In Pickering Markets, right at the beginning of aisle D is a store called Swaraksha; a booth that is filled with positive energy, incense, essential oils and a warm and welcoming enthusiastic store owner, Sharmila! Swaraksha started 13 years ago and was born out of a small necessity. Sharmila and Vijai Maharaj were newlyweds at the time, and settled down in Pickering. As practicing Hindus, Sharmila discovered that puja related items were nowhere to be found in the Durham region, rather, she had to travel to Scarborough, Toronto and Brampton to get specific products. Living just ten minutes away from Pickering Markets, the two decided they would open up a store that offered religious, spiritual and aromatherapy items. Not only did they want to make it convenience for themselves, but felt it was important to help bring this convenience to other Hindus in the local area.
When walking through the booth, it is easy to start wandering and get lost in the beautiful colours and scents of the products that she carries. While most of her regular customers know Sharmila very well, behind the scenes, Vijai works hard to keep up with all their stock and inventory. Whenever Sharmila speaks about the business partnership she and her husband have together, she cannot stress enough how wonderful of a partner Vijai is.
13 years ago, when the walls were still bare at booth 800, Swaraksha was pregnant with her first child. Present day, she has three lovely children that are still growing up in the market. To her kids, Pickering Markets is their second home, her booth neighbors and market staff eventually became like extended uncles and aunties! As the first generation grows up within Swaraksha, they regularly help out and have a wonderful opportunity to learn everything about the family business.
From the start, The Maharaj’s goal was to bring in puja related items for the Hindu and Buddhist communities in the Durham area, it organically evolved to carry items of other spiritual beliefs and practices. The wide variety of spiritual products that she carries are incense from Tibet, India, United States, smudging bowls, Chakra oils, essential oils, sage bundles and religious statues. Many of her customers have been going there since the day Swaraksha opened, purchasing high quality items, many with their regular personalized orders. Quality products has always been important to Sharmila and is something she takes extreme pride in because most are used in religious ceremonies, the products not only have to be good enough for humans, but good enough for the gods.
When I first asked her to describe Swaraksha to me, she said “This space is all about positive vibes, everything I carry is to help create positivity” With such high quality products and amazing customer service, Swaraksha is in no way lacking in good energy! Next time you’re at the market, visit Sharmila at booth 800!