Across Vancouver Island, members of the South Asian community are celebrating Diwali, the annual festival of lights.
Diwali, a national holiday across India, is celebrated by socializing and exchanging gifts with family and friends. Many light earthen oil lamps or candles, and fireworks are set off as part of the celebrations. In the evening, a special prayer is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to bring luck and prosperity.
Members of the Victoria Hindu Temple celebrate Diwali for five days, each one with its own significance. Day three falls on the official holiday, which changes yearly depending on the lunar calendar.
“It’s the victory of good over evil, it’s the victory of light over darkness, it’s the victory of knowledge over ignorance, so that is the spiritual significance of Diwali,” said Sridevi Ganti, Victoria Hindu Temple Public Relations Officer.
The holiday typically falls between mid-October and mid-November, with it officially being celebrated on the arrival of the new moon.
“It’s a 28-day cycle, so the month is advancing within 28 days and not 30 and 31. Like in the English calendar where we have a leap day every four years, we have a leap month happening every three, three and a half years where there’s an extra month,” said Ganti.
Candles are lit up, sparklers and fireworks are used, and food and sweets are handed out.
“It’s basically a community-wide dinner, gathering, and some music, dance, and all that. We got sold out like three days ago. The Comox Valley has given a lot of love and a lot of support to us,” said Ash Mandrela.
Mandrela, a member of the Comox Valley Society for Diversity and Cultural Awareness, says this holiday isn’t just exclusive to the South Asian community and that all are welcome to join in.
“In south India, it’s celebrated entirely differently…because India is so diverse the whole thing cannot be said like ‘I have my definition of Diwali.’ Some might have their definition of Diwali, but the summary is the same: bringing people together, standing for their rights, unity, love, kindness, sacrifice,” said Mandrela.
His group focuses on creating events where all are welcome to join. He plans on hosting a Christmas event in December for those who celebrate it.
But for Diwali, he is only celebrating it today and has rented out the Native Sons Hall in Courtenay, where politicians, First Nations members, and members of the South Asian community will be offered food, drinks, and music for the holiday.
The event is open to the public between 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Native Sons Hall at 360 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay.
The Victoria Hindu temple is hosting a Diwali celebration at 1934 Cultra Ave. in Saanichton from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
-with files from The Associated Press