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Festival enhances Hindu-Maori relations

Deepawali Festival takes Hindu-Maori relations to greater heights

Rotorua Deepawali Festival 2009 turns to be an important milestone for Hindu-Maori relations (whakawhanaungatanga).

A number of Maori cultural traditions such as karakia, powhiri, kapa haka will be performed on Saturday, 7th November 2009 to commemorate Deepawali (Festival of Lights) at Rotorua Energy Events Centre and Apumoana Marae.

Deepawali is a well known Hindu festival celebrated by Indian community all over the world.

“I have great admiration for the people of India. Learning of Dr Guna Magesan's desire to create a strong relationship between his people and my people I have captured "Rehua" to celebrate our journey of friendship” said Natanahira PONA, Rotorua’s Tohunga Whakairo (Master Carver).

Mr Pona graduated from the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute twenty years ago. In the years following he travelled extensively studying arts, crafts and culture of people of many Nations.

Mr Pona intends to release Rehua to Swami Vigyananand, coordinator of Civilisational Association of South & South-East Asia, representing Hindu community, at the opening ceremony of Rotorua Deepawali Festival 2009.

“Conceived in the discipline of studying distant Constellations, Rehua proclaims our shared respect for Nature. It encourages the forging of strong entrepreneurial and personal relationships. It manifests the sacred mantra of Om and the miracle of life and death” said John Marsh, JP, MBE a respected Kaumatua in Rotorua.

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The past, present and the future are all included in this one sound - "Om". Carving a symbol of Om and Sun in the Rehua means so much to our community. The Sun is described as the soul of the universe, representing the life-force on earth which sustains everything. His is the energy of confidence and power, consistency and inspiration.

Kaumatua John Marsh will do the karakia and blessing in the official opening programme. He will also lead a special powhiri (traditional Maori welcome) in the afternoon at Apumoana Marae for some of our guests from Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Taupo, Palmerston North and Wellington. This will include Hindu elders, young people and artists, with many staying on the Marae.

Hindu Council of New Zealand has been working with Maori community since 1997 through a number of Maori Elders. All our official functions start with a karakia (blessing) by a Kaumatua. In Rotorua, we have worked closely with Maori Elders namely Napi Waaka, late Hapi Winiata, Mita Mohi, late Ben Hona, Trevor Maxwell (deputy Mayor), and John Marsh. In 2002, we even released a book in Rotorua on “Similarities between Indo-Maori cultures” edited by International Centre for Cultural Studies.

Similarly, we have worked with Maori Elders in other centres including Haare Williams (Manukau), late Haare Puke (Tainui, Hamilton).

Last year New Zealand Hindu conference was inaugurated by respected Te Arikinui King Tuheitia, the Maori king. That was a landmark in the history of New Zealand and race relations.

This year, carving of Rehua for our community is another landmark. This is a big leap in Hindu-Maori relations.

“We are really humbled and honoured by the Maori community’s gesture of carving a special Rehua for our community” said Dr Guna Magesan, the coordinator of Rotorua Deepawali Festival and General Secretary of Hindu Council of New Zealand.

“The respect and relations that we have built over the years have brought us close to the Maori community”.

We have been organising regular Marae stay for our community people to learn, understand and experience Maori culture and customs.

Over the years, it has become a popular programme, and more and more people are interested in participating in Marae stay. This is definitely a welcome sign.

We look forward to seeing your family and friends at the Rotorua Deepawali Festival 2009 on Saturday, 7 November 2009 at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre. In Rotorua, it is a smoke-free, alcohol-free and meat-free festival with FREE entry to the public.


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