Every winter before the Christmas rush, millions of people celebrate another time-honoured holiday: Diwali, the festival of lights. Diwali is one of the biggest South Asian holidays of the year and occurs in October/November for two-to-five days. Here are some things to know about Diwali and how to celebrate it in Calgary.
Good Triumphs Over Evil
Diwali is a celebration of two Hindu mythologies: Dhanteras and Naraka Chaturthi, the names of the first and second day of the holiday, respectively. In each story, a god (Hinduism is a polytheistic religion) restores happiness and prosperity back to a community by slaying demons.
Each day of Diwali is reserved for specific practices. The first two days are for cleaning your home and yourself, dressing in new clothes and jewellery, and performing puja (prayer) at your local mandir (temple). On day three, the main day of Diwali, families pray at home to the goddess of good fortune, Lakshmi. The last two days are set aside for quality time with your partner and siblings.
Diwali is a colourful and celebratory religious event. During the festival people set off firecrackers, decorate their homes with rangolis (intricate floral designs made with coloured powder or rice) and light hundreds of diyas, small, clay lamps filled with ghee or oil and a wick.
While firecrackers are restricted in Calgary, the Sanatan Hindu Cultural Society (SHCS) hosts prayers, gatherings and performances every Diwali, (with the exception of 2020). This year, Diwali celebrations are set to happen in the SHCS’s newly relocated mandir and community space in the city’s northeast, where you can also find snacks, sweets, clothing, jewellery and more from an assortment of South Asian grocery and clothing stores.