square. Since then the festival has been held at Horncastle Arena. Sponsored by Singapore Airlines, it has grown in size and variety. This year’s event is on Saturday 22 October, from 3 to 9pm.
For many, a highlight of the Christchurch event are the dance performances. Various local groups, from university student dance clubs to dance companies, whose performances range from traditional to Bollywood fusion, take part. Many of these groups spend months preparing their routines for the event.
Another draw card is the variety of food available. Tired of tikka masala? Then try street stall food such as pav bhaji and aloo chaat. Sweets are also an important part of Diwali. Make an effort to track down gulab jamun (dumplings soaked in a sugary rose water syrup), or barfi (sweetened milk mixed with pistachios and left to set).
While at the festival you will hear many different languages being spoken. In fact, there are 122 major languages and 1599 minor languages to be found in India. However, Christchurch City Libraries can prepare you for this challenge. All Christchurch City Libraries users are free to use Mango Languages to learn a range of Indian languages including Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
Christchurch City Libraries has prepared a list of selected titles, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as a selection of movies and audio CDs, which can offer an introduction to the vibrant cultures of India.