26 Oct 2020

Plea to make Diwali a public holiday

10:45 am on 26 October 2020

An international Hindu group is calling for Diwali to be made a public holiday in New Zealand starting from 2022.

Diwali Festival of Lights

The Hindu community does not want to be at school or work for its most popular festival, one of its leaders says. (file pic) Photo: Supplied / Wellington City Council

Universal Society of Hinduism president Rajan Zed, who is based in the US, said that the government needs to revisit its public holiday policies as the country's demography has changed.*

He said it's unfair for the Hindu community to be at work or school on their most popular festival and making it a public holiday would be a "a step in the positive direction".

Zed said that awareness about other religions created by such holidays like Diwali would strengthen cohesion and unity in the country.

This year's Diwali falls on Saturday, 14 November. In 2022, Diwali falls on Monday, 24 October.

Wellington is celebrating the festival from 3pm today at the city's waterfront with food, music and dance and arts. However, Wellington City Council says a planned firework display has been delayed until 8.30pm tomorrow due to forecast high winds in the capital.

On the other hand, Murali Kumar, event producer at Communities Action Trust which organises the Wellington event, said he was not thinking about make Diwali a public holiday.

"We've got a great festival once a year, where the council in Auckland as well as in Wellington, local authorities and different communities come together celebrating Diwali, so this is really a good indication of how important this festival is ... I think that's where we need to focus and develop on," he said.

Diwali Festival of Lights

The capital has plenty to offer at today's Diwali celebrations. (file pic) Photo: Supplied / Wellington City Council

Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is the biggest, most popular and vibrant cultural celebration for Wellington's local Indian and South East Asian communities.

The lighting of lamps at this ancient festival symbolises the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and the renewal of life.

* This story has been updated on 26 October to clarify the group is based in the US.

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