West Islanders to celebrate Diwali next week

By Robert Frank


Dollard des Ormeaux will be the focal point for Diwali, Nov. 13—one of the most important and colourful celebrations for the West Island’s burgeoning South Asian community.

Already a significant presence in Dollard’s multi-ethnic melting pot, 2011 census figures, released Oct. 24, show that Punjabi has leapfrogged languages such as Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish and Italian to become Canada’s third most-spoken mother tongue, after English and French.

A firework display is slated to begin at 9:30 p.m., at the Hindu Mandir, at 50 Kesmark. Sikhs will also mark Diwali at Gurdwara Sahib of Greater Montreal, 1155 Hyman.

“This is the biggest celebration of the year,” Shama Chopra, a founder of the Dollard Hindu temple, told The Suburban. Diwali—also known as the festival of lights—transcends most of India’s religions.

“For many Indian communities this is the New Year for them,” said Chopra. “It is the happiest day of the year.”

“The commemoration is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists in India and even some Indian Catholics celebrate Diwali,” Chopra added. It is marked far beyond India and is a statutory holiday in nearly a dozen countries as far-flung as Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean, and Fiji in the South Pacific.

“The Hindu worship service recalls how Lord Ram returned from 14 years of exile after defeating the demon king Ravana,” Chopra explained.

A fresh start, Diwali is a time for reconciliation and hope for the future, when people put past differences behind them and give symbolic gifts. Homes are festooned with lights, which remain on through the night. Adherents buy and wear new clothes as an outward symbol of renewal.

“We burn oil lamps and distribute traditional sweets to as many as 2,000 people who attend,” Chopra continued.

“Whenever we do this at the Hindu mandir, different communities come and join us in Dollard des Ormeaux because of the unity that is felt at this time. We all get together and offer ‘Happy Diwali’ greetings to each other as well as hug one another, and children perform a variety of dances and songs.”

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