Source: Ms.Savitri Maharaj Trinidad, West Indies
Diwali the festival of lights, is celebrated all over the world and by millions of people. Through this article I would like to share some information of Diwali and how it is celebrated in the beautiful Caribbean island of Trinidad.
The spirit of Diwali begins way before the actual day of celebrations commencing with the period of Nau Raatam. Our hindu brothers and sisters begin their fasting during this period which is at least one month before Diwali. Cleaning, re-painting of the homes, and decorative lights are put up during this time to beautify ones home. The Diwali season seems to bring a change in the attitudes of our people as at this time people tend to be even more peaceful and loving, and their level of spirituality seems to be heightened.
Following Nau Raatam is Ramleela which is one of the biggest events associated with Diwali. Villagers and non villagers come together to portray the life of Lord Ram, which ends up in ten day battle between Lord Ram and Ravan as described in the Hindu religious epic, the Ramayana. The venue for this celebration is usually done in an open area usually a savannah. Bamboo bending is widely appreciated in Trinidad at this time. It depicts the art of our people. The green bamboo is groomed in such a way to depict certain images e.g. deeya, mother lakshmi, star, temple etc. and deeyas are stocked onto the bamboo and lit. This is such a beautiful sight! Usually the bamboo bending is done when villages and temples host their Diwali Celebration. The bursting of the bamboo is also a very creative piece where an approximately 6’ bamboo is cut and all the internal joints of the bamboo are removed with the exception of the last one, a hole is made at the end of the bamboo and by pouring kerosene into the hole and heating up the bamboo with a flambeau (home made lantern) it bursts into sound that scare you away, but indeed, it’s a lot of fun.
Another big event associated with Diwali is the hosting of the Diwali Nagar which takes place over a two week period. This venue features a main stage where the Indian Culture in Trinidad is portrayed. Drama (stories of the Ramayan), modelling of Traditional Indian Clothing, Indian dances, bhajans and film songs are performed by both local and foreign artiste. Apart from the entertainment businessmen see this forum as a means of marketing their products and services. Indian Clothing, jewellery, utensils, food, delicacies etc. are commonly sold at the venue. This event is attended by hindus and non hindus alike and because of this our non hindu brothers and sisters tend to have a greater understanding and appreciation of our Indian Culture. The Diwali Nagar celebrations come to an end at 12.00pm on the eve of Diwali with an outburst of beautiful fireworks lighting up the heavens above.
On Diwali day all Hindus starts their day with devotion to Maha Lakshmi. Sathwic meals (curried chic peas and potato, mango talkhari (curry mango), curried chatine, white rice and karhi, paratha (bus-up-shot) roti and sweets (prasad, kurma, ladhoo, barafie, rasgoola) are prepared. At approximately 5.00pm, pooja begins along with the singing of beautiful bhajans glorifying and praising mother Lakshmi.
The completion of the pooja brings with it the lighting of Deeyas outside the home symbolising the removal of darkness and the triumph of good over evil.
Family, friends and neighbours all come together on the evening of Diwali to enjoy the wonderful meals and sweets that have been prepared and spend the evening in celebration.
Diwali in Trinidad is such a beautiful celebration enjoyed by hindus and non hindus alike. It’s a time for coming together, sharing and having appreciation for each others culture therefore I invite all of you reading this article to visit Trinidad and celebrate Diwali with us one day.