Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:55 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Divali in T&T: A snapshot
Whether it is Pitri Paksh, Nau Raarti, Ram Leela, Divali and Kartik-ke-Nahan, the rich Hindu tradition prevails in T&T. But Divali remains outstanding, it is a time for renewal—social, economic and spiritual.
Divali is an extremely popular public celebration, not just for the glittering lights and fireworks or singing and dancing, but for its focus on light, the eternal light of truth, justice and liberation.
Pundit Dr Rampersad Parasram told the T&T Guardian when East Indian indentured labourers came here, one of the religious books they brought was the Holy Ramayana. The staple of Hindi literature continues to gain spiritual momentum as Hindus, young and old get involved in annual re-enactments at locations throughout T&T.
Parasram said in the early days of East Indian arrival, Divali was celebrated solemly with the lighting of homemade earthenware deyas. “From what I heard from my father and great grandfather, all of whom were pundits, there was great reverence in the celebration. Communal life was at its maximum. Everybody shared and there was peace and tranquility at all times,” he said.
Divali is not like the Christian response to Christmas. It is a spiritually charged observance, devoid of all forms of secular merriment, total abstinence from meat, alcohol and other forms of worldly enjoyment.
Preparations for this celebration are mounted with the greatest of accuracy by checking and counter-checking with various religious texts to ensure that Divali is observed or performed on the exact date according to the highest professional astrological readings. Several of the major Hindu religious texts are consulted or researched.
The traditional Divali menu is a vegetarian feast, with delicacies like curried mango, chataigne, pumpkin, paratha and dhalpuri rotis, potato and channa, carhay (dhal), bhara (doubles), sahina, pholourie, caraili, melongene and dasheen bhagi. Of course, one must not forget the condiments like “mother-in-law” pepper sauce, chutney and anchar.
The sweetmeats shared at Divali are also a huge part of the menu and the favourites are gulab jamun, sweet rice, prasad, barfi and khurma.
Divali has been a public holiday since 1966 and is now a national celebration, as many non-Hindus also get involved.
They attend Hindu prayer services, the women wear saris and shalwars, while the men wear kurtas and other traditional East Indian clothing. Government offices, municipal corporations, private sector companies and corporate organisations host Divali functions celebrating the “victory of light over darkness, truth over falsehood, and wisdom over ignorance.”
Dignataries like the President and the Prime Minister, as well as religious leaders, always send Divali greetings to the Hindu community.
One of the highlights of the annual Divali celebration is the Divali Nagar, a nine-day affair which climaxes on the night before Divali. More than 100,000 visit the Nagar, as people from all parts of the Indian diaspora, including visitors from India and famous Indian entertainers, dancers and singers grace the stage.
Hindus in T&T treat their religious and spiritual assignments with urgency, discipline and commitment. According to Pundit Deepak Maharaj of the Youth Arm of the Shiva Kailash Temple, Caparo, young Hindus are no different. “In recent years, young people have been more involved in Divali celebrations and their continued input ensures the observance of the Festival will be in safe hands.”
East Indians came to T&T via Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India between 1845 and 1917. During this period, just over 148,000 Indians came to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations, and to salvage the declining agricultural production.
The East Indian community makes 44 per cent of the population of 1.3 million people, of which 24 per cent are Hindus.
There are over 500 temples, most are under the jurisdiction of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabhan (SDMS), the country’s main Hindu organisation.
Hindus practice their religious activities by studies of the Ramayana, Bhagvad Gita, Upanishads and Puranas among others.
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