Students at a Winnipeg Sikh school celebrated the festival of lights this weekend with singing, dancing and prayers.
“It’s just a time to think…good over evil and just think about the positive,” said Mannat Chahal, a Grade 11 student at Dasmesh School in Winnipeg.
The school kicked off its annual Diwali celebration on Saturday, where students performed folk dances, sang songs and gave speeches to mark the five-day holiday celebrated around the world by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists.
He also celebrated Bandi Chhor Divas, known as ‘liberation day’, commemorating the day when Guru Hargobind Ji was released from prison, and at the same time helped free 52 Hindu kings.
“It means freedom, resilience and the triumph of good over evil,” said Mannat, who sang in one of the dance performances at the Holmes Road school in West St. Paul.
The school has celebrated Diwali festivities since its inauguration in 2012, said Manjinderpal Singh Chahal, school president and Mannat’s father. He said he founded the independent private Sikh school so her daughter and children like her could learn about Sikh values while studying the Manitoba curriculum.
“We focus on academics… and along with that, we also focus on language,” he said, adding that students are taught cultural dances and the Punjabi language as part of their studies.
It is important for students to learn their culture, both at home and at school during events like Diwali, according to Amandeep Sran, school principal and Mannat’s mother.
“These festivals are very important… to connect culturally with our children,” he said before Saturday’s celebration.
The students have been rehearsing for the concert since September, he added. They also planned to light diyas, or oil candles, and fireworks were displayed at the end of the show.
“It means the victory of positivity over negativity,” Sran said.
The festivities are especially important for students who were born in Canada but whose parents are from India, Manjinderpal said.
“Those who missed being in Canada, you can see all those dances,” he said.
“I think it’s still in their DNA. When they come on stage, they have those cultural dresses, they look like they did when we were that age.”
It’s also nice to see parents and the community come together to support the event, he added.
“At the end of the day, kids are going to receive a lot of positivity, love and hope.”