The Diwali season is here — five days of food, festivity, fireworks, friends, family and worship. For Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world these sacred days are not only a time of celebration and consumption, but one of reflection.
Diwali, is an auspicious religious festival celebrated by the Hindus, Sikhs and Jains with great enthusiasm and excitement that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. Spectacular lights, firecrackers, mouth-watering traditional sweets and sending gifts to dear ones mark the celebration of Diwali or Deepavali (Sanskrit language). The Sanskrit translation of Deepavali means row of lights. The Hindus celebrate this festival to commemorate the homecoming of Lord Rama after 14 year-long exile and his victory over the mythological demon Ravana. For Jains, this festival carries the essence of spiritual upliftment because it marks the achievement of Nirvana or Moksha by Mahavira, the last Tirthankara. The Sikhs observe Diwali as the release and return of Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth guru, and other 52 princes in 1619 by decorating the Golden Temple with colourful lights.
Ahead of his India visit on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined the Indo-Canadians at the 12th Annual National Diwali Celebration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to honour the Festival of Lights. “This National Diwali Celebration, now in its 12th year, spreads goodwill between cultures and reinforces the close friendship between India and Canada,” the Prime Minister said in a statement on Thursday. He highlighted the Indo-Canadian community’s contributions to Canada during a Diwali celebration on Parliament Hill. “This national Diwali celebration, now in its 12th year, spreads goodwill between cultures and reinforces the close friendship between India and Canada,” he said. “With nearly one million Indo-Canadians living in Canada today, we are all very grateful for their contributions to our country and look forward to celebrating this festival honouring their culture.”
Canada has a unique multicultural facet to it– where every festival is celebrated with equal excitement. “Diwali, or the ‘Festival of Lights,’ illuminates the universal hope of all people for the renewal of life and the triumph of good over evil,” the Prime Minister reportedly said. “This is a journey that resonates with all Canadians and binds us together in our faith, dreams and aspirations for the future.”
We asked Helene Papadopoulos, a LINC teacher, about her idea of the Indian festival. “Diwali forms one of the fall festivals. We do recognize Diwali along with other prominent festivals of the season. In fact, we have a fall festival party every year in the month of November. Besides this, fall festivals are part of our curriculum too. We celebrate our cultural diversity by teaching our students about various festivals – that include Christmas, Eid, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Diwali or Christmas. We also ask our students to give presentations on various festivals,” she said.
Indo-Canadians have a variety of experiences celebrating the festival here. Sania Patel, living in Brampton for the past 10 years, said, “We can’t really light clay lamps outside as it’s all wooden but make it a point to visit either the Hindu Sabha temple or Ram Mandir for Lakshmi puja.” She mentioned the various cultural get-togethers that take place on the occasion of diwali – the latest one at Pearson Convention Center. “But the tickets tend to be costlier as the festival approaches. Moreover, we can’t really burst crackers as it’s not allowed except on the Diwali day.”
Said Surinder Singh, 60, who came to Canada about 15 years ago, “I don’t feel it’s the same Diwali here. In India, around Diwali, the markets and roads are decorated and there are different kinds of crackers available in the market. The festivity is hard to miss; distribution of sweets and gifts starts at least a month in advance. We do celebrate the festival, but it’s more of a westernized one,” he laughs.
For most Hindus, away from their homeland, the festival starts with wishing all near and dear ones, cleaning up their houses and Lakshmi Pujan at the end of the day. Said Deepak Shah, who works with a pharmacy, “I hope a day comes when our employers ask us to take a day off because it’s Diwali.”
When is Diwali in 2012? In India, people will celebrate Diwali 2012 on November 13 with great fervor and bursting firecrackers throughout the night. Diwali is one of the major religious festivals in Hinduism, lasting for five days from the 13th day of the dark half of the lunar month Ashvina to the second day of the light half of Karttika. (The corresponding dates in the Gregorian calendar usually fall in late October and November.) The name is derived from the Sanskrit term dipavali meaning “row of lights,” which are lit on the new-moon night to bid the presence of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. In Bengal, however, the goddess Kali is worshiped, and in north India the festival also celebrates the return of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman to the city of Ayodhya, where Rama’s rule of righteousness would commence.
During the festival, small earthenware lamps filled with oil are lighted and placed in rows along the parapets of temples and houses and set adrift on rivers and streams. The fourth day—the main Diwali festival day and the beginning of the lunar month of Karttika—marks the beginning of the new year according to the Vikrama calendar. Merchants perform religious ceremonies and open new account books. It is generally a time for visiting, exchanging gifts, cleaning and decorating houses, feasting, setting off fireworks displays, and wearing new clothes. Gambling is encouraged during this season as a way of ensuring good luck for the coming year and in remembrance of the games of dice played by the Lord Shiva and Parvati on Mount Kailasa or similar contests between Radha and Krishna. Ritually, in honour of Lakshmi, the female player always wins.
Five days of celebrations include:
DAY 1 – Dhun Teras
‘Dhun’ means wealth. In their homes, people literally wash coins in milk and water and worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
DAY 2 – Kali Chaudas
People offer Nived (food) to the goddess that is local to where they are originally from. This goddess is called their ‘Kul Devi’, in order to cast off evil spirits.
DAY 3 – Diwali
Diwali is the last day of the Hindu year and thus also the end of the Hindu financial year. Many businessmen close their account books and do rituals to open their new account books for the next financial year, in order to gain prosperity in the next financial year.
DAY 4 – New Year’s Day
The new cycle of days now starts with Bestu Varush or New Year’s Day. Everybody greets each other with good wishes and a happy new year, ‘Saal Mubarak’.
DAY 5 – Bhai Duuj
Sisters call their brothers and his family to their homes for a meal. Brothers normally take a gift or leave money under their plates when they have finished their meal.
Pakistani and Indian forces exchange sweets at the border
Indian and Pakistani border guards exchanged sweets at the Attari- Wagah border post to mark the Hindu Diwali festival, according to media reports on Wednesday. Indian Border Security Force BSF officials presented sweets to their counterparts , the Sutlej Rangers at the zero line of border post, about 30km from here. Pakistanis returned the favour, presenting their Indian counterparts with sweets as well. The border post, the only official land route between India & Pakistan in Punjab sector, is otherwise popular for daily morning and evening flag hoisting and retreating ceremonies staged by BSF and Sutlej Rangers guards.
Name: Diwali Dhamaka 2012
Date: Saturday, November 10th, 2012
Venue: Sagan Banquet Hall, 7180 Edwards Blvd., Mississauga, Ontario, L5S 1Z1
Hosted by: KC Group
Website : www.kcgrouponline.com
Name: Diwali Celebrations & Govardhan Puja
Date: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
Venue: Unit 19, 20, 21, 1030 Kamato Road, Mississauga, Ontario, L4W 4B6
Hosted by: ISKCON Brampton
Name: Diwali Celebration
Date: Saturday, November 17, 2012
Time: 3 pm to 7 pm
Venue: Hindu Sabha, 9225 The Gore Road, Brampton, Ontario L6P 0B6