Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is one of the most vibrant and cherished celebrations in the world, uniting millions in the spirit of hope, renewal, and togetherness. Glittering oil lamps and colorful rangoli (intricate patterns created with coloured flour, rice, sand or powder) often adorn homes, and the air is filled with the aroma of sweet delicacies. But Diwali is more than just a visual and sensory spectacle, it’s a time of reunion where families and communities come together to celebrate this luminous festival with their own special traditions.
Members of our studio’s Asian and Pacific Islander (API) ERG shed light on why Diwali is significant to them and share how they celebrate this special festival with their loved ones. We invite you to read on to learn more about the Festival of Lights! And wish you a very warm and happy Diwali!
Souraj Dewalia, Tools Programmer
One of my most profound childhood memories of Diwali is the “planning” for firecrackers that I did with friends in the days before the festival. We’d buy the most unique ones from various shops, keep them as treasures, and would spend hours drying them in the sun so that they’re “crunchy” and loud on the day of the “final showdown!”
While Diwali is hugely important to many Indians for religious and cultural reasons, it also holds great spiritual meanings. As the “Festival of Light,” it symbolizes light triumphing over the darkness inside us, overcoming ignorance with knowledge, and reuniting with loved ones. People often buy new clothes and various items during Diwali which signifies a fresh start and the shedding of old burdens.
Diwali celebrations in my family start a week before the big event with cleaning the house (obviously the least popular part!). We would then repaint the house and decorate it with fairy lights and garlands. On the day of Diwali, we’d make colourful rangolis at the home’s entrance, and prepare a spread of delicious dishes and mithai (sweets).
When evening arrives, we wear our new clothes, light diyas (oil lamps) and pray to the gods and goddesses for well-being and prosperity. And then it’s time to gather with the family, enjoy scrumptious food, and celebrate with firecrackers and lanterns! It’s one of the most joyous times of the year!
Aalaap Majgavkar, Capture Artist:
Diwali is my favorite festival, and it holds a special place in my heart. Growing up in Mumbai, India, I have had the privilege of experiencing the festival in various ways, but at the end of the day, it was always a time of joy and togetherness. I’ve tried to put some of my memories into words below:
Diwali at 6 – I’d eagerly awaited Diwali, although the biggest bummer was I couldn’t play with firecrackers yet at that age. Instead, I’d look forward to new clothes, toys, and gifts. The house would come alive with the glow of diyas (oil lamps) as we performed family pujas (prayers) early in the morning, although waking up at 5 a.m. wasn’t my favorite part.
Diwali at 12 – YES! Fireworks! The power of fire is now in my hands! I remember the thrill of setting it off, but I quickly learned why you shouldn’t carelessly play with fire. There have been a few mishaps, thankfully none of them serious, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the festivities!
Diwali at 18 – As I got older, the grand celebrations got more elaborate. Our day would begin at 3 a.m. with a ceremonial sandalwood and coconut oil scrub and bath, followed by dressing up in the flashiest kurta and pyjama. I often felt like an awkward baby giraffe in my tight-fitting clothes, but none of that mattered because my friends were waiting, and the night sky was about to be transformed by fireworks.
The rest of the day was dedicated to relishing delicious Diwali treats and hanging out with whichever lucky friend could convince their parents to get them more fireworks. The silver lining? Visiting different houses meant indulging in a wider variety of delectable snacks.
This delightful cycle repeated itself for many years, and the memories of those Diwalis remain etched in my heart. Now, I understand the true significance of Diwali. It’s not just about new clothes and fireworks; it’s a time for togetherness, sharing, and cherishing the traditions that make this festival so special. Diwali is all about friends, family, and, of course, the delicious food that brings us together to celebrate the triumph of light and love.
Naveen Prasad, Technical Designer:
In my family, we celebrate by illuminating and decorating our house with lots of diya lamps, string lights and rangolis. And of course, one of the highlights of the celebration — preparing a delicious feast for our family and relatives!
During Diwali, we also exchange lots of gifts and sweets which reinforces the bond between loved ones and always leaves a warm, profound feeling of gratitude and appreciation.
I eagerly look forward to Diwali every year, not only for its traditions but also the message it brings — both literally and figuratively — as we celebrate the victory of light over darkness.
Srija Srivastava, Tools Programmer:
My hometown is Varanasi, commonly regarded as the spiritual capital of India. Here, people celebrate every festival wholeheartedly and Diwali was no exception!
I have fond memories of helping my mother and aunts set up for pooja (a ceremony performed to welcome Goddess Lakshmi into our home) and joyfully decorating the house with diyas alongside my father, uncles, brothers and cousins. Seeing our home lit up with lights, our doors adorned with flowers, and of course, beautiful rangoli on the floor (I used to spend several hours creating intricate patterns with coloured powder!), it always filled me with bliss!
Naturally, it would not be Diwali without gathering for a big feast! My mother and aunt would prepare delicious dishes for our whole family. We’d eat, laugh and play card games like Teen Patti Flush and Rummy all night long — these are some of the fondest memories we’ve shared! The celebrations would even continue into the next day where extended family, neighbours and friends would visit! Our house would be filled with laughter and happiness!
Although I now live far away from my family and homeland, I try to recreate any Diwali traditions I can, for example decorating my place with diya, making rangoli, cooking a few dishes (even though I am not a good cook), dressing up in traditional Indian wear, and inviting friends over for dinner and card games.
