Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights will be celebrated around this week. Today is the third day of the five-day festival, where families celebrate with fireworks, food, and of course, mountains of Indian sweets.
The Festival of Lights is one of the world's largest events, originating in India and Nepal. The festival celebrates the victory of Good over Evil, Light over Darkness. It is of major religious significance for Hindus and Sikhs. The festival follows the monsoon season in India and the dates are calculated based on the Hindu Luni-Solar calendar based on the positions of the Sun and the Moon. Diwali also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. This year, it culminates on the November 13.
Two major components of Diwali are, of course: fireworks and Indian sweets. Indian restaurants and shops are transformed by displays of stacked rows of Indian sweets: Gulab jamun, mysore pak, laddoo, hot pink cham chams, milk cake, halwa, and dozens of different types of colourful burfi.
Colourful boxes filled with assorted sweets become the appropriate (and preferred) gifts of choice. Each region of India has its own variety of traditional sweets (You can learn the basics here). In Toronto, a number of Indian restaurants and shops carry a diverse selection of sweets throughout the year, but during Diwali it really becomes a spectacle. Many restaurants–like A1 Sweets in Scarborough–will transform their dining space and set up towers of stacked treats in a sweet buffet. The sweets are sold in one-pound (1.5lb and 2lb as well) boxes and are given as gifts to other families, friends, and co-workers. In addition, A1 Sweets also sets up a tent outside in the parking lot for dancing and free chai.
Here are my top picks for places in the GTA where you can get a little dose of Diwali. Don't be intimidated by the wall of sweets and treats, staff will be more than happy to guide you through the selection of textures and tastes. Happy Diwali 2012.
1410 Gerard Street East, Toronto (Map)
Village of Punjab Sweets & Restaurant
1515 Birchmound Road, Scarborough (Map)
Taj Mahal Sweets
1221 Markham Road, Markham (Map)
280 Elson Street, Markham (Map)
Brar Sweets and Restaurant
199 Advance Blvd, Brampton (Map)
755 Dundas Street West, Mississauga (Map)
2646 Islington Avenue, Etobicoke (Map)
India Gate Sweets and Restaurant
1050 Albion Road, Etobicoke (Map)
New India Sweets and Restaurant
12012 Britannia Road West, Unit 17 (Map)
View Indian Sweet Shops Toronto in a larger map