Toronto's Little India comes alive with Bollywood beats, dazzling lights, and joyful dances several times throughout the year. ICYMI: this neighbourhood is renowned for hosting some of the city's most beloved festivals.
Ready to experience culture and party with Indian Torontonians? Here are our must-see favourites.
Exploring the Colourful Festivals in Toronto's Little India
Ratha-Yatra ot The Festival of India, has been celebrated in Toronto for over 50 years now. Ratha-Yatra, which means “chariot festival,” is a Hindu festival that originated in the ancient city of Puri, India.
It celebrates Lord Jagannath and his two siblings’ journey to the Gundicha Temple, which is believed to signify his return to the holy town of Vrindavan. It’s celebrated around July or August–based on the Hindu calendar, and usually lasts a few days.
The central element of the festival in Little India is the grand chariot parade. You’ll also get to witness devotional singing and dancing, including traditional Indian music and dance performances.
The festival is free and open to everyone–regardless of religion. It also features a variety of cultural workshops, such as yoga, meditation, and Hindi language classes that you can enroll in.
The TD Festival of South Asia
If you’re eager to dive into the diverse mix of South Asian cultures, the TD Festival of South Asia is an absolute must-visit. This is one of the largest and most diverse cultural festivals in Toronto, held annually in Little India during the summer.
While India takes centrestage, it’s not the only star of the show. The festival casts a wide net, celebrating the rich art, culture, and traditions of countries like Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia, Brunei, and more from this region.
The festival features a wide array of street performances, including live music, traditional dance forms like Bharatanatyam and Kathak, and folk performances from various South Asian regions.
Another highlight of the festival is its diverse culinary offerings. Grab the chance to try authentic dishes from vendors selling a variety of South Asian cuisines.
Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important and celebrated holidays in India. It’s a five-day Hindu festival that symbolises the triumph of good over evil or light over darkness typically celebrated in October or November.
During this celebration, Little India transforms its streets and shops with bright lights and colourful decorations, including lanterns, diyas (oil lamps), and rangoli (Indian ritual of drawing patterns).
Food, shopping, and fireworks are traditionally part of Diwali celebrations. You’ll also get to enjoy live music, dance performances, and other forms of Indian entertainment.
Diwali is a time to celebrate and get dressed up. Wear your best clothes or try out traditional Indian clothing and enjoy yourself!
— From: @danni_motilal
Navratri, which means “nine nights” in Sanskrit, is an annual Hindu festival dedicated to the worship of the goddess Durga and the triumph of good over evil. The celebration usually falls in September or October.
Here, it’s common to see people dressed in vibrant and traditional attire. Women wear colourful chaniya cholis (traditional skirts and blouses) and adorn themselves with jewelry, while men often wear kurta-pajamas or dhotis.
One of the most exciting aspects of Navratri in Little India is the traditional dance forms of Garba and Dandiya Raas. People gather in open spaces, often in the evenings, and participate in these energetic and colourful dances.
Garba, which is performed in a circular pattern and Dandiya Raas, which involves dancing with sticks, are two very energetic dances, so make sure to wear comfortable clothes if you plan to dance along. Bring water and some snacks for energy, too!