It may be an average Thursday for some, but today marks an important annual celebration for Medicine Hat’s Hindu community with the arrival of Diwali.
Praveen Joshi, member of the Medicine Hat Hindu Association, says the celebration of Diwali is also sometimes called “Deepavali.” He explained that “deepa” means lamp, and that lighting lamps is part of the celebration.
“Diwali is called a Festival of Lights and it’s celebrated to honour our Father Rama Chandra,” said Joshi. “Rama Chandra was the seventh avatar or incarnation of the god Vishnu. It is believed that on this day, Rama returned to his home, to his village, after 14 years of exile during which he fought and won a battle against the king of the demons, Ravana.
“When he came home after his exile of 14 years, people lit their houses to celebrate his victory over evil, light over darkness.”
Traditionally, a row of clay lamps are lit outside the front door of a home to symbolize the triumph of good over evil and a celebration of light and life.
Joshi added Lakshmi, the deity often associated with the festival, is the goddess of happiness and good fortune.
“Lakshmi is fame and money,” said Joshi. “We pray for good fortune and good luck for jobs, business and that we have good bread and butter for our family.”
Joshi says the date of the festival is based on the Hindu lunar calendar, “which marks each month by the limit it takes the moon to orbit earth, so it’s not a fixed date. Diwali is just before the arrival of a new moon.”
While Diwali falls on a single date, Joshi says its importance often spans much longer, similar to Christmas.
“Diwali is one day, the main festival is one day,” said Joshi. “But think of it like Christmas. We have Christmas Day but then we have other holidays.”
Joshi says while it was originally a Hindu festival, Diwali is widely celebrated in many religions.
“It is also being absorbed by Sikhs and Buddhists,” he said. “Each religion has it’s own narrative and story behind it.”
A Diwali event is being planned for later this month in Medicine Hat, depending on COVID restrictions. The organizers hope to include food and cultural demonstrations.
LAUREN THOMSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News