I celebrated Diwali at the Vishnu Mandir on Yonge near Highway 407. Earlier, I telephoned the person mentioned on its web-site to confirm the times, and she said non-Indians were welcome, and no jeans.
The temple was easy to find, an imposing tower bathed in lights at one end. Behind it were three illuminated pictures of Hindu gods. I arrived 10 minutes early and had no problem parking. I followed the crowds to a room where we left our shoes and coats. Nearby was what looked like a sand mandala decorated with candles. Diwali is the festival of lights, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.
Upstairs, a woman at a desk looked officious. I told her it was my first time there, and what was I to do? She didn’t seem pleased and said to take off my shoes. I showed her my socks and then she smiled. “Did you bring gifts, fruit or sweets?” I hadn’t. “Just follow what other people are doing,” she said. “No photographs.”
The temple had only one big room. Most people were sitting on the floor. Older people were sitting on chairs that lined the room. Worshippers touched the feet of the gods, then their own foreheads, and finally their own left shoulders. Some knelt, head to the floor. Some left bags of fruit or sweets. A light scent of incense filled the room.
For a while, I sat on a chair, absorbing it all and enjoying the magnificent array of saris and salwar kameezes. People were dressed in silver or gold-trimmed outfits. A friendly woman beside me answered my questions.
At exactly the time announced on the web, a tall Brahman priest started the rituals. He was carrying lighted candles on a plate and waving them in front of the statues. Musicians played and sang lively hymns.
Aside from the woman beside me, no one paid any attention to me. It was like I was invisible. The worshippers were there to do puja, to worship their gods on this special occasion. Some greeted friends. Some talked with the priests.
It was like India.