Lights and candles are lit, sweets are prepared and shared, and warm greetings and well wishes are exchanged as millions of Hindus around the world celebrate the festival of lights, Diwali.
Diwali presents Hindus around the world with an opportunity to renew the rich traditions of their roots with great fanfare. Hundreds of families experienced the culture and traditions of the auspicious holiday as they offered prayers, well wishes, and resolved to mark the New Year with spiritual enlightenment at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir located at 61 Claireville Drive in Toronto on Monday October 31, 2016. The celebrations were held in the presence of Sadguru Pujya Kothari Swami (Pujya Bhaktipriyadas Swami) who was visiting from India for the occasion.
Many dignitaries attended the celebrations, including:
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Member of Parliament for Etobicoke North
Alexander Nuttall, Member of Parliament for Barrie-Springwater- Oro-Medonte
Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Councillor for Ward 1 Etobicoke
The Honourable John McCallum Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship also attended the celebrations on Diwali Day. The Minister said, “On behalf of our Prime Minister and our government, I wish you all a wonderful Diwali.”. Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, thanked the many volunteers of BAPS and brought greetings from Mayor John Tory and said, “In the spirit of Diwali, may you continue to reflect on the many blessings and the prosperous future we share as Torontonians.”
Colourful intricate designs called ‘rangoli’ and decorative oil lamps welcomed visitors on this auspicious day. Hundreds of dishes of vegetarian delicacies were offered before the sacred images of God as a thanksgiving for all that we are blessed with. The colours, lights, devotional music and good wishes filled the atmosphere with a renewed spirit of the festival.
Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival commemorating many historical events including the return of Bhagwan (Lord) Ram to the kingdom of Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile. His return brought about a period of enlightenment within the kingdom and its people. The tradition of self-enlightenment continues today as Diwali presents an opportunity for self-improvement and progress through reflection within.
Hundreds of volunteers of all ages came together to organize the Diwali celebration, which took months in the planning. The decorations had a distinct ‘mandir’ theme reminding everyone of the great celebrations to come in 2017, which will mark the 10 th Anniversary of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.
Children also enjoyed the annual Diwali fare filled with activities and sweet treats. Many relished the familiar atmosphere of Diwali and reminisced their childhood days as they immersed themselves in the beautiful sights, traditional songs, and delicious cuisine of the holiday. The festivities brought devotees together to celebrate together, develop spiritually, and gain the blessings of guru His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj and inspirer, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired the celebration of Hindu festivals at BAPS centres worldwide to keep the rich traditions and culture of India alive with emphasis on the true historic and spiritual purpose of Hindu festivals.