Rajasthani Organization Celebrates Hindu Festival

The Rajasthan Association of North America, Calgary (RANA) brought the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, to Calgary on November 9th with a celebration at the Magnolia Banquet Hall. The event featured a cultural program, dinner, dance, and prizes for attendees. Forty-two members practiced for three months to provide entertainment in 14 separate performances designed to “bring everyone closer to Rajasthan, a colorful and incredible state in India.”

RANA began life two years ago and is a non-profit “committed to promoting Rajasthan’s culture, Indian values and heritage by organizing several social programs consisting of traditional Rajasthani events, dramas, dance and singing.” The group encourages youth participation, humanitarian work, higher learning and healthcare through community based programs, and has hosted several events on major Indian holidays.

Rajasthan is the largest state in India and located in the north-western part of the subcontinent. The history of the area goes back about 5000 years, and ancient Rajasthan was a part of several different dynasties. The Rajput dynasty began around 700 A.D., which led to the area being known as Rajputana. The current state of Rajasthan was formed in 1956.

Diwali is India’s largest and most important holiday. It falls between mid-October and mid-November and is comprised of a five day celebration, with the third day being celebrated as the main festival. Diwali signifies “the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.” The holiday, also known as Dipavali, takes its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) Indians place outside their homes.

Now celebrated by individuals all over India regardless of faith, people enjoy the holiday with glowing clay lamps, family gatherings, fireworks, bonfires, flowers, strings of electric lights, the sharing of sweets and worship to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Diwali is also an official holiday in Nepal, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, and Singapore.

The dress code for the evening was Indian traditional with men wearing kurta pyjamas and women in lehengas or sarees, and entertainment included the Ramlila, a dramatic re-telling of the life of Hindu deity Rama. They promoted the event with a City TV interview, Facebook posts, online advertising, and word of mouth. RANA board president Yogesh Paliwal says the most important parts of organizing a bash like this is to “put lots of effort into planning and pay attention to all details” so the night runs smoothly.