Diwali Fest holds workshop at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House

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A volunteer assists Karen Larcombe in lighting the diya<br />Photo by Jacqueline Langen
A volunteer assists Karen Larcombe in lighting the diya
Photo by Jacqueline Langen

More than 100 local residents of all ages and ethnicities united Monday for a Diwali Fest workshop at the South Vancouver Neighborhood House (SVNH).

The festival, which began 10 years ago, was created by the Diwali Celebration Society to expand the festivities and to break cultural barriers, with events being held for 11 days around the city, including five workshops at different community centres.

What is Diwali?

“It’s a wonderful time of the year to celebrate light in all of us and to bring hope to our world as we celebrate all the positive things that we benefit from,” said Karen Larcombe, executive director of SVNH.

The term Diwali  refers to “row of lighted lamps.” The light is a symbol for goodness, prosperity and knowledge.

The SVNH had two speakers sharing their views of the history of how Diwali started, as well as what it means to them and their culture.

“Diwali is celebrated all over the world by Hindus and Sikh people. They have different reasons, but we are all together to celebrate,” said Kamlesh Sethi, a long time volunteer at SVNH. “We light diyas all over the house, and pray.”

SVNH volunteer, Mohinder Siddhu, spoke about Diwali’s meaning to the Sikh religion, but also acknowledged the event is of multicultural importance.

“This is a cultural festival, celebrated all around India and in other cultures too nowadays. Everybody is here to celebrate this Diwali Festival.”

Koyali Burman, the community development coordinator at SVNH, said that they try to make it very inclusive for everyone.

“That’s why this year we have Elvis Presley, bringing a multicultural level to it,” she said.

The Elvis she referred to was Peter Yap, a senior volunteer who was born in Calcutta, India and loves to perform at community events.

Peter Yap performs as Elvis Presley at the Diwali Fest workshop at the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House Photo by Jacqueline Langen
Peter Yap performs as Elvis Presley at the Diwali Fest workshop at the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House
Photo by Jacqueline Langen

People of all ages and ethnicities came to enjoy the South Asian culture

It was father Cam Singh’s first time at a Diwali workshop, along with his four-year-old daughter, who just had her hand painted with henna.

“I’m proud to be a Sikh, not only do I get to share Diwali with everyone in my family, but with everybody else in the community,” he said.

Singh expressed that Diwali provides other cultures insight of what the Hindu and Sikh religions are about.

“To come here and share [Diwali] with other cultures is very gratifying,” said Singh.

Guests were invited to take part in a Bollywood dance routine instructed by Sourabh Sethi, a sari tying demonstration taught by Rashmi Raheja, as well as crafts such as diya painting.

Diwali Fest also provided a mehndi artist to decorate the guests’ hands with henna.

Samosas, chai tea and Indian sweets were supplied by Victoria Drive BIA.

“Diwali would be nothing without the sweets!” said Sethi.

The festival will run until Nov. 8 with the last workshop being held Thunderbird Community Centre in Vancouver.

Reported by Jacqueline Langen and Kristen Harpula

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Click the play button to view photos from the Nov. 4 Diwali workshop. Click show info for captions.
Photos by Jacqueline Langen

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