Diwali veteran returns to 16th festival
The Auckland Diwali Festival has been crucial in keeping Rahul Chopra connected to his homeland.
The 27-year-old Mt Roskill resident has been involved with the event every year since its inception in 2002.
Having moved to New Zealand from New Delhi in India 15 years ago, Chopra says without Diwali he probably would have lost connection with his traditional culture.
‘‘I call New Zealand home … but my ethnicity is Indian, that’s where my roots are so I think it’s dancing and Diwali that has kept me in touch,’’ Chopra says.
‘‘It’s an important part of my identity I think, I can’t miss that.’’
The 27-year-old began performing in the festival when it first started out in small community halls.
It has now grown to become one of Auckland’s largest cultural festivals with around 30,000 attending each year.
‘‘It’s also spread from being an Indian ethnic thing, there’s probably more Kiwis and Europeans that come now because of the colour and the food,’’ Chopra says.
Having grown up as a performer in the event, Chopra has now taken on a role as mentor for the festivals’ younger performers, advising them on costume, music and choreography.
Many of the acts are based on music and dance from Bollywood, a cultural component Indian youth are heavily influenced by, he says ‘‘I feel the kids and the youth or teenagers involved, if they’re not doing this they might be doing something they shouldn’t be doing,’’ Chopra says.
‘‘I felt dance is a good way to stay fit and keep them learning a bit of soft skills … they’re learning team building, they’re learning a bit of confidence when they’re going on stage in front of 20-30,000 people.’’
The 2016 Auckland Diwali Festival takes place at Aotea Square and Queen Street from noon till 9pm on October 15 and 16.
A free event, it celebrates traditional and contemporary Indian culture, food, fashion and more.
International stars at the 2016 Auckland Diwali Festival include a film star performing traditional Kathak dances.
Chopra says he expects the festival to see over 50,000 people throughout the weekend.
Visit aucklandnz.com/diwali for more information and a full programme.
Rahul Chopra says the Auckland Diwali Festival has been vital in keeping him connected to his roots.