Festival of Lights celebrated in Orillia

Rashmika Patel and Radha ben Patel perform the “arti” traditional worship rituals as the local Indian community celebrated Diwali recently at Rotary Place.
Rashmika Patel and Radha ben Patel perform the “arti” traditional worship rituals as the local Indian community celebrated Diwali recently at Rotary Place.
A triumph of good over evil and light over darkness was marked during local Diwali celebrations.

Hundreds of Indians in Orillia and area Sunday lit up the community room at the Rotary Place with celebrations for the Festival of Lights.

“Diwali is the celebration of good over evil,” said Dilip Patel, an Orillia resident. “When God Rama came home after defeating Ravana and established the good for people, there was no moon that night, so everyone lit up diya (clay lamps) to light his way and to celebrate the coming of good times.”

Across India, the reasons for celebrating Diwali may vary. For instance, north Indians recognize it for the success of Lord Rama, whereas south Indians mark it as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura; to the west, it's about Lord Vishnu sending King Bali to rule the nether world.

Regardless of where it is celebrated and the reason behind it, the general sense is the triumph of good over evil.

In Orillia, people gathered to mark the occasion with food, gifts and a ritual worship ceremony offered for the God Rama and Goddess Seeta.

Men, women and children were invited to join in on the worship that required the use of a tray with five diyas to be waved in a circular motion around images of the two gods. The table, where the images rested, was decorated with embellished cloth, incense sticks, candles and sweets.

“Celebration of the occasion is to let everyone know that they're welcome to come and join in the good times,” said Patel.

In India, Diwali is an official holiday giving everyone a chance to spend time with family and exchange gifts and sweets.

“We get together with families and have food and spend good times,” he said, “just like on Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

Children enjoy the festival by decorating their homes with diyas, playing games and lighting fireworks.

“It's a festival of lights, because it is good over evil and when you think of evil, you think darkness,” said Vatsal Patel, 15. “That's why Diwali is all about light and bright colours.”

The Orillia Secondary School student doesn't get many questions about his traditional celebrations at school, but he likes sharing it with the community any way he can.

Also attending the ceremony were Coun. Mason Ainsworth and Jill Dunlop, Progressive Conservative candidate for Simcoe North.

“It's a great opportunity to share culture with the community,” said Ainsworth. “In Orillia, we're big on arts and culture and celebrating similarities and learning about differences. And through learning about other cultures, we can better support each other.”

Dunlop, who was taking in the festivities with her daughters, said it was great to see families coming together and promoting traditional values in the community and among the younger generation.

“Simcoe North is very diverse and it is important to learn about other cultures,” she said. “They're very welcoming of other cultures and inclusive of everyone.”

The feeling is mutual, said Patel.

“Orillia is very open and friendly,” he said, speaking to his experience in the community since he moved to the city in 2003. “Everyone likes the aroma of (Indian) food when they come into my office. I'm surprised so many people know the food and that they love the food.”

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