The festival of lights

Indian celebration brings various cultural and religious communities together

Derived from the Sanskrit word dīpāvali meaning "row of lights,” Diwali is a five-day spiritual event that begins on Oct. 25. The event’s pre-celebration on Oct. 11 at the Punjab Cultural Centre promises to be culturally encapsulating.

Director of Tashan Entertainment and Diwali’s event organizer Sunny Singh says, “this will be a small Folkarama of Indian culture.”

“This event is not just (for) Punjabis and Sikhs but will try to represent India as a whole.”

For Hindus, Diwali commemorates King Rama’s return to Ayodhya from a 14-year exile to defeat Ravana’s army.

In Jainism, the event highlights when Lord Mahavir, the last Tirthankara in Jainism, obtains freedom from the reincarnation cycle.

Sikhs celebrate Diwali, as it marks the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, being released from prison along with 52 princes in 1619.

In all these religions, Diwali celebrates harmony, peace and success, and the event provides a space for both Indians and non-Indians to come together as a community.

Featuring food stalls, henna booths, folk dancing, DJs and bouncing castles for children, Singh points out that Indian-organized cultural events like Diwali are open for all to attend.

“It does not matter where you are from, as long as you want to enjoy and learn about the various Indian cultures, you are invited,” he says.

Singh notes that events like these are important to help keep cultural traditions alive and approachable.

These events “are not telling people to absorb and accept our cultures,” he says. “Rather, the event showcases what (India) has to offer,” he says.

“You do not have to do the things we do, but if you like something, we would be happy to help you learn about our cultures.”

This event also provides an opportunity for people of Indian descent to reconnect with their cultures. Event organizer Sandeep Bhatti says young Indians born in Canada may not know about this historical event.

“They may go to their families to learn about this, but coming to this event gives them practical experience with the culture,” she says.

Along with building respect for other cultures, events like these help immigrants come out of their cultural shells.

“This is a symbol for immigrants who come to Canada and do not know how to live here,” Singh says. “They may still have inner cultural barriers, and events like these are good to help break these walls.”

This Diwali celebration takes place on Oct. 11 at the Punjab Cultural Centre located at 1770 King Edward St., and it runs from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. The entry fee is $10, and tickets can be purchased at the door.

Published in Volume 74, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 10, 2019)

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