I hope that some day you can all experience the warmth and happiness of Diwali!
Have a happy and prosperous Diwali!
Rag Premji, Senior Character Artist:
The ancient story of Ramayana fueled my imagination this Diwali, so I relished the opportunity to create an art piece to celebrate the occasion! Ramayana is a lengthy Sanskrit epic featuring some major players of the Hindu pantheon, including Lord Rama who wields the deity Shiva’s mighty bow and won the hand of Sita (in the bottom-right of the picture above), the daughter of King Janaka. Sita is later captured by the demon King Ravana (in the top of the picture above). This led to Lord Rama, together with the assistance of monkey-general Hanuman, engaging in a fierce battle with King Ravana and his evil hoard, before defeating them and rescuing Sita.
I had a blast drawing this and hope you all like the result above!
Aside from drawing, another annual tradition of mine is to watch the Diwali episode of The Office (season 3, episode 6). Not only is it very funny, it’s also the reason why many of my friends know about the festival!
Finally, one thing that brings me joy during Diwali is introducing this meaningful festival to my friends and colleagues. I make efforts to bring in sweet treats and take my friends out to indulge in Indian food! Here are some pictures from this year’s feast:
Diwali is all about light overcoming darkness, good versus evil, and friends coming together to achieve common goals. I love nothing more than making people feel included in Diwali festivities and celebrating along with them!
Piyush Tripathi, AI Programmer:
Being from a nuclear close-knit family, Diwali means family and food time for me. Every year on Diwali, we come together to celebrate. As a child the highlight for me was celebrating with crackers! Today, my Diwali celebration involves diyas and lighting. It’s a great time surrounded by loved ones since it’s a days-long celebration with not just our immediate family, but also relatives and childhood friends who are in town to visit. While this is the first time I’ll be away from family for Diwali, I’m looking forward to celebrating it at home and at the upcoming #UbiTO Diwali studio mixer!
Preethi Venkateswaran, Model Artist
Diwali is one of the biggest and most fun festivals!
My family begins preparations a month in advance! I recall the excitement of buying new clothes, the anticipation of getting all the snacks and sweets ready for the celebration, and of course collecting fireworks! (The most important job! Lol.) When Diwali finally arrives, my extended family (that includes cousins and their families) all gather under one roof to share in the yummy spread and setting off firecrackers all day long!
Funny story – one time an errant “rocket” cracker flew into our home. Everyone was ok but now we know why people always say to KEEP YOUR DOORS CLOSED!
My most cherished memories of the festival would be lighting up diyas all around our house and seeing everyone dressed to the nines in colourful garb — just gorgeous!
The Toronto API ERG has been a home away from home for me, and I’m really looking forward to celebrating Diwali with everyone at the studio! Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous Diwali! And sending you all the love and warmth this festive month 💗
Ellie Vengala, Communications Specialist
Since moving to Canada by myself, I’ve found little ways to celebrate Diwali. I go to an Indian convenience store and buy the diyas, and get my henna done. If my home is lit with candles and my hands are festive, my heart is full! Diwali to me means staying connected to my culture and family, even after the festival ends. As the days get darker and darker, Diwali reminds me that I carry my own light – literally and physically!
Parth Patel, UI Programmer
Diwali is the only festival for which I await eagerly the whole year round. As a child, it was mainly due to firecrackers. As an adult, it’s mainly due to getting to see the whole family together (and food 😊). We celebrate Diwali in many ways: decorating the house with lots of colorful drapes and lights, designing rangolis in the foyer, lighting candles all around the house every evening around sunset, and of course, enjoying delicious meals with family and friends gathered together. Being surrounded by the laughter of our loved ones and the bright colours and lights always warms my heart. It’s what makes this festival so joyful!
Yash Kaushik, Release and Build Specialist
Diwali, often called the Festival of Lights, is irreplaceable in my heart. It’s a time of the year that I eagerly anticipate, and the reasons for its significance in my life run deep. The real magic begins during the festival of Navratri. It’s a nine-night extravaganza filled with dancing, music, and devotion. The shadows of differences and grudges fade during this time as we come together as a family. We light lamps and offer our prayers with heartfelt devotion.
Unlike other festivals, Diwali is meant to be celebrated at home, surrounded by our loved ones. My family has a tradition of visiting all our uncles’ and cousins’ homes and exchanging gifts as a gesture of love and affection. It’s a time to reconnect with family and to forgive and forget, setting aside any lingering grievances to start anew.
Growing up, my cousins and I would eagerly set off fireworks, lighting the night sky with colourful displays. My cousins often crafted intricate rangolis at our doorstep, a tradition that added a touch of artistic beauty to our celebrations.
As I pursued my undergraduate degree and later ventured abroad, I spent numerous Diwalis away from my family. During those times, I keenly felt the absence of our cultural rituals and the warmth of celebrating with loved ones. Now, having my family here with me in Canada, this year’s Diwali will be extraordinarily special. I’ll have the privilege of celebrating the festival with my entire family, all gathered under one roof, including my beloved wife. It’s a time to rekindle traditions, create new memories, and strengthen the bonds that make Diwali an occasion worth celebrating with all our hearts. In essence, Diwali is not just a festival; it’s a beautiful tapestry of memories, traditions, and togetherness that holds immense meaning in my life.
Happy Diwali Everyone!! (दीपावली की हार्दिक शुभकामनाएं)