Diwali: India’s Festival of Lights

Photo by Udayaditya Barua from Pexels

Deepawali or Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is one of India’s largest and most important holidays of the year for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists. The festival lasts five days, and as per the Hindu calendar it is observed on Amavasya (or new moon) – the 15th day – of the month of Kartik, every year. The Amavasya (lunar phase of the new moon) tithi (the name of the 30 lunar phases) begins at 06:03 on Nov 04, 2021, and ends at 02:44 on Nov 05, 2021. Therefore, the third and main day of Diwali will be celebrated all over India, and indeed around the world, on November 4, 2021.

Photo by Umesh Soni on Unsplash

The History of Diwali

The Diwali festival is likely a fusion of harvest festivals from ancient India. Early iterations of Diwali are mentioned in texts, such as the Padma Purana, which date back to the second half of the 1st millennium CE (sometime between 500-1000 CE). The diyas, or lamps (shown in the photo above) are mentioned in other ancient texts as symbolizing parts of the sun, describing it as the “cosmic giver of light and energy to all life and which seasonally transitions in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik” (which overlaps in October and November).

Photo by partho roy on Unsplash

Religious Significance

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Newar Buddhists, although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories. Nevertheless, the celebration signifies the same symbolic triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.

Hinduism

The religious significance of Diwali varies across the geographic regions in India. In northern India, followers link the celebration to the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, with Diwali being the day King Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps. In southern India, the day is celebrated as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. In eastern India, Diwali is associated with the godess Kali, who symbolizes the victory of good over evil. And in western India, the festival marks the day that Lord Vishnu, The Preserver (one of the main gods of the Hindu trinity), sent the demon King Bali to rule the nether world.

Jainism

“A scholar of Jain and Nivethan states that in Jain tradition Diwali is celebrated in observance of “Mahavira Nirvana Divas”, the physical death and final nirvana of Mahavira.” The Jain Diwali, celebrated in many parts of India, looks much like the Hindu version of Diwali, with the lighting of lamps and offering of prayers. However, the dedication of the Jain form of this holy festival remains committed to Mahavira.

Sikhism

“The festival of Diwali highlights three events in Sikh history: the founding of the city of Amritsar in 1577, the release of Guru Hargobind from the Mughal prison, and the day of Bhai Mani Singh’s martyrdom in 1738 as a result of his failure to pay a fine for trying to celebrate Diwali and thereafter refusing to convert to Islam.”

Buddhism

“Diwali is not a festival for most Buddhists, with the exception of the Newar people of Nepal who revere various deities in the Vajrayana Buddhism and celebrate Diwali by offering prayers to Lakshmi. Newar Buddhists in Nepalese valleys also celebrate the Diwali festival over five days, in much the same way, and on the same days, as the Nepalese Hindu Diwali-Tihar festival.”

Image by Amol Sharma from Pixabay

Celebrating Diwali

There are five days that make up the entirety of the Diwali festival. The first day, Dhanteras, is devoted to cleaning houses and buying small gold items. The goddess, Lakshmi, is the focus of the initial day of Diwali. The second day is a commemoration of the defeat of Narakasura by Krishna, and is known as Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali. Prayers are offered for the souls of ancestors on this day. The third and most well known day is called Lakshmi Puja when families light diyas, candles, and fireworks. The fourth day, which marks the start of the new year on the Vikrama (Hindu) calendar, is referred to as Goverdhan Puja, Balipratipada, or Annakut. This is a day that remembers Krishna’s defeat of Indra, the king of the gods. The final day of Diwali, called Bhai Dooj, Bhai Tika, or Bhai Bij, praises the bond between brothers and sisters.

Diwali is generally a time for visiting, exchanging gifts, wearing new clothes, feasting, feeding the poor, setting off fireworks, decorating floors with rangoli designs, and other parts of the house with jhalars. Gambling, especially in the form of card games, is encouraged as a way of ensuring good luck in the coming year and in remembrance of the games of dice played by gods and goddesses. Ritually, in honor of Lakshmi, the female player always wins. Diwali also marks a major shopping period in India, comparable to the Christmas season. It is thought to be auspicious to purchase new clothing, home furnishings, gifts, gold, and jewelry, since the festival is largely dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Food is a major aspect of Diwali as well, where families take part in feasts and in sharing of sweets, or mithai.

References

Arun, M.G. (1 November, 2013). Diwali lights up consumer spending, festive spirit beats inflation. India Today.

