POCO’S DIWALI CELEBRATION HOLDS EVERYBODY IN THRALL!

poco diwali festival of lights

November 06, 2023: A spectacular celebration of the South Asian festival of Diwali took Port Coquitlam by storm on November 4, 2023. Diwali: Festival of Lights was celebrated with pomp, grandeur and a splendid array of performances in the popular Port Coquitlam Community Centre. The day started off with free BollyJam dance workshops for kids and adults led by local choreographer PT Dance Company. At the stroke of noon, Mabbett Hall was transformed into a majestic stage with a Diwali Market in place to one side. What was unique about this market was that every vendor was a South Asian local entrepreneur selling everything festive – from ceramics to jewelry to gifting to sarees. The food vendor was a popular stop for market visitors with South Asian street food on the menu.

mithila karnik adarkar mp mckinnon cllr mccurrach mayor west ravinder safaya poco diwali 2023
L to R: Mithila Karnik-Adarkar, MP Ron McKinnon, Cllr Nancy McCurrach, Mayor Brad West, Ravi Safaya
diya lighting ceremony poco diwali
L to R: Mithila Karnik-Adarkar, Mayor Brad West, MP Ron McKinnon lighting the traditional diya

Before the performances began and during breaks between the program flow, Minu Gupta, a local artist who is also associated with Art Focus, took art and diya painting workshops for all ages. Attendees walked away with beautiful acrylic paintings and hand-painted clay diyas.

minu gupta
Artist Minu Gupta with Burnaby residents Digamber Negi & Laxmi Negi taking away paintings

Noon was also the opening of the beautifully divine Darshana Exhibit highlighting over 5000 years of Hindu heritage – situated at the wide open space of Wilson Lounge. The exhibition features a variety of topics, ranging from yoga and divinity to mathematics and administration, demonstrating how Hindu knowledge has manifested in all aspects of human endeavor. With its inviting smells of sandalwood and peaceful music, the Darshana Exhibit was enjoyed by every passer-by and all members of the community irrespective of their background and race engaged with the knowledgeable exhibitors. With saree draping and rangolis, the Darshan Exhibit served as a memorable conduit to bridge the distance between different members of the community and expose them to Hindu Dharma and its tenets.

darshana exhibit poco diwali
Darshana Exhibit
audience darshana exhibit
L to R: Neeraj Kumar, Aditya Kulkarni, Anil Kumar in Darshana Exhibit Hall. Virupaksha Temple, Hampi in the background

The dignitaries who attended the exhibit and the cultural performances is exciting – MP Ron McKinnon, MP Bonita Zarillo, Mayor Brad West, MLA Fin Donnelly, MLA Selina Robinson, Mayor Richard West, Councillor Nancy McCurrach, Councillor Steve Darling, Councillor Trish Mandewo, SD43 Trustee Jennifer Blatherwick, Adel Gamar, Carol Brodie with the Coquitlam Foundation, Dawn Becker with the Port Coquitlam Community Foundation were all seen enthralled by the display of South Asian culture. The program was organized in a manner that shone a light on various parts of India – from a Kashmiri folk dance to Lavani dance from Maharashtra to a dance form native to Rajasthan. Community members of all ages displayed their singing, instrumental and dancing skills. The top South Asian dance academies from the lower Mainland – Sudnya Dance Academy and Spirit of Dance Academy held pride of place with their troupes performing. Vancouver’s favorite Bollyfusion had their groups performing too. The evening was rounded off well with a beatific rendition of ragas andclassical music by notable artistes Akhil Jobanputra, Hriday Buddhdev and Mohan Bhide. A “baithak” such as this thus made its debut in Port Coquitlam!

diwali celebrations in port coquitlam
Diwali Celebrations in Port Coquitlam

Two segments were witnessed for the very first time by the throng of elected officials and audiences gathered – a soul-stirring, energizing experience through the “Dhol Tasha” act where a trance-like ambience to the beat of drums was created by devotees playing cymbals and drums to Lord Ganesha. Attendees are describing this act as surreal, aura-cleansing and absolutely out of this world!

The cherry on the cake was an extremely unique fashion show where the saree as a garment was highlighted through various drapes representing the different states (provinces) of India. The beauty of this show was that the models literally spanned all ages – the youngest being 13 months to the oldest being over 70! The show received a resounding applause and brought the event to a glamorous close.

Organizer Mithila Karnik-Adarkar says she is extremely grateful to a fantastic team of volunteers and mentors who were her bedrock. “I am privileged to have access to the wisdom of those with experience in the South Asian diaspora such as Ravinder Safaya and Nina Buddhdev. They are both trailblazers in the work they do towards cultural and artistic representation. I am also extremely lucky that I had the support of over twenty amazing volunteers including youth from various high schools, entire families volunteering for the day such as the Bangurs from Coquitlam and new immigrants to the city. It would be the truth to say that such a spectacular display for Diwali has never been seen before in the tricities, let alone Port Coquitlam. And the event was entirely free for everybody to attend. We maxed out the venue capacity multiple times a day and every single attendee walked away with a smile on their faces. This is just more fuel for me to scale it up for next year and drive community engagement on a much higher level. As a member of the city’s EDI Roundtable Advisory, I am beyond happy to be able to actively and successfully promote multiculturalism on such an enormous platform! Onwards and upwards!”

Photo Credits: VJ Photoworks (Saurabh Vijay)

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