A Brief Introduction to Deepavali in Calgary
If you’ve heard of Deepavali (or Diwali), but aren’t exactly sure what it is, here are some basics that you need to know.
Last year’s RANA Deepavali celebrations.
Photograph courtesy of RANA
Between mid-October and mid-November every year, most Indians, including Hindu, Sikh and Jain populations, celebrate Deepavali. This year, Deepavali falls on November 11.
We asked Udita Jain, a director of the Rajasthan Association of North America (RANA Calgary), to explain what Deepavali is and how it’s celebrated in Calgary. (RANA Calgary’s celebration is on November 21 at the Genesis Centre this year.)
What is Deepavali?
Deepavali comes from a Hindu myth that celebrates a king’s return from exile and his defeat of a demon. According to Jain, the festival is a celebration of light, of good over evil and a time to strengthen family bonds.
“Deepavali is the real name of the festival, but many people say Diwali for short,” says Jain.
The traditions, food and decorations
Traditionally, Deepavali begins with puja – worshipping gods and goddesses – in the home. “People make homemade sweets, particularly laddoo [sweet balls of dough] and kaju barfi [a sweet cashew dessert],” says Jain. “We visit family and friends, and take the sweets to their houses.”
Everyone buys new clothes to wear on that day, and homes are decorated with lights. “We use modern lights to decorate our homes, as well as the traditional diya, which is like a candle,” says Jain. “In India, families will also light firecrackers.”
RANA’s Deepavali celebration
Each year, multiple cultural organizations in the city arrange their own Deepavali celebrations. RANA is one of more than 10 such organizations in Calgary. “Our event is attended by more than 500 people,” says Jain. “We have lots of performances – traditional, as well as modern, Bollywood-style performances – dinner and an open dance floor.”
Here in Calgary, Deepavali is usually celebrated on just one day. In India, Jain says, the preparations and the festival of lights can run for up to a week.
For more information about RANA Calgary or its Deepavali celebration on November 21, visit ranacalgary.ca.