Decorated floats adorned in a myriad of colors and lights rolled down Liberty Avenue as hundreds lined the streets of Richmond Hill for the 13th annual Diwali parade.
Also called Deepavali, the festival of lights is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and others in southern Asia. The five-day festival is centered on the new moon and is observed by lighting diyas — simple oil lamps — to signify the victory of good over evil in the individual.
Presented by Divya Jyoti Association and the Arya Spiritual Center, the parade kicked off at 133rd Street and Liberty Avenue on Saturday, October 22.
“Every year, people come out and decorate their cars — or floats — in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi. We only have to two major holidays in the Hindu religion. We’re looking to make Diwali a major community event, and it has been growing. We’re very excited about it,” said Lakshmee Singh, one of the founding members of the parade.
The all-day event also included a free cultural Diwali show at 3 p.m. to celebrate the religious aspect of the holiday before the parade took off at 6 p.m.
“I love Diwali. It’s my favorite holiday,” said eight-year old Haley Persaud. “I celebrate it, and it’s fun.”
Singh said people traveled from as far as Canada to participate, but many locals from the area swarmed the spectator sidelines.
For Jamaica resident Meera Maharaj, the parade brings her back to Trinidad – where she was born and raised and where she best remembers celebrating the holiday.
“I grew up into the religion,” said Maharaj, who came to the parade for the first time this year. “In Trinidad, at this time of year, we have a big celebration for the festival of lights, and I wanted to see if it was as big here as it is there.”
Lolita Singh, another founding member of the parade, said the parade helps bring the community together, especially youngsters.
“It’s tradition. It’s not just one celebration this year. It comes every year. We really cherish it,” she said.
With additional reporting by Erica Camhi.