Members of Calgary’s Hindu community celebrated Diwali with food, song, dance, and most importantly a celebration of light.
The Rajasthan Association of North America’s Calgary branch (RANA) held their Diwali celebrations on Nov. 5 at the Polish Canadian Cultural Centre.
The goal, said the association’s president Daleep Shekhawat, was to showcase not only the culture of the Rajasthan state in India, but to “bring diversity in the cultural sphere of Canada, so that Canada also grows culturally.”
“You see the beautiful dresses, and you also see the beautiful dances, and I think it improves the cultural value of Canada as well,” he said.
Diwali is an important religious and cultural festival that is also known as the Festival of Lights.
“It’s related to our belief and our culture, and it is a basically a spiritual victory of light over darkness, and it’s coming together of the families.”
He said that the Diwali celebrations had become more prominent worldwide.
“This is one of the major festivals for East Indian community, and it’s celebrated all over—not only in India but Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan—wherever Hindu communities are there,” said Shekhawat.
“Now it’s also celebrated, like you might have seen recently, even in the U.S. where diyas were lit in the White House, and it so it is across the globe now basically.”
Family and community
Shekhawat said that the evening’s celebrations were a way of bringing families and the community together.
He said that the celebrations reflected the return of Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.
“That is why I said that this is a family coming together—after 14 years of coming back, all the citizens of that country at that time they celebrated this because they loved him so much,” he said.
“Everybody lit lamps, which he called diya, and that’s why it is a festival of light.”
Shekhawat said that RANA as an organization acts to keep the unique culture of Rajasthan alive, and to provide a place to connect for immigrants coming to Calgary from that region.
“If a new person is coming, they are generally lost coming to a new place, and they they certainly feel a support, emotional support here that somebody is here,” he said.
“We also like to do charity work for the Children’s Hospital and the food bank.”