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Trinidad Celebrates Divali

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ImageWith a population that is approximately 40 percent Indian, it comes as little surprise that the dual-island nation of Trinidad & Tobago shines during the largest Hindu festival on the island, Divali or Festival of Lights. Celebrated by Hindus in Trinidad & Tobago, India and around the globe, this year’s event, held November 5, 2010, will be commemorated by the young and old, rich and poor with colorful events and extravagant light displays.

Marked as a national holiday in Trinidad & Tobago since 1966, Divali is the triumph of light over darkness, signified by lighting deyas (small clay lamps) on what is believed to be the darkest night of the year. Hindus celebrate Divali with a host of activities in the home where various dishes and sweets are prepared and a Pooja (prayer) is performed. At dusk, everyone joins in lighting and placing the deyas around the home. The sacred festival is known to bring about positive feelings in the community and is marked by unity, cleanliness, harmony and festivity.

Divali celebrations in Trinidad begin nine days before the actual event. The hub of all Divali celebrations on the island is the Divali Nagar (village of lights) in Chaguanas. During those nine nights there are performances by East Indian cultural practitioners, a folk theatre featuring skits and dramas, an exhibition of Hinduism, displays by various Hindu religious sects and social organizations, nightly worship of Mother Lakshmi (goddess of wealth), lighting of myriad deyas, performances by various schools related to Indian culture, and a food court of mouth watering Indian and non-Indian vegetarian delicacies. The festival culminates with magnificent fireworks complemented by the thunder of bamboo cannons and the sparkle of “star-lights” in villages across the country.

Although Divaliis a Hindu celebration, in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious Trinidadian society, itis celebrated as a national holiday by people of all denominations. Some of the best locations to observe elaborate displays and collect Indian sweets are Felicity, Patna Village, Dow Village and Penal in Central Trinidad.

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