By Rahul Bhattarai
Thousands have gathered in Tāmaki Makaurau-Auckland to celebrate Nepali culture and identity over the weekend as the migrant community in the city continues to grow.
The event, which would have been held in a community hall before, moved to the heart of Tāmaki Makaurau-Auckland three years ago.
"We have been celebrating this event at Aotea Square since 2018 in order to reach the wider New Zealand public to spread awareness about Nepali culture, New Zealand Nepal Society president and the co-organiser of the event, Santosh Bhandari said.
The festival featured ethnic Nepali dances, music, ethnic food stalls, souvenir shops, and showcased Nepali artifacts.
It has been held every year since 1995 to welcome in the Nepali New Year, which generally falls sometime between March to April.
"Due to the uncertainty posed by Covid-19 we thought there wouldn't be many people here, but we are happy with people's participation," Bhandari said.
He was expecting the event to become bigger in future.
Although Stats NZ figures show the Nepali population living in Aotearoa stands at 3630 in 2018, the recent arrival of international students from Nepal may have increased that number significantly.
Hamilton resident Bhupendra Bhattarai drove to Auckland to attend the event, returning back the same day. "It's a really big festival, and I came here to celebrate the event with my friends," he said.
The National Party spokesperson for Ethnic Communities, Melissa Lee, said she was here to support the Nepali community and encourage younger generations to keep up with their culture. She also said it was important to learn from different cultures.
"It actually shows people [that] there are different cultures in New Zealand," she said.
"I think the issue is that, I wish there were more people of different diversity, different ethnicity, and different age groups come to these festivals to celebrate together, so that we can all learn about each other," she said.