British Columbia

Diwali celebrations in B.C. discouraged amid turmoil in India

Some Sikh leaders in Abbotsford, B.C., and across Metro Vancouver are urging toned down Festival of Light celebrations amid recent turmoil in India.

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Light, is celebrated by both Hindus and Sikhs every year

Diwali celebrations are being downplayed in some Sikh temples in B.C.'s Lower Mainland. (CBC)

Some Sikh leaders in Abbotsford, B.C., and across Metro Vancouver are urging toned down Diwali celebrations amid recent turmoil in the Punjab region of India.

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Light, is one of the most colourful celebrations of the year, observed by both Hindus and Sikhs.

The holiday marks the triumph of good over evil and is associated with lighting lamps, sharing sweets, and setting off fireworks. 

But this year, a number of leaders with the region's gurdwaras — Sikh temples — are asking community members for a quieter, more somber event. 

"We're telling people don't bring those lights, just come and sit in the prayer hall," said Bhajan Singh Toor with the Khalsa Diwan Society in Abbotsford.

Satwinder Bains, the director for the Centre of Indo Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, says Sikhs' request for a darker Diwali has been sparked by recent incidents in the Punjab region of India.

The Sikh holy book, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, was allegedly damaged, provoking anger among some Sikh communities in India.

"The scriptures are like a living guru to us, so to actually desecrate the holy scripture is quite sacrilegious for Sikhs," she said.

According to the BBC, some Sikhs took to the streets to protest, but in a moment of alleged police violence, two demonstrators were killed and many more were injured.

Bains says the turmoil in Punjab has sparked concern and a request for toned down Diwali celebrations at a lot of gurdwaras in the Lower Mainland, and around the world.

"If I look at San Jose, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Australia, England, I see all of them also supporting this ban," said Bains.

She says Sikh communities will still be gathering and praying, albeit in a less boisterous way.

Meanwhile, at the Laxmi Narayan Mandir temple in Surrey, Hindu priest Rakesh Sharma says Diwali will be celebrated as it always has been, with the lighting of candles.

Sharma says the festival's main message is clear.

"Everybody live together and everybody have a peaceful life."

With files from Stephanie Mercier

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