Diwali: the festival of light that symbolizes the victory of good over evil


Photo by Saira Hayre

Surrey is in full fledged festivities as it celebrates Diwali on Oct. 26 at the Laxmi Narayan Temple, which is hosting a prayer ceremony where kids will sing cultural songs and fireworks will light the skies at 8:30 p.m.

Considered to be one of the most important Indian festivals of the year, Diwali, is more than just a time to eat good food, wear new clothes and exchange gifts.  In fact, it’s a festival that has a deep religious significance for people of the Hindu and Sikh faiths – who celebrate the occasion for different reasons.  Despite these differences however, there is a common theme that resonates between both the religions on this day: the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.

Indeed, from the Hindu perspective, Diwali marks the beginning of a new year and is celebrated as the day when Lord Rama, a God incarnate, returned to his kingdom of Ayodhya, along with his wife and brother, after 14 years of exile.

“When he [Ram] was coming back, it was a celebration because he was coming back to claim his kingdom and taking his rightful place as king after spending 14 years in the jungle,” explains Junita Thakorlal, board member of the Gujarati Society of British Columbia (GSBC).

Thakorlal, who was born and raised in Vancouver, adds that although Diwali is a single day event, there are a series of smaller events that lead up to the day itself.

One such event, celebrated by Gujarati-Hindus like Thakorlal, is called Dhanteras during which devotees wash and offer their gold and valuables to the goddess of wealth in order to receive blessings for the upcoming new year.

This goddess, called Lakshmi, is also worshipped on the day of Diwali.

“[Diwali signifies] the year end for the business people in India [so] they close their books and worship Lakshmi, who is the goddess of money,” says Vinay Sharma, general secretary of the Laxmi Narayan Temple in Surrey.

He adds that besides offering prayers to the goddess on the evening of Diwali, the temple in Surrey will conclude the reading of the Ramayana, which is the Hindu holy book depicting the life of Lord Ram.

According to Sharma, the reading was started prior to Diwali in order to remind people about Lord Ram and inspire them to emulate him and his positive qualities.

“He was a person with discipline [and] honour…he obeyed his father…[and] as a king, he did everything for the public…he [also fought against and] killed the demons on earth.”

One of the demons that Sharma is alluding to, is Ravana, who was killed by Lord Ram shortly before his return to Ayodhya. In a tradition that continues up to this day, his people celebrated his arrival by lighting candles in little clay pots called divas.

In a similar style, Sikhs also lit divas leading up to the Golden Temple, on a Diwali night when their sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Ji reached the Indian city of Amristar, a few days after being released from prison along with 52 kings. While the guru, who was held captive by an emperor called Jahangir, was allowed to leave, a condition was put before him to release the remaining prisoners.

“He [the king] said well, only those [who] can hold on to the coat tail of your outfit [can leave with you],” explains Opreet Kang, co-chair of the Diwali Celebration Society in Vancouver.

According to Kang, this is when the guru devised a plan.  He added 52 pieces of string to his outfit whereby each prisoner could easily hold on to a piece and leave along with him.

To commemorate this significant event, which is called Bandi Chorh Diwas, even today, Sikhs, just like Hindus, light divas during Diwali–albeit for different reasons. Similarly people of both religions, distribute sweets and prepare and share lots of food to celebrate this occasion.

Kang says that while Diwali celebrations are more prominent in India, annual festivals such as Vancouver Celebrates Diwali–which puts together a series of Diwali related events before the actual day–make it easier for South Asians to come out and mark the occasion.

Thakorlal agrees and adds that even after the actual day, Diwali celebrations will continue when the GSBC will put together its annual Diwali show.

This show, which will be held on Nov. 11 at the Red Robinson Theatre, will feature performances by youth and seniors.

“[Diwali sends] a universal message…good over evil, happiness over sadness, and light over darkness…[and] that’s why it resonates so largely within India, and that’s [also] why its transitioned into Vancouver life as well.  Everyone can relate to it [because] everyone wants to get together and just enjoy [with] their family and friends,” says Kang.

One thought on “Diwali: the festival of light that symbolizes the victory of good over evil

  1. Diwali is a great festival of all communities specially in these countries. First time even Canadian Govt. printed postal stamps.We are all honored at this auspicious festival.
    These festivals play a great role in our daily life.The festivals bring peace,tolerence,unity and a strong relationship among people of all communities.
    We should educate our children about all our festivals.These festivals are the life lines of our lives.When we are away from them we suffer.
    We wish all of you a very very happy and prosperous Diwali.

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