Naval Bajaj lights the earthen lamps and sets them in rows around his Brampton home creating an ethereal glow.
Naval and his wife, Rashi, who came to Canada eight years ago, are in celebration mode for Diwali, the festival of lights, which marks the triumph of good over evil and the beginning of a New Year according to the Hindu calendar.
"When it comes to Diwali, we celebrate in the same traditional way we do in India. The house is decorated with lights. We use traditional oil lamps inside and out. We pray and celebrate with near and dear ones," says Mr. Bajaj, a financial executive for 7-Eleven.
For Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, Diwali is the festival of joy, signifying the conquest of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. More specifically it marks the day when Lord Rama returns to his Kingdom Ayodhya after a 14-year exile to the forests after he destroys the demon king Ravana. Prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth when families take out jewellery and silver coins. As well, many business people do the Chopra pujan (prayers offered for accounting books) to begin their financial year.
"If you are in business, then you pray for better business and wealth. This puja [devotion] takes approximately two hours and is performed at 4 a.m. the next morning," says Mr. Bajaj, who performs three distinct prayer ceremonies conducted by a priest on Diwali.
The festival is also a time to meet and greet family and friends.
In Richmond Hill, Alka Pandit has spent the last 10 days in preparing sweets and savouries. She will distribute these homemade goodies to friends and celebrate the festival with husband, Vikram, and sons Mohan and Aditya.
"For us, it is a time for reflection, a time for joy as the family gets together," says Ms. Pandit who will wear a glittering sari and jewellery on the occasion.
After the prayers, the family will head to Mr. Pandit's mother's house where they will celebrate the festival by lighting firecrackers and give gifts to each other.
"Diwali also means that you begin making your goals for the coming year. It starts to pave your path for next year – self motivation, success and achievement of your aspirations," says Ms. Pandit.
- Renu Mehta is a freelance writer and the Consulting Editor of The Indian Express and Divya Bhaskar (North American edition)