BY SARA MILLER
One of the most important holidays in the Hindu culture, millions around the globe observe Diwali or “the festival of lights” with festivals in India, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Sri Lanka and more. With the celebration originally stemming from ancient harvest festivals in India, many parts of the world celebrate Diwali differently, however Hindus across the world celebrate Diwali to honor the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana from exile after the defeat of Ravana by Rama. Diwali also pays tribute to Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and wealth. Though the festival has varying interpretations, Diwali overall symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. It also serves as a time for self-improvement and new beginnings.
Just like the colorful lights that brighten up the night sky, the six ladies competing at the Miss Diwali Canada 2016 not only lit up the stage with their intelligence and talent but also looked good doing so! Presented by Epic Entertainment, the second annual competition took place at the Elite Banquet Hall in Etobicoke. Vying for the title of Queen and winner of Miss Diwali Canada 2016 were Chandani Narain, Devika Thakur, Shianne Doolall, Rachel Sonley, Ashti Purushuttam and Stephanie Jodhan.
With the hall filled with family and friends, the evening commenced with an opening prayer led by community leaders and pundits. The night, which was hosted by Radio Guyana International’s DJ Angel, was packed back to back with performances from Chutney Monarch finalist, Shiva Lakhan, Suresh Hanoman, Dylan Harpal and legendary chutney singer, Terry Gajraj. Also in attendance was the young but talented Emily Sanasie who with an ensemble of dancers, entranced the audience with their choreographic traditional dance.
Under the watchful gaze of the judges, each delegate took to the stage with grace and composure. For the talent portion of the event, each contestant showed that they were more than beautiful faces, creating elaborate dance and song routines set to classic Bollywood and traditional songs. Afterwards the fan favorite portion of the pageant, the evening gown category, was a sight to behold. Staying true to their heritage, each young lady was dressed in a beautiful sari ensemble, complete with an array of jewelry pieces to match. For the final portion of the pageant, each contestant’s public speaking skills were put to the test. Picking a random question from a jar, each girl was required to provide an answer to the best of their abilities.
“If given the chance to win the Miss Diwali 2016 crown, how would you make a difference in your community locally and abroad?” asked the host.
“If I was crowned Miss Diwali 2016 and had to make a change in my community, I would change the way young girls are viewed,” said Dulall.
“It is important for all young girls to view themselves as beautiful with high self-esteem and see there is no competition in this world as we are all one.”
As the night came to an end, the moment that everybody was waiting for arrived. Chosen to be Miss Diwali Canada 2016 was Stephanie Jhodhan, with Chandani Narain as the 1st runner up and Ashti Purushuttam as the 2nd runner up. There to present Jhodhan her crown was the previous and first ever Miss Diwali Canada winner, Dannilian Motilal who herself represented Canada in the recent 2016 Divali Nagar Queen Pageant in Trinidad & Tobago and won the title.
Although in recent years there has been backlash against women who compete in these types of competitions, these pageants serve to do more than just admire a person’s physical beauty. It’s a way to show a side of a culture than is often overlooked in the mainstream media and lets younger generations participate in cultural traditions that will hopefully be passed down to future generations.