‘A light at the end of the tunnel’: Winnipeggers celebrate Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas

November 5, 2021
'A light at the end of the tunnel': Winnipeggers celebrate Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas

After the pandemic dimmed last year’s Diwali celebrations, Winnipeggers like Manju Lodha and her husband, Ganpat Lodha, are happy to at least have people over and feel that Diwali is once again a bright spot. 

“Last year was real sad, but this year has been more fun,” Manju said.

Code red pandemic restrictions last year made for a much more subdued Diwali, which would normally see thousands of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs in Winnipeg gather to ring in the holiday. 

Diwali didn’t quite return to normal this year, but with gathering restrictions eased for vaccinated Manitobans, they had another family over to offer puja to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune, before lighting sparklers and fireworks in the backyard and sharing food. 

The Lodhas celebrated Diwali with another family this year, which was a welcome change from last year. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

Ganpat was born Jain but also practices Hinduism. He took some time to worship Mahavir Swami, the 23rd Tirthankara of Jainism, as well.  

Diwali derives from the Sanskrit word “deepavali,” which translates to a “row or series of lights.” 

“It’s light over darkness, friendship over animosity, love against hatred,” Manju said. 

WATCH | How Winnipeg families celebrated Diwali this year:

Winnipeggers celebrate Diwali

The Sandhu and Lodha families invited CBC to see how they and many other Manitobans celebrated the annual festival of lights. 1:56

A new year, a new hope

While Hindus, Jains and Sikhs celebrate the five-day festival in their own ways, candles, lamps, sparklers and fireworks play a big part across the board.
Fireworks are a big part of Diwali celebrations. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

And Raj Sandhu’s Winnipeg home was no exception. 

Last year during lockdown, Sandhu spent two days putting together a five-metre tall wallpaper depiction of the Golden Temple of Amritsar, Sikhism’s most important spiritual site. It’s been a permanent fixture in his home ever since. 

“It’s just giving that positive light every single day,” Sandhu said. 

Raj Sandhu’s pandemic project was a five-metre tall wallpaper depiction of the Golden Temple of Amritsar. (Cory Funk/CBC)

This year he was thrilled to share it with family, friends and neighbours, who he notified ahead of time about the fireworks happening in his backyard. 

On Diwali, Sikhs also celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas, known also as the “day of liberation.” It commemorates the day Guru Hargobind ji was released from prison, and at the same time helped secure the release of 52 Hindu kings as well.  

“Standing for others, making sure good things happen around you and being positive … that’s what the whole festival is about,” Sandhu said. 

Sandhu made sure to let his neighbours know he’d be safely lighting fireworks in his backyard for Bandi Chhor Divas. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

Sikhs perform a special prayer called Ardas, which Sandhu says is a prayer for the well-being of the whole world. And on Bandi Chhor Divas, he said the people suffering under the pandemic and the farmers protesting in India were top of mind. 

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

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