'Diwali is a lot like &#39C;hristmas; here'

India: Welcoming Lakshmi with sweets


Dr. Priya Gaba remembers the excitement of getting a new outfit to wear on Diwali, the Hindu New Year that celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

Usually it was custom-tailored, she recalled in an interview, because manufactured clothes in India were more expensive.

For Gaba, a doctor at the Qikiqtani General Hospital who grew up in India and first came to Iqaluit about seven years ago, "Diwali is a lot like Christmas here."

It's the major festival of the year, she explained, and usually takes place around November, although the date follows a shifting lunar calendar, like Easter.

Everyone celebrates it in India, whether Hindu or not, Gaba said. Life slows down a bit. People visit family.

They also clean and paint their homes just before the festival, as a sign of welcome to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and success.

Gaba's favourite Diwali memories include lighting clay lamps along the outer walls that surrounded household yards, setting off firecrackers, exchanging sweets, and drawing rangoli on doorsteps.

The lamps, called diyas, burned ghee, or clarified butter.

Rangoli are sand paintings, temporary patterns and images drawn with rice powder and food colouring as an invitation to Lakshmi.

As for the sweets, two days before every Diwali, Gaba said, the family would load the car with boxes of them and drive to friends' and family's homes.

We might just visit 15 minutes at each place, she recalled, "but the goal was to deliver the sweets." It was part of a tradition of giving associated with the festival, like Christmas.

Her favourite was jalebi, a deep fried flour dough soaked in a sugary syrup, one of the sweets offered to Lakshmi at the end of the days of puja, or prayer.

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