Colledge, R. (2017). Mastering World Religions. Macmillan. ISBN978-1-349-14329-0.

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2021, September 4). Diwali. britannica.com . https://www.britannica.com/topic/Diwali-Hindu-festival.

Klostermaier, K.K. (2014). A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Oneworld Publications, Oxford. ISBN978-1-78074-672-2.

Lamont, J. (29 October, 2010). India’s Banks Face pre-Diwali Cash Crunch. The Financial Times.

Lewis, T. (7 September 2000). Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal: Narratives and Rituals of Newar Buddhism. State University of New York Press. pp. 118–119. ISBN978-0-7914-9243-7.

Lochtefeld, J.G. (2002), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A–M, Volume 1, Rosen Publishing, ISBN978-0-8239-3179-8.

National Geographic. (2021, October 15). Diwali : Festival of Lights. nationalgeographic.com. https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/pages/article/diwali.

Pechilis, Karen (2007). “Guests at God’s Wedding: Celebrating Kartik among the Women of Benares”. The Journal of Asian Studies. 66 (1): 273–275. doi:10.1017/S0021911807000460.

Saraf, D. (August 2010). India Journal: Tis the Season to be Shopping. The Wall Street Journal.

Saran, P. (2012). Yoga, Bhoga, and Ardhanariswara: Individuality, Wellbeing, and Gender in Tantra. Routledge, pp. 175. IBSN: 978-1-136-51648-1.

The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) ISBN 978-0-19-861263-6 – p. 540.

The Wayback machine. (15 October 2013). Festive season to boost India gold buying Archived 7 December 2013 at the Bullion Street.

Tracy Pintchman (2005). Guests at God’s Wedding: Celebrating Kartik among the Women of Benares. State University of New York Press. ISBN978-0-7914-8256-8.

World Gold Council. (2013). Gold, Key Markets: India. http://www.gold.org.

World Mental Health Day 2021

October 10, 2021

Let’s not kid ourselves. The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard. It has disrupted our daily routines, made it impossible, at times, for families and friends to get together, and it has instilled a general sense of worry and anxiety in many of us. Quite simply, the pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health, with some faring better than others. On World Mental Health Day, this October 10, 2021, let’s remember to be gentle with ourselves and with others. Let’s learn new strategies for coping. And let’s eliminate the stigma that comes with managing the struggles of mental health.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Be Kind to Yourself and Others

It is important that we practice being compassionate to others during these trying times. Listen to others without judgment, encourage those around you, and be patient. The WHO (World Health Organization) notes that having support from those around us, such as family and friends, actually helps people suffering from depression recover faster.

Also, be sure to be kind to yourself. Try to find ways to relax, such as practising mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. Make sure you are taking time for yourself to do things that you can enjoy safely. And be sure you are eating well-balanced meals and getting enough sleep. The library has many collection items to help you support this.

  • The RC 440 section in the library is where you will find books and resources about mental health
  • For mindfulness, look in the BF 637 area of the stacks for helpful materials
  • Want to learn yoga? Look for resources in the RA 781 area of the library collection
  • Materials about meditation techniques can be found in a variety of areas, including the BF, BL and curriculum sections
Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

Learn Strategies for Coping

If you are feeling stressed and anxious, there are many ways to help you cope. Exercising regularly helps you to feel good and maintain your health. Taking deep breaths and using a counting method (counting to 10 slowly, and repeating) can be incredibly useful during moments where you feel overwhelmed or panicked. Keep your sense of humor about you and try to sustain a positive attitude. Do your best, and accept that you cannot control everything. Your best will vary day to day, and week to week, because from one moment to the next, you are never the same. Talk to a friend or family member about your struggles, and let them know how they can help you. Also, pay attention to yourself, and learn what triggers your anxiety. Knowing this will help you to manage stress and cope with your day to day challenges.

  • Want to learn how to cook healthier meals? Check out the many cookbooks the library has to offer in the TX section of the collection
  • Need techniques for getting better sleep? No problem, the library carries many items about this in the QP area of the stacks
  • Would you like to learn more about anxiety and managing it? The RC 531 section of the library collection has many useful resources about this

Mental Health and Counselling for Students at MHC

Students at MHC have access to free counselling services. If you need to speak to someone, please visit: https://www.mhc.ab.ca/Services/CounsellingAndCare/StudentCounselling to make an appointment.

Drop-in counselling sessions are offered on Wednesdays. Appointments are available all day (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.), first come first served, and must be booked that day by calling advising at 403.529.3819 or visiting the advising desk starting at 8 a.m.

