Celebrations are underway in the Hindu five-day festival of lights that kicked off earlier this week.
“We light up candles everywhere,” said Sridevi Ganti, public relations officer at the Victoria Hindu Temple. “We light up diyas, which are oil lamps, all around the house and in the evening we meet with friends and we have sparklers and fireworks. [We go] from house to house exchanging sweets and little gifts.”
The most significant day during the festival is Diwali and it falls on Thursday, Nov. 4 this year. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, but each religion has its own reason for marking the occasion.
“In Sikhism, we call it Bandi Chhor Divas, which is another word for it,” said Gurinder Banwait, who is a member of Sikh Youth of Victoria.
It commemorates the day the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, was released from Gwalior Fort, where he was being held in prison, Banwait explained.
“He [also] got out another 52 political prisoners so that’s why we celebrate it and it’s very, very important for us,” he added.
To celebrate the occasion, Banwait says, Sikhs go to the gurdwara and put out lamps and candles.
The Diwali theme of good triumphing over evil and light winning over darkness is shared through the different religions, even though their reasons for marking the day may be different, Ganti explained.
“There was this Lord Ram who killed a demon at one point in the scriptures and when he returned to his kingdom, people were happy to have him back and people lit lights all over the city,” said Ganti.
In the past, those celebrating the festival on the Island have come together to put on a large cultural show. But this year, that’s not happening because of the pandemic.
“We want a packed stadium, we want a packed auditorium with people,” Ganti explained. “So we thought maybe doing it virtually will be safer for everyone [for now].”
On each day of the festival, a video will be posted on social media in a virtual Diwali celebration, showcasing dancers, singers, musicians and even fashionistas.
Ganti says next year, she hopes the Diwali celebrations will return to the big stage, so everyone can enjoy the festivities together.