Divali, the Hindu festival of lights, has enjoyed strong ties to T&T’s business community over the years, according to Aneela Bhagwat, a member of the National Council for Indian Culture (NCIC).
“Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, so there is a relationship between Divali and commerce,” she explained. “When people say that Divali is the Hindu new year, often what that meant, was that it marked the new year for business people. For example, it was the new year in terms of business when they re-did their books. Traditionally, the beginning of the new business year was Divali.”
Bhagwat said Divali Nagar, which ended yesterday has played a huge role over the years in transforming the Hindu religious festival into a prominent business holiday. In fact, she pointed out, that was one of the reasons for the launch of the ten-day festival in 1986—to inspire businesses in Chaguanas to attract people in the same way businesses do for Christmas.
Among the preparations done by business owners for Divali is Lakshmi puja, a prayer celebration to Mother Lakshmi. Bhagwat said her parents, who are Hindu business people, own a gold coin which they put on display to represent Mother Lakshmi, the deity of prosperity.
“One of the things people do is that they light nine deyas in their house. Nine deeyas are supposed to be in places that you want wealth, so people put it by their water tanks because you always want to have water. You put it in the kitchen because you always want to have food. Other people put it in places that they store money as well. If you have a business, you put it at your cash register because you want to attract wealth,” she said.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who takes part in Divali Nagar every year, said in spite of the recent flooding a lot of small businesses were represented at this year’s event.
“I know from my own constituency a lot of people come up and they make pepper roti and other small business endeavours,” she said
“This year may not be as great as their past years. However, there is a good combination of local business content from the small business sector and the larger business sector.”
“This Nagar was a one night something and has rolled into this fabulous one-week event. It is something I think we can market more as a tourist attraction and we can make far more money It will be better for the economy with forex and so on. But we don’t spend enough time marketing Divali and I think so much more can be done.”
President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce Vishnu Charran said a variety of businesses, including clothing stores, enjoy thriving trade Divali.
He said during the period leading up to the festival, supermarkets, vegetable markets and caterers are very busy as people purchase food to provide or supply to homes, businesses or functions.