Diwali, often referred to as the Festival of Lights, is the most glamorous and the most important occasion in India. People of every religion enthusiastically embrace it. In the Greater Toronto Area, there are over 400,000 South Asians that celebrate Diwali.
The story of Diwali is an ancient one, and differs depending on the various regions and states of India. Diwali is the day when King Rama’s coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya after his epic war with Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. By order of the royal families of Ayodhya and Mithila, the kingdom of which Sita was a princess, the cities and far-flung boundaries of these kingdoms were lit up with rows of lamps. These lamps glittered on dark nights to welcome home the divine king Rama and his queen Sita after 14 years of exile, ending an across-the-seas war in which the whole of the kingdom of Lanka was destroyed.
The first day of Diwali is “Dhanteras”. Doorways are hung with mango leave and marigolds. Oil lamps are arranged in and around the house, which lead to the name Diwali—a row of lamps.
The second day Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali is the night of the dark new moon with the entrances to all homes lit up and decorated with rangoli patterns to welcome Lakshmi the radiant consort of Vishnu and the goddess of wealth and luster. The day after the Lakshmi Prayer, most families celebrate the New Year by dressing in new clothes, wearing jewellery and visiting family members and business colleagues to give them sweets, dry fruits and gifts.
Diwali celebrations are planned for 6 – 7 November.