Diwali is celebrated around the world, and is the biggest, brightest and most popular event in the Indian calendar. The word Diwali translates to “row of lighted lamps.” Light symbolizes good over evil, prosperity over poverty, and knowledge over ignorance. Diyas are oil lamps typically made out of clay and prominently used in India as part of the festival. Rangoli is an art form associated with Diwali, originating in India. Patterns are created on the floor or the ground using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals. Rangoli is decoration, and it is thought to bring good luck.

Diwali, also spelled Divali, is celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, and some Buddhists. The origin of Diwali in the religion of Hinduism is described as the commemoration of the return of Lord Rama, (along with Sita and Lakshman) from his 14 year-long exile and vanquishment of the demon king Ravana. Upon their return, the city was lit up with lights to celebrate, specifically oil lamps.

This year, the Diwali celebrations culminated on Wednesday, November 7. The festivities last five days and are celebrated by many cultures. Some people and families have different reasons for celebrating Diwali however, and it has a different meaning for everyone. “My family always celebrated it,” said Riverside teacher, Mr. Arun Angl. “It is a good reason for us to get together, be with family and to celebrate a new year.” Angl is Hindu, so he and his family celebrate a different side of Diwali than another religion might. Riverside counselor, Mrs. Bindy Johal is Sikh, so she celebrates Diwali slightly different than Angl does. “We sometimes go to the temple, and light candles there, but we were really busy so we celebrated it at the house this year,” said Johal. “I celebrate it because it is part of my heritage and it was something I was raised with. I really love the meaning of it as well; I love that it is a celebration of light and hope.”

Grade 12 Riverside student, Manroop Thandi celebrates Diwali for the same reason Johal and Angl do. “It’s been a holiday my family has celebrated for years. It means a lot to my family because it is a time where everyone comes to celebrate and have fun,” said Thandi. She also looks forward to the fireworks that she and her family partake in as part of their tradition. Being a Punjabi Sikh, Thandi and her family celebrate on one day, rather than five days, as Angl and his family do. One of the things Sikhism and Hinduism have in common are the festivities that they take part in. Both religions go all out in creating a feast with lots of treats and sweets (such as Pakora and Jalebi) to eat for the whole family to enjoy. Both religions also value family time greatly, and for families who don’t see each other often, Diwali is a great way to bring them together.

Diwali Fest is a festival that was created in 2004 in Vancouver and has grown to become one of the largest Diwali events in the Lower Mainland. It started out with volunteers participating to celebrate the festival of a fast-growing Indian population to a professionally-staffed event that is widely celebrated in the city of Vancouver. Diwali Fest draws in different cultures from different communities to promote cultural understanding. It’s also a great excuse to eat traditional, delicious Indian food!