Inspired by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto marked the auspicious festival of Diwali with fireworks and a heritage exhibition called ‘Transcendence,’ which entertained and educated visitors about their deep-rooted Hindu traditions. The five days leading up to Diwali were filled with optimism and enthusiasm as volunteers and devotees worked side by side to prepare for the grand annual festivities at the temple.
“Diwali is that time of the year when family, friends and relatives get together and strengthen their bonds through various festivities,” said Yogesh Patel, Coordinator. He added, “Preparations for the festivities begin months in advance. Devotees—young and old—sacrifice their time to help in creating decorations, food preparation, children’s Diwali celebration arrangements, as well as decorating the stage for the most significant ritual of Diwali, the Annakut.”
When visitors arrived at the temple, they were greeted by youth volunteers who led them to a presentation hall where they learned about the meaning of Diwali. Later, they were guided to the exhibition, ‘Transcendence,’ based on the bestselling book by former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam about his spiritual experiences with His Holiness, Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The inspiring exhibition made visitors think about how they too can better their own life and the lives of those around them. From there, visitors proceeded to Annakut darshan in the temple and Haveli where hundreds of exquisitely prepared vegetarian dishes were being offered to God as a mark of devotion. Thereafter, families visited the bookstall and had their photo taken as keepsake of their visit to the temple. Finally, visitors enjoyed a variety of delightful food before departing.
Special guest at the celebration included Toronto Mayor John Tory, who was presented with a copy of the inspirational book, ‘Transcendence’ by Mandir head, Pujya Gunsagar Swami.
Mayor Tory said, “I have been here for the opening several years ago, and I have been able to celebrate Diwali with you over the years as it is a festival of light and a festival of hope. I chose to come here today to celebrate Diwali as this place to me is my home. This place is an architectural masterpiece. I met many people who I tell and I say to them you should come to visit, not only so that they can share in the joy of this Mandir but also to go to the museum and see what goes on in the museum in terms of the great story of Indo-Canadian roots that are reflected by that. I thank you for the warmth that you always welcome me here at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir.”
Other special guests included Dr. Kirsty Duncan, MP and Minister of Science, Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, MPP for Etobicoke North, and Deputy Mayor of Toronto, Vincent Crisanti.
Diwali is also a time when children look forward to the joy it brings. The Children’s Diwali Celebration was as much fun as it was educational. Children learned the history and origins of this festival, played a variety of exciting games, and were given an assortment of gifts and goodies.