Home India News Millions of diyas light up Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago

Millions of diyas light up Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago

By Paras Ramoutar, IANS,

Port-of-Spain : Colourful fireworks ornamented the skyline and millions of diyas, or earthen lamps, flickered in homes as people of Indian origin in Trinidad and Tobago celebrated Diwali – the 164th year of the Hindu festival since Indian emigrants arrived in the country to work on plantations.

The festival day was a public holiday, a decision taken in 1966.

Diwali is the flag bearer of the many Hindu festivals for the Indians who arrived between 1845 and 1917 to work on the sugar plantations from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The other Hindu festivals celebrated are Nau Raatri, Ram Leela, Kartick-Ne-Nahan, Shiv Ratri, Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi and Ram Navami.

For several weeks now, many among the Indian diaspora, especially Hindus who make up 24 percent of a population of 1.3 million, have stayed away from meat or alcohol ahead of the festival. In keeping with tradition, friends, neighbours and relatives visited each other’s homes and shared Indian cuisine and sweets. Even conservative Muslims and Christians participated in the illuminations.

People of all ethnic backgrounds and social standing wore Indian attire, like saris, salwar-kurta and other east Indian wear to demonstrate solidarity to the Indian diaspora.

Several government ministries and departments, state agencies/corporations and major multi-national corporations hosted mammoth Diwali celebrations – lighting up diyas in the promenades, offices, streets and make-shift monuments of bamboo.

The nation’s five East Indian radio stations have been beaming religious programmes for the past several days, and so have the television stations to some extent.

President of Trinidad and Tobago, Prof. Maxwell Richards, in a Diwali message, called for the removal of “negative emotions that tend to imprison us in our relations with one another”. He called for goodwill, respect towards all and hoped for a better society and people which would symbolise the true meaning of Diwali.

Former Governor of the Central Bank, and now Political Leader of the Congress of the People, Winston Dookeran in a message said Diwali “serves to lift our flagging spirits”.

Indian High Commissioner, Malay Mishra, who assumed office in March, said the “bright, rich flow of cultural heritage brought by the various ethnic groups stands out as a cultural gem and serves to keep the community bonds strong”.

He praised T&T for its enhancement of “racial harmony”. “This is the strength of Trinidad and Tobago which has a rich cultural mix which I have never seen before.”

Deokienanan Sharma, president National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC), said Diwali Nagar continues to promote Indian culture, religion and philosophy. He however lamented “the shrinking contribution from the government of Trinidad and Tobago annually”.

Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday said the country was “stifled with corruption, discrimination, racism and inequality from a heartless government, that remains committed to spending lavish amounts on cocktail parties, Friday afternoon limes, tall buildings and sharing the public purse with their friends and supporters”.

(Paras Ramoutar can be contacted at [email protected])