With Halloween in the rearview mirror, the holidays in Cleveland have officially started and are coming fast and furious.
The first holiday we’re celebrating this season is Diwali. Diwali is a festival of lights and major festival celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. “Although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories, the festival nonetheless represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil,” according to Bharat Kumar, President of India Festival USA, a celebration of Indian culture and traditions in Northeast Ohio that began in 2010.
We asked Palinder and Gurpreet Dhillon, former residents of Downtown Cleveland who now live in the Twinsburg area, to describe what it’s like celebrating Diwali in Cleveland.
Gurpreet, a pharmacist, moved to Cleveland in 2018 from Wisconsin when she married Palinder, a hospital administrator and lifelong Clevelander, and they welcomed a baby daughter this year. Both love being out and about with their dog, the Cleveland dining scene and attending sporting events (even if they’re sometimes a sports house divided).
WHAT IS DIWALI?
PD: Diwali is celebrated through multiple cultures and religions, all a bit different. For the Sikh religion (what we practice) Diwali celebrates the release of the 6th Sikh guru. Guru Hargobind Singh and 52 other princes, from prison in 1619. Guru Hargobind was imprisoned by Emperor Jahangir. The emperor was asked to release Guru Hargobind, which he agreed to do. The guru then asked the emperor if the 52 princes also in captivity could be released. The emperor agreed but on the condition that he would release only the princes that would be able to hold on to the Guru’s cloak tail, attempting to limit the number of princes that would be released. The guru realized this and had a cloak made with 52 pieces of string, so each prince would be able to hold onto one string and leave prison. The sikh people celebrated the return of Guru Hargobind and the princes by lighting the golden temple, the holiest temple for Sikhs, which is still done to this day.
GD: In addition to the temple being lit, villagers in India light lamps and candles to welcome as well celebrate the release of the guru and princes (Gurpreet)
WHERE CAN PEOPLE GO TO EXPERIENCE DIWALI IN CLEVELAND AND WHAT CAN THEY EXPECT?
PD: Sikhs visit the Gurdwaras and Hindus visit the Mandir to celebrate the holiday in a religious way.
GD: There will also be get togethers at friend’s houses, family get togethers and parties throughout the festival. Activities at these events include fireworks, sparklers, dancing, and eating lots of good food!
HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE DIWALI IN CLEVELAND?
Image © Palinder and Gurpreet Dhillon
PD: We celebrate Diwali by going to our local temple, or gurdwara. It is the most auspicious day of the year to visit the temple. At the temple, an Akhand Path is held, which consists of continuous reading of our holy book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Then we have a large family gathering, similar to Thanksgiving, with lots and lots and LOTS of food! Gifts, such as boxed sweets, are also exchanged.
GD: In Cleveland, we generally attend Diwali get togethers at a friend’ house. We’ll get dressed up and dance all night. Food is normally catered to accommodate a large gathering (we like The Saffron Patch!) and we’ll shop for sweets at our local Indian grocery store, Sunny’s Asian Food and Spices.
ANY ADVICE FOR THOSE CELEBRATING DIWALI AT HOME?
GD: I’d recommend sampling some Indian food from one of the many restaurants in the Cleveland area and lighting candles, and of course, eating lots of sweets like Gulab Jamun (dough soaked in rose syrup) and Jalebi (flour and saffron, deep friend in syrup).