Many Canada-Wide Services Are Also Available

  • If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest hospital. If you need emotional support, help is available.
  • If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7).
  • Kids Help Phone: Call 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868. Available 24 hours a day to Canadians aged 5 to 29 who want confidential and anonymous care from trained responders.
  • Hope for Wellness Help Line: Call 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or connect to the online Hope for Wellness chat. This service is available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada who need immediate crisis intervention. Experienced and culturally sensitive help line counsellors can help if you want to talk or are distressed. Telephone and online counselling are available in English and French. On request, telephone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
Photo by Lisa from Pexels

Help Eliminate the Stigma

On World Mental Health Day, this October 10, 2021, let’s all help to reduce the stigma attached to struggles with mental health. Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. We can all do this in a number of ways:

  • Talk openly about mental health
  • Educate yourself and others
  • Be conscious of language
  • Encourage equality between physical and mental health
  • Show compassion for those who struggle with mental health
  • Choose empowerment over shame
  • Be honest about treatment
  • Let the media know when they are being stigmatizing
  • Don’t harbor self-stigma

All of us need to raise our voices against stigma. Every day, in every possible way, we need to stand up to stigma and support one another, during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Healthline & Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Welcoming Everyone Back To The Library While Staying Safe And Healthy This Fall

With public health restrictions in Alberta recently lifted, the MHC Library is ready to welcome back students, faculty, and staff at full capacity.

So what will the Library space look like this fall?

Image by lil_foot from Pixabay

With capacity limits no longer in place, the Library has 321 seats available, including solo and group study spaces, as well as group study rooms which can be booked in advance for up to 2 hours a day.

Physical distancing if recommended and masks are required in all public spaces on campus (this includes the library). It is still important to stay home if you are sick and to to go through the Covid-19 Alberta Health Daily Checklist before heading out for the day. There will be additional cleaning in high-traffic areas at 2pm each day to ensure everyone’s safety.

Image by Alexandra Koch from Pixabay

Printing And Paying Fines

You can self-load your print account using the printer credit icon on the drop-in computers across campus, using a credit card or debit-credit card. The Library also takes cash at the front desk for on-campus printing. You can also pay Library fees online when using debit or credit, or choose the option of paying in cash at the front desk.

Image by Varun Kulkarni from Pixabay

Drop-In Computers, Computer Lab, And Technology Assistance

The drop-in computers and the computer lab will be open and available during the Library’s operating hours. If you require technical help on the computers, we ask that you maintain physical distancing and prefer if you wear a mask, although it is not required. We have virtual options to receive help should you be unable to wear a mask or maintain physical distance.

What Will Borrowing Library Materials Look This Year?

Our stacks will be open this fall, and you will be free to browse the shelves for physical items such as books, DVD’s and curriculum collection items. You can use your student ID card to access thousands of books, magazines, videos, journal articles, and more, both online and in print. Register for your Library account to check what items you have borrowed, re-new your materials, request holds, and double-check your due dates. The self-service hold shelf will still be operational during Library hours, and will be located just inside the entrance to the Library.

If you do not want to browse the shelves for materials in-person, you can still browse the stacks virtually. In our online catalogue, every physical item has a button labeled “browse the shelf” that allows you to see what is available on nearby shelves.

Library will be lending laptops, calculators, and other items that were not available during the last academic year.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Getting/Validating Your Student ID

You can request your virtual student ID through your student dashboard, or you can acquire a physical card in person at the front desk in the Library, just be sure to bring government picture ID to verify your identity. For returning students, validation stickers for the current academic year can be obtained at the front desk in the Library.

Image by silviarita from Pixabay

What If I Need Research Or Citation Assistance This Year?

Both in-person and online research and citation assistance will be available this fall. In-person reference assistance will be available at the front desk of the Library. Please check the website for operational reference hours. You can also book an online research or reference appointment at your convenience by clicking here.

Also be sure to check out the Library’s research guides for help completing your assignments, papers, and exams.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

When Is The Library Open?

Both the Vera Bracken Library (Medicine Hat Campus) and Brooks Campus Library are open year round. Hours change over the year, with reduced hours in spring and summer. Check out the Library website for Hours of Operation. Visit us in B-Wing at the Medicine Hat Campus and to the right of the main entrance at our Brooks Campus.

Call: 403.529.3867 (Toll free: 1.866.282.8394)

Email: circulation@mhc.ab.ca

IM: visit www.mhc.ab.ca/library

Text: 587.333.2766