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Victory of light over darkness: Diwali celebrations light up the night in Saanich

Many Indian religions and cultures observed annual celebration
Families took part in celebrations of Diwali, the festival of light, this week in Saanich and elsewhere. (Photo courtesy of Manish Prajapati)

Diwali celebrations have been taking place all week in Saanich, an Indian festival of lights that represents coming from darkness into light, or protection from spiritual darkness.

Traditionally, oil lamps called diyas are used to light up the night by placing them in rows behind windows, on doors, in homes and outside of buildings to bring light to the dark skies of night.

“It began primarily in Hindusim a long time ago and there were two kings, a king of lightness (Rama) and a king of darkness (Ravana). They had a fight and Rama wins that fight by killing Ravana,” explained Manjinder Cheema, a Sikh man who celebrates Diwali yearly with his family. “When he came home, they celebrated the victory by lighting candles or lamps – it was a victory of light against dark, representing that good prevails.”

There are different stories and ways to celebrate, Cheema said, since India is so multicultural. In Sikhism, for example, celebrations mark the day Guru Hargobind Ji (the sixth Sikh Guru) was freed from unjust imprisonment.

Cheema and his family celebrate one day a year by lighting many candles and cooking a traditional dinner.

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The celebrations are featured primarily in Hinduism, Sikhism, Newar Buddhism and Jainism. Many non-Hindu communities are beginning to learn about and take part in these celebrations, too.

Manish Prajapati, a Saanich man who celebrates from the Hindu perspective, said the festival continues for five days straight in his religion – each day symbolizing something different.

“The first day is in celebration of the goddess of wealth, the second day is a mini Diwali, the third day is called main function Diwali, the fourth day is New Year Day and the last day of celebrations are known as Bhai Dooj,” the celebration of the bond between siblings, he said.

The District of Saanich worked with Prajapati this past week to deliver traditional Indian sweets to Commonwealth Place, Cedar Hill, Gordon Head, and G.R. Pearkes recreation centres.

Prajapati said Diwali’s most important theme, no matter where and how people celebrate, is to highlight knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair.

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