‘Goodness over evil’ : Diwali competition a time for pleasure in Saskatoon

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“We are trying as humans to come out of the sorrow and the sadness, so Diwali gives us a best platform to at least come out and wish our larger communities joy — to greet them, and spread the joy.”

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Bryn Levy Volunteer leader Deepak Kausik prepares the Shri Lakshmi Narayan temple for a weekday service on Nov. 2, 2021. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is celebrated this year on Nov. 4. Volunteer leader Deepak Kausik prepares the Shri Lakshmi Narayan temple for a weekday service on Nov. 2, 2021. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is celebrated this year on Nov. 4. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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More than a billion people around the world are celebrating Diwali, which begins Thursday.

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Vishal Gupta, vice-president of the board of the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Saskatoon, is already in the holiday spirit.

“We actually started right after Halloween,” he said with a chuckle as he pointed to a box of gift bags sitting in the landing of his home late Tuesday afternoon.

The bags of sweets and candle-holders have been getting distributed to friends and family — Hindus and non-Hindus alike — as Gupta spreads joy and light, two of the pillars of Hinduism’s biggest festival of the year.

“Diwali is a symbol of celebrating goodness over evil. That’s how the ancestors have told these stories to my generation to remember that you should be good, kind and always trying to overcome evil and dark forces,” he said.

Diwali is celebrated by the many different sects of Hinduism, as well as Sikhs and other religions with roots in South Asia, all with their own stories and historical events tied to the holiday, he said.

The festival traditionally follows the harvest, and is often a time for businesses to start their new books for the year, with part of the five-day festival also devoted to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, he added.

A worshipper attends a weekday service at the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Saskatoon. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is celebrated this year on Nov. 4. A worshipper attends a weekday service at the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Saskatoon. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is celebrated this year on Nov. 4. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

For Gupta, and millions upon millions of other Hindus from northern India, Diwali is a celebration of the tale of King Rama, who defeated a demon king and rescued his wife, Sita, over the course of a 14-year exile.

The story holds that Rama returned to his kingdom on a dark night, so his people took it upon themselves to light up their homes with rows of tiny candles, which is why Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. Today, people still string lights on their homes and businesses and shoot off fireworks to mark the occasion.

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“We are in the modern world now, and we can use electronic and battery-operated (lights),” Gupta added, noting that celebrations here tend to be a bit more muted when it comes to fireworks and firecrackers, out of respect for local laws.

The holiday is also a chance to spoil the kids a bit, Gupta added. His own parents used to grant him a wish for a present each year, and he’s carried that tradition on with his own children.

“I wouldn’t call it a bribe, but it’s an incentive,” he said with a smile.

While he looks forward to seeing the temple lit up by devotees who will come to celebrate from Thursday through Sunday, Gupta said many of his favourite parts of the holiday haven’t changed much since he was a boy: “Buying a lot of fireworks and cracking them, and eating up all the sweets before they were served to us!” he said, breaking into laughter.

Gupta said the chance to spread joy is especially welcome this year, as we all look toward better days after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are trying as humans to come out of the sorrow and the sadness, so Diwali gives us a best platform to at least come out and wish our larger communities joy — to greet them, and spread the joy.”

Members of the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple attend a weekday service. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is celebrated this year on Nov. 4. Members of the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple attend a weekday service. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is celebrated this year on Nov. 4